Bridging Worlds: Centre for East and Southeast Asian Christianity was launched in 2022. The Centre is intentionally developed and shaped to carry both research- and Church-facing elements.
The Centre will seek to bridge the worlds of East and West, Church and academy, old and young, by developing partnerships with ESEA diaspora communities, starting in Manchester and the UK, and eventually going further afield. We will do this by investing and engaging in research that emphasises Asian Christianity, Asian readings of the Scripture, and Asian expressions of the Gospel in theology and practice, and in doing so serve the wider church.
The Centre envisions a space at NTC for those who live their lives ‘with and through differences’ and often find themselves ‘out of place’ neither here nor there, to wrestle with the challenging lived experiences and the unanswered theological questions alongside one another.
The Centre will offer a welcoming space for ESEA Christians and will bring the voices of Asia into theological conversations with others. We are confident that this will enrich our colourful humanity in the image of the Triune God.
For years now, NTC has been actively serving East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) Christians, from China, Japan, and Korea, and especially from the ESEA diaspora in Europe and North America. This has been a vital part of our vision and mission.
Recently, we have thought more strategically about the possibility of supporting the study of Asian theologies through a Centre based at the College, reflecting our Evangelical identity, and proactively connecting with the ESEA diaspora communities to serve them more effectively. Manchester is the home to a number of ESEA Christian congregations. As a global city, Manchester is strategically placed for serving the work of ESEA diaspora Christians in their global mission.
Considering the established communities, the student population, and the influx of people arriving from Hong Kong to the UK, we see an ever-increasing need for a Centre. It is time for a new intentionality in what we are doing. We are seeking the best way forward. We continue to welcome ESEA students to complete theological education at NTC-Manchester, from our BA and MA to the PhD but our particular interest is enhancing our service to the ESEA global diaspora.
It was a bold, if not an odd, idea of developing a centre for East and Southeast Asian Christianity when it was first thought out loud in one of the casual conversations with a colleague about Christianity and Asian-ness in summer 2019. But the idea definitely intrigued the Senior Leadership Team at NTC in the middle of the pandemic, 2020. We explored possibilities and dreamed some faint, but bold dreams. What was clear from the beginning was that the Centre should be both research-led and church-facing.
With its home in a theological institution, the Centre will actively explore key aspects of Asian Christianities in theological discussion. In this endeavour, an MA pathway on East and Southeast Asian Christianities has been launched with the two core units: History of Asian Christianities and Biblical Hermeneutics in East and Southeast Asia. But the Centre at the same time seeks to listen to and learn from Asian diaspora communities of their lived experiences through partnerships with the East and Southeast Asian diaspora communities in the UK.
For the last one and half years, there have been many stimulating conversations with East Asian diaspora church leaders, organisations that closely work with east Asians, NTC students, alumni, and other Asian centres around the world. Through those conversations, the Centre developed a meaningful partnership with Christian International Training Centre (CITC), based in Edinburgh, which was established particularly to serve Christians who recently moved from Hong Kong. The CITC students, many of whom are pastors and leaders of the HK churches, will take ‘Religions in Contemporary Britain’, taught by Gerard Charles who ‘happened to be’ an OMF missionary who served in East Asia for ten years. By the way, there is another ‘happen to be’. The decision to welcome the Hong Kong people to settle in the UK which accelerated the influx of Hong Kong people to the UK was announced while the Centre was navigating its future. In fact, Manchester has become a hub for the new settlers from HK. Perhaps, it was just God’s time!
Our dedicated MA Theology pathway, Asian Christianities, focuses on the history of East and Southeast Asian Christianities and their biblical hermeneutics. As the use of Christianities in plural suggests, Asian Christianities are diverse and wide in range geographically, socio-historically, and culturally. With focused research on the history and biblical interpretation in East and Southeast Asia, we are hoping to attract those who want to pursue PhD studies in this area.
The Centre is also looking forward to hosting conferences, particularly focusing on listening to the lived experiences of East Asian diaspora Christians to learn from their wisdom and to work together to shape our Christian identity.
In collaboration with NTC, the College’s 2022 Drysdale Lecture marked the formal launch of the Centre.
As the centre grows we are expanding our networking, conference and culture programmes.
To meet the needs of those who move to the UK, the Centre has been offering two courses on UK culture and church in collaboration with Xpace (CITC), each with four sessions, tackling the topics around UK cultural aspects and UK church history, since December 2021. The courses will help the newcomers settle in the UK, their new home. Alongside these courses, the centre is also preparing to offer the ESL program onsite at NTC especially for recent Hong Kong arrivals. The ESL program will help them enhance their communication skills in English, but, more importantly, the NTC community will offer friendship and hospitality by welcoming and interacting with them. Through the relationships, NTC will be enriched by their presence.
Launch Event: The Drysdale Lecture 2022
A reception to formally launch the Centre followed the 2022 Drysdale Lecture.
Loun Ling Lee: ‘Future of Mission: Strategic Role of Asian Mission in Global Christianity’
Loun Ling Lee serves as the Editor of Lausanne Global Analysis. Her previous roles include Lecturer in Mission at Redcliffe College, UK, Training Director of AsiaCMS based in Malaysia, Mission Mobiliser with OMF, and Pastor at Grace Singapore Chinese Church.