Inaugural Address by the 5th president
Torch Trinity Graduate University
August 27, 2015
Dear Chairperson Lee and the members of the board of trustees,
Dr. Sangbok David Kim, esteemed professors and the staff,
Alumni/ae and students,
and all the partners and guests who have come to be witnesses of this important occasion of Torch Trinity Graduate University:
Today I stand here in fear and tremble because of the great duty that has been charged to me. The late President Yong Jo Ha had constantly reiterated that the church must be the hope for the world. Toward that end, seminaries must identify with the hope by becoming a learned community that produces pastors and ministers of the Gospel who can engage the world and impact the world with the hope of the Gospel. Regretfully, the reality within which we find ourselves in does not make it easy for the church and seminaries to realize this hope or fulfill this God-given vocation.
Personally I was very reluctant to take up the enormous responsibility of being the 5th president to succeed the rich and God-honoring legacies of the three great predecessors, Dr. Sangbok David Kim, Dr. Kenneth M. Meyer, and the late Dr. Yong Jo Ha who have undoubtedly been some of the notable spiritual giants of our time.
More than ever I was able to identify with Joshua’s fear when he was called to succeed in leading Israelites after Moses. We can readily surmise the depth of Joshua’s fear when we observe God repeatedly reassuring Joshua of His un-compromising presence
For the past ten years I’ve had a privilege of serving as the academic dean and as the Vice President of Academic Development. And through the experience I came to understand how crucial, yet difficult the president’s job could be. Despite my reluctance and fear I now dare to take this job because the God who assured Joshua is the same, living God, and He will be with me as well. Our creator God loves the whole world and wants every nation and tribe to come to, not only understand, but also experience the love of God and the grace of his salvation in Jesus Christ. In His sovereign will, God has graciously chosen even Torch Trinity to be an instrument for His Kingdom. In such a context I count it as a privilege to work together with the Chairperson and everyone who are called to be at Torch Trinity in this time and in this place.
I believe that the goal and vision of theological education is quite simple in that it is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Theological education exists to serve the church to advance the whole Gospel of the triune God to be delivered to the whole people to the whole world. However, theological education in the 21st century is faced with multiple challenges. According to the Atlas of Global Christianity made in 2010, the center of Christianity has been shifting from the west to the non-western world. Christianity has definitely been waning in the West in the past several decades. Yet, we know that the western theological education still leads the global church in terms of resources and research. And we increasingly observe the discrepancies or gap between the theological education prescribed by the West and theological education practiced in the majority world. I believe it is the task of theological education institutions in the non-Western world to think critically and contextually how we are to, while appreciatively transform the rich heritage of the western theological education, respond to the needs of the global church and the majority world. We live in, what I call, a post-Christian world where the biblical Christianity is increasingly marginalized and even forbidden. And it is my earnest hope that theological educational institutions such as Torch Trinity have to prepare the church, the people of God to be able to intelligently and persuasively respond to the desperate and watching world. With rapidly changing geopolitics of the world with an increasingly balkanizing nationalism, and contentious and deadly religious conflicts, the world is in need of major breakthroughs. In response to the watching world, the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be more strategic and flexible. Domestically increasing numbers of multiethnic families and defectors from North Korea, and Korean diasporas demand the Korean church to sharpen its ideas and commitment toward unity in its mission, and to create solidarity and cooperation for the furtherance of the Gospel. Furthermore, theological education in this nation must prepare the Korean church for the future where the two Koreas would be unified by God’s grace.
These are the various tasks of Torch Trinity theological education to take up and forge ahead.
As a church historian, I observe that the protestant churches are facing the most challenging time in its history since the sixteenth century. People are in dire need of hope and are searching for meaning in life. And, whether they admit or not, they are in search of hope and meaning that can only be found in Jesus Christ. And we are the embodiment of that hope that can be found in Jesus Christ. The world is looking to Christian leaders and the church more than ever with a critical, yet longing eye. I am well aware of the fact that I am called to be president at such time like this. Fortunately I have the Chairperson Lee and the board who are faithfully praying, and a wonderful group of professors who are fully equipped and mission-minded. God has also brought together a committed staff, alumni/ae and students whose singular goal is to follow Jesus with whole heart. So, this day, I commit to pray with you and work with you
Honorable guests and friends, you are here as witnesses to a new chapter of Torch Trinity Graduate University. I invite all of you to continue to be witnesses to God’s mighty work through Torch Trinity because God will walk ahead of Torch Trinity in the days ahead.
May the Lord be glorified!