The Future of Christian Spirituality & Interreligious Interaction

An Historic Event for Drew Theological School

From September 26 to 28, hundreds gathered at Drew Theological School for the conference, “The Future of Christian Spirituality and Interreligious Interaction.”  International scholars, church leaders, theologians, students, and lay people examined the theological frontier of interfaith theology and the role Christianity can, and does, play in this important dialogue.

Dr. Pyun, Sun HwanThe event also marked the 20th anniversary of Dr. Pyun, Sun Hwan’s release from his teaching position and defrocking because of his theological position on interreligious dialogue in Korea. Dr. Pyun was a leading theologian in Korea, president and professor of Systematic Theology at Methodist Theological University in Seoul, and a graduate of Drew Theological School (1967). This gathering honored his legacy by lifting up Dr. Pyun’s efforts to discern the future course of the church, to advance God’s reign through interfaith dialogue and collaborations, and to enhance religious spirituality through interfaith encounters.

The conference ignited exciting conversation on interreligious dialogue and served as a vehicle for attendees and participants to deepen and reaffirm their spirituality in Christ through intentional interactions with other spiritual traditions. It was a great reuniting at many levels – Korean students with their mentors and faculty from Korean universities, Drew alumni with each other and the Theological School, and international scholars and lecturers with one another.

Over the course of the three days, an array of speakers from the U.S., Korea, and other countries engaged attendees and one another on keynote topics such as “Interreligious Dialogue Versus Interreligious Theology,” “The Future of Comparative Theology,” and “Interreligious Theology, Liberation, and the Church,” and workshop topics including comparative theology as well as discussions on interfaith dialogue and ecology, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Participants also were uplifted by three worship services with special music from Mark Miller, Helen Cha-Pyo, the Men’s Korean Choir and SOOM, the Korean Women’s Choir. Recorded greetings from Dr. Shin, Ock-Hee, Dr. Pyun’s widow, were played at the first plenary session, in which she expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the event and shared her reflection on Dr. Pyun’s life.

Another featured event was the opening of the exhibit, Land of the Morning Calm: Drew Theological Seminary and Early Methodist Missions to Korea” at the United Methodist Archives and History Center. This exhibit, open through January 2013, examines the origins of Korean Methodism and the historic links between Drew Theological School and American missionary presence in Korea. It highlights the Henry and Ella Appenzeller family and brings attention to five lesser known Drew graduates and their families between 1885 and 1920.

Interacting at the International ConferenceThis conference served to further strengthen Drew Theological School’s connection and relationship with Methodist institutions in Korea. Through generous donations received from the family, former students, and friends of Dr. Pyun for this event, a Dr. Pyun, Sun Hwan scholarship fund has been established at the Drew Theological School.

It was a distinct honor for Drew Theological School to host this conference, and we are grateful to Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, who was the brain and main driving force behind it. Since the event generated great interest and momentum for continued dialogue, we look forward to hosting additional conferences in the future.  Living in the 21st century, which has become even more global and diverse, such conversations are critical as we try to live out more fully Dr. Pyun’s vision.

–Nancy VanderVeen, Director, Theological Lifelong Learning