Background of GRS
1. The current situation in Ph.D./Missions (Intercultural Studies) based upon a Reformed theological framework in the USA
In the past, Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) offered the Ph.D. in Intercultural studies. However, RTS has determined to phase out the program because they determined that it was not central to their core mission. Picking up from where it has been left off, GRS seeks to fill the gap and offer a Ph.D. program in Missions and Intercultural Studies consistent with a Reformed theological foundation.
GRS perceives the need for doctoral level training within the confines of the historic Reformed creeds, in order to provide professors and other leaders in Reformed missiology.
This void affects the evangelically Reformed Korean churches and seminaries in Korea and the USA. The seminaries established by evangelically Reformed Korean missions that historically relied on seminaries in the USA for doctoral level training will also be affected. This concern has been a major factor in establishing GRS.
2. Requests from several theological institutions in mission fields
Over the last six years, many Korean Churches and missionaries with Seminary programs in their mission fields sought help with their theological education. Many of these requests came from both pastors and missionaries of Korean RTS alumni. Other ethnic seminaries in various countries other than the Korean churches started to seek help as well. These requests reached Dr. Eunsoo Kim, current president of GRS, who was serving as an Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies (missions) and Director of Korean Language Doctoral Programs from June 2005 to May 2011 at RTS. Although he was receiving all these requests, RTS was not able to address these requests, not because of lack of willingness to help these seminaries, but because of the ongoing situation mentioned above did not allow those requests to be fulfilled, and RTS did not see the Ph.D. program as central to their core mission.
Currently the Korean Diaspora totals about seven million worldwide. Many Korean missionaries and churches went through a multitude of struggles but have experienced rapid growth of their churches and cross-cultural missions. They have worked very productively planting churches and especially organizing seminaries and theological education institutions as a part of their mission. Now they need more effective theological education through global partnerships with other theological institutions. In order to fully fulfill that mission, they need more theologically and practically sound professors to teach their students in their respective mission fields. The same situation applies for many ethnic seminaries in multiple other countries of the world.
Many of these seminaries do not require an accredited theological degree for their students. Rather, they desire more effective higher education for their students through global partnership with strong mission oriented theological seminaries such as GRS.
3. Regarding the differences in spiritual culture between Korean and American churches
In spite of excellent theological training in American theological institutions, many pastors and missionaries, who were trained only in the American context without any intercultural training in the Korean Churches, have not succeeded in their ministries in the Korean churches and in the mission fields established by the Korean churches due to cultural differences. Often it is related to an ethnocentric perspective. For example, an attitude lacking deep appreciation, respect, and careful consideration of different cultures, as well as the lack of a humble heart to learn from different cultures. This is the reason why GRS seeks to train the next generation of Korean church and mission leaders in global partnerships for effective theological education with appropriate multi-ethnic sensitivities.
In addition, Korean churches and mission agencies expect seminaries to assist in developing students in Christian piety. This is one of the many examples of the different cultural contexts that GRS seeks to address to students.
4. Regarding the global partnership with Korean D. Min. alumni and their support of many theological institutions in different countries
Today, American churches and missions have been confronted by many difficult challenges accompanied by a general anti-American sentiment in many countries around the world. Not only the American Churches and missions, but also other Christian missions with different ethnicity, including the Korean church, have experienced the same situation. However, with God’s grace and providence, Korean church missions have widely and successfully expanded throughout the world. Among them, some 200 Korean RTS Doctor of Ministry alumni (hereafter, D.Min.) – together with other alumni in different programs – have done remarkable work for the Kingdom of God in the areas where they have labored. If Ph.D. and English D. Min. alumni are included, the number increases to about 250. We believe that through these men and women, God has given us a wonderful missional infrastructure through RTS for His Kingdom ministry.
Over the past six years, several RTS faculty members have been involved in the Korean D. Min. program. They worked hard together with the same vision to develop international church leaders through their students based upon a Reformed theological framework. Currently, these faculty members have officially retired from their faculty position; however some of these faculty members will play an active role in GRS.
Our vision is to develop more effective Christian leaders for missions through a sound Global Reformed Seminary program based in Atlanta, Georgia, using some RTS Korean D. Min. alumni and retired faculty members, who would travel to strategically-selected international bases. The goal is to provide support for many theological institutions on various mission fields and to develop the current and next generation of leadership in partnership with Korean churches and seminaries. This serves as a further motivation for the establishment of GRS.
5. Regarding the necessity for a new paradigm for theological education in North America
Anglo-American seminaries took the lead in providing theological education for a large part of the Christian world, which grew as a result of their missionary endeavors. They provided the finances and personnel for multiple theological educational efforts and those provisions have succeeded in many different ways. The 21st century has brought about rapid changes. The dominance of the West in technology, communication and transportation is now shared by much of the rest of the world. One can see easily how the changes in the socio-economic and political realms influence Christian missions, especially church and educational leadership. Korea provides a good example of these changes. At the beginning of the 20th century Korea was the recipient of Western missionary efforts. In the 21st century Korea is one of the leaders in sending missionaries to various parts of the world. As a result the operating paradigm for theological education must not ignore these facts and must adapt to these changes.
GRS seeks to pioneer the changing paradigm. We will provide theological education of the highest academic caliber using professors who prize the missionary spirit and respect the changing role of Western leadership in missions. GRS professors will lead in developing doctoral programs sensitive to the current global dynamics in training Christian leaders. In addition, GRS will include in its worldwide educational mission highly trained Korean pastors and missionaries who have doctoral degrees in Intercultural Studies and Ministries in helping theological institutions that grow out of Korean mission endeavors.