During a plenary session of the recent International Conference on the Future of Christian Spirituality and Interreligious Interaction, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung handed Dean Kuan a check in the amount of $10,000 from the Class of ’76 of the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, Korea—seed money to endow a scholarship in honor of their mentor and professor, Dr. Pyun, Sun Hwan. Bishop Jung explains the threads of relationship that connect his life, Dr. Pyun, and Drew.
In the 1960’s Dr. Pyun studied under Carl Michalson, a theological pioneer who was teaching at Drew Theological School. Graduating from the Drew STM program in 1967 and the University of Basel in Switzerland in 1976, Dr. Pyun served as the professor in Systematic Theology and president of the Methodist Theological University. In 1987 he returned to Drew to teach and lecture with Paul Knitter at the Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures.
During his own graduate studies at Dongguk University in Seoul and The Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, Bishop Jung enjoyed working as a research assistant under Dr. Pyun, whose theology of liberation and religious pluralism ground the Bishop’s faith and work. The idea that Christianity and other religions can meet each other through “unbounded responsibility and love” towards the formation of the responsible community, inspired a generation of Korean theological students. Later, during the hard years when Dr. Pyun was excommunicated from the Korean Methodist Church, Bishop Jung was teaching Buddhist studies in Seoul and was able to invite his mentor to teach along side him. Bishop Jung remembers that as a precious time of reconnection.
Bishop Jung’s ties to Drew are fairly new–he is not an alum here. But he began a conversation with Dean Kuan at Kuan’s installation nearly two years ago, about a greater need for interfaith exploration in theological education coinciding with the 20 year anniversary of Dr. Pyun Sun Hwan’s excommunication. And so was born the partnership that produced “The Future of Christian Spirituality and Interreligious Interaction.”
Not only has the MTU Class of ’76 come together to start a scholarship, but also the family and students of Dr. Pyun have began to gather funds toward the development of an endowed scholarship at Drew. Together these two groups created the Pyun Archive Center in Seoul, with library resources open to the public, monthly public lectures, and mentoring relationship for students. This group has acquired the space, created the archive, and staffed it out of love.
Out of the legacy of Dr. Pyun, this small community has been born.
Former students traveled from all over the US to the International Conference at Drew Theological School, proud to honor their teacher and mentor. According to Bishop Jung, this pilgrimage makes sense. “Drew is a place for the legacy of Dr. Pyun and the future destination of global Christianites. I trust Drew to take a leading role in developing pedagogy for this end–with the first Asian dean of a major seminary–toward this future, this Methodism with a genuine Wesleyan spirit, open and embracing a global parish concept.”
- Lydia York, TheoSpirit Co-Editor