Dr. Richard J. Mouw
Word from China about the death of
Bishop K. H. Ting came on Thanksgiving morning, and I personally received that
message with an response of thanksgiving to God for the Bishop’s friendship to
me and his service to Christ’s Kingdom.
Bishop Ting's contribution to the Chinese church has been most
significant, and his legacy--through his writings and other
accomplishments--will continue for generations.
friendship with the Bishop, longtime leader of China’s officially “registered”
churches, was forged in a controversy that marked the very beginning of my
presidency. As we were planning my inaugural events in the early autumn of 1993, we received word that he would like to
attend my installation service. It struck me that it would be appropriate for
him to bring greetings at the ceremony, and he accepted our invitation for him
to do so. This turned out to be a highly controversial decision on my part, and
during the weeks preceding the inauguration I was under much pressure from
critics of the Three-Self Churches in China to rescind the invitation. We stuck
with the decision, and the Bishop participated. The visible protest during the
ceremony was carried out quietly and with respect.
friendship grew as the Bishop greeted Fuller delegations on many visits to
China. On two occasions he specifically requested that he and I meet alone for
confidential conversations about challenges and opportunities he was wrestling
friendship with the Bishop was not the beginning of Fuller’s friendship with
him, however. In 1984, David Allan Hubbard, my predecessor in the presidency,
took a group of trustees and administrator to China to learn about the condition
of the churches there. The delegation visited Bishop Ting, and presented him
with a gift of books for the library at Nanjing’s Union Theological Seminary.
This was a creative and courageous gesture on David Hubbard’s part. At the
time, there was a general distrust among Western evangelicals of the
“government-sanctioned” churches in China, and Dr. Hubbard deliberately chose
to break ranks by offering an evangelical hand of friendship. A few years
later, President Hubbard hosted a luncheon for Bishop Ting in Pasadena. These
gestures made a deep and lasting
impression on the Bishop, thus preparing the way for our subsequent
partnerships in China.
Ting’s passing signals the end of an important era in the relationship of
church and government in China. In one
of our last conversations, he asked me whether I thought it was a good thing
for the Chinese churches to be headed up by a bishop—while the Three-Self
Churches are officially “post-denominational,”
Bishop Ting maintained his own bishop status in the global Anglican
communion. I smiled when he asked me that question, telling him that he was
putting a Presbyterian on a theological spot! But then I said in seriousness
that I was firmly convinced that having a bishop had been a genuine strength for
the Chinese churches in their decades of negotiations with the Party leadership
about issues of religious freedom.
situation in China regarding the role of religious groups continues to be a work in progress. And we do see much
progress, for which we owe much to the Bishop’s leadership during complex and
difficult times. Fuller Seminary has solid relationships with churches and
educational institutions in China—and with friends in the leadership at the
State Administration for Religious Affairs. We are inspired by what we see the
Lord doing in that great nation, and we are privileged to have significant
opportunities to see first hand, and to learn from, the exciting things that
are happening there.
I come close to the conclusion of my presidency, I see Fuller’s
relationship with China as an important
achievement of the past two decades. And it all began when two great
leaders—David Hubbard and K.H. Ting—reached out to each other in friendship!