A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary
Global Vision - Fall 2008
View more articles in the Fall 2008 issue.
Jen Kuntz Gains from Dr. Ling's Courses
by Laura Kaslow, Communication Specialist
Jen Kuntz, an M.Div. Senior, is taking both courses being taught by the current Schiotz Visiting Professor, Dr. Samuel Ngun Ling. She has an interest in interfaith dialogue, which was strengthened by her internship experience in the Seattle, Washington area.
Jen is originally from Erie, Pennsylvania and graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from Penn State University. She has a sense for adventure and is excited about partnering with and empowering people in ministry to share the Gospel in a relevant, tangible way.
Which classes are you taking with Dr. Ling?
Currently I'm taking "Confessing Christ in Asia," in the next six weeks I'll take "Buddhism and the Christian."
What does Confessing Christ in Asia focus on?
[It is meant to allow students to] get a sense of global Christianity, specifically focused on Southeast Asia, because he's from Myanmar.
It's just fascinating because you get interaction from a real person who lives there, [rather than] reading it in a book or watching it on film. We've spent time thinking about what [it] mean[s] to practice theology in Asia. It's not the Western context, it's the Eastern context. It's more philosophical, their history is much longer than anything we know in America.
We explore interactions with major religions-- Christianity and Buddhism, Islam, Judaism. Then we ask, what does it mean to confess Christ, specifically in an Asian context?
What is your favorite thing about the class so far?
Having Dr. Ling present as a first-hand dialogue partner. He knows what it's like to confess Christ in Asia because he is from there.
The class challenges you to [have] an awareness that ministry will put you in places where you will come across someone of another faith. The question is, "will you engage people of other faiths and how?"
[The] class has challenged me to think about questions like, "what does it mean to be a Christian?", "what are the things you can't give up for the sake of your faith?" and "what are the areas you can be more lax or lenient in to allow conversation to happen?"
We are all human and we share the same Earth. As a bottom line, despite the fact that we all have different beliefs about who God is or what God's name might be, as people of faith, [how] can we gather together and talk for the sake of the world and the healing of creation?
What value do the Schiotz Professors bring to Luther?
[The value] is huge! It goes back to personal contact. You can read about these things and hear other people talk about them, but to have that one-to-one interaction is priceless. You can't put a value on that. Not just in what I'm getting as a student, but what he is getting as a professor. It's a mutual exchange.
How will this opportunity impact your ministry?
In the future I see myself working with people of different faiths. This class has made me think about future callings. Is God calling me to go somewhere for long-term mission? Is it something I should be giving more credence to than I do now? It's more than day-to-day class work. It is life-shaping and call-shaping as well.
Having just finished internship in the Northwestern U.S., I came across many spiritual people, but not many openly Christian people. I wanted to explore inter-faith dialogue coming back from internship. With a group of people from my internship congregation, I had visited a synagogue, other Christian denominations, and a mosque, because we were all curious.
Dr. Ling comes from a very pluralistic society which is part of the history of Southern Asia. Since this class centers on confessing Christ in Asia, it naturally focuses attention on inter-faith dialogue, cultural awareness and ethnic awareness.
Yet the principles we are learning can be applied to any situation: the basic understanding of a simple acceptance that you don't know everything, not making assumptions about what Christianity is like somewhere, or what the non-Christians are like in an area.
What we need to pay attention to are the influences that are forming the context. This is the wave of the future of Christianity. While there is a growing pluralism of religions in America, it's really not just about America.
With the advent of technology, we now live in a global village and society. Christianity is booming in China, Africa and various parts of Asia.
As one who feels impassioned to share the gospel with others, the question is "How do go about doing that?" and "How can I learn from and enrich my own faith tradition not only from Christian brothers and sisters around the world, but also from those of different faiths?"