This Month in SEC History: January 2012

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Awareness of Christianity and world religions interacting in a global context has become a hallmark of the 21st-century church that desires to promote peace and goodwill among the nations. Twelve years ago, a group from the Southeast Conference sought to put it into action with a visit to Thailand under the aegis of Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and the SEC’s Theology Among the People program, the forerunner of today’s PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc.

Thailand was where then-Conference Minister Tim Downs was raised as the son of missionaries, and then-Associate Conference Minister Sarah Kim was from Korea, so this tour had more than a functional educational angle to it. It was a homecoming of sorts. Accompanying Downs and Kim were then-Associate Conference Minister and TAP Administrator Kathy Clark, several students from Lancaster, and six people from SEC local churches. The main highlight of the tour was a visit to the headquarters of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Peace of Payap University. Payap is located on the Burmese border and has a high number of Burmese refugees in its population. The group also visited the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok, to explore the state of Christianity there and its relationship with indigenous religious bodies.

Tim Downs gave a summary of the group’s intent in the January 2012 website update:

“When we speak of globalization in the context of the church, we are speaking of a different way of doing mission. Ours is not the mission of the 19th century, to promote a culturally bound Gospel to redeem the ‘heathen,’ often while functioning in cooperation with colonialists or western economic interests. It is instead a mission that is engaged in partnership with churches that we have been in ministry for up to centuries. When we go to other countries, we go at the invitation of our local partners. What ministry we bring, we bring in collaboration with them. Whether in refugee or disaster relief, or building churches, hospitals or schools, our efforts are led by local leadership. In a world where the most rapidly growing churches are in the Southern Hemisphere, we are beginning to recognize that those who were once taught by our forebears now have much to teach us.”