History of the Foundation
for Theological Education in Southeast Asia
NB: A book documenting
the history of FTESEA is available: SUPPORTING ASIAN CHRISTIANITY'S
TRANSITION FROM MISSION TO CHURCH, A History of the Foundation
for Theological Education in South East Asia. Samuel C. Pearson,
Editor (Eerdmans, 2010).
75th Anniversary historical presentation / photos : http://www.ftesea.org/FTE75th.pdf
Also available, A River of Living Water: A Historical Sketch of Nanking Theological Seminary and the Board of Founders by Frank W. Cartwright : http://www.ftesea.org/River_of_Living_Water.pdf
for Theological Education in Southeast Asia (FTESEA) is the successor
organization to the Board of Founders of Nanking Theological Seminary
. In the early 1930s Rebecca A.D. Wendel Swope and Ella V. Wendel
bequeathed a sizable sum of money to the then Board of Foreign
Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church with the stipulation
that the income was to be used for "Nankin (sic) Theological
Seminary." In June of 1932 the seminary's Board of Managers
in Nanking decided that it would be advisable to organize a Board
of Trustees (Founders) in the United States. The organizational
meeting of the Board of Founders was held on June 5, 1937 with
four denominational mission boards as members.
years after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China
in 1949, the Board of Founders could no longer relate to Nanking
Theological Seminary. After several years of exploring its options,
the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church
requested and received an order from the New York Surrogate's
Court authorizing the Board of Founders to use the income from
the Swope-Wendel Fund for "(1) any purpose contributing to
Christian theological education (a) in China, or (b) in areas
of Asia and of the Western Pacific beyond the confines of China...when
the said corporation shall deem the same advisable because of
conditions existing in China." In 1963 the Board of Founders'
name was legally changed to the Foundation for Theological Education
in South East Asia.
the Board of Founders worked with four to seven seminaries in
several South East Asian countries. By 1957 these relationships
had stimulated the formation of the Association of Theological
Schools in South East Asia (ATSSEA). In 1980 ATSSEA changed its
name to the Association for Theological Education in South East
1970s, under the leadership of its then Chair, Charles Forman,
the FTESEA invited ATSSEA to join it in setting up procedures
for Asians to make the decisions regarding FTESEA's grants to
the member schools of ATSSEA and ATSSEA itself. First, ATSSEA
and the FTESEA set up a Joint Regional Planning Commission. Since
this joint Commission was successful, ATSSEA decided to establish
its own Resource Commission. The FTESEA gave it the responsibility
of developing recommendations to the FTESEA regarding the grant
requests from the ATSSEA member schools and ATSSEA itself. The
FTESEA has regularly adopted the recommendations of the Resource
In its first
years the Resource Commission continued to recommend grant requests
from all of its member schools. By the mid-1980s the Resource
Commission had decided to stop approving grants for its schools
in the more developed countries, i.e., Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan,
Malaysia, etc., and to increase the FTESEA grants to schools in
less developed countries, i.e. Myanmar, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
the Philippines, Indonesia, etc. The Resource Commission also
decided to limit FTESEA grants to the improvement of libraries.
At its 2001
General Assembly ATESEA reduced the size of the Resource Commission
to six, and included persons with fund raising experience in its
membership. The new Resource Commission continued the tradition
of strengthening theological libraries, but also recommended some
non-library grants to the FTESEA.
By 2003 ATESEA
had 97 member institutions in 15 Asian countries. It also supports
the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology (SEAGST) with
seven regional areas. SEAGST grants three degrees: Master of Theology,
Doctor of Theology, and Doctor of Pastoral Studies.
Union Theological Seminary reopened in the late 1970s, President
K.H. Ting wrote the FTESEA and asked that the FTESEA help the
seminary by providing books for its library. Under the leadership
of Frank Cooley, a Presbyterian missionary to Indonesia in the
USA on furlough, a project for providing books for the Nanjing
library was begun. Cooley collected catalogues from various publishers
of theological books, and sent them to Bishop Ting. Nanjiing was
invited to select the books it desired for its library, and order
them through Cooley. When Cooley's furlough ended, Marvin D. Hoff,
who was FTESEA's Executive Director, continued this project with
the assistance of his wife Joan.
In 1989 Bishop
Shen Yifan, then General Secretary of the China Christian Council
(CCC) and the chair of the CCC's Commission on Theological Education
met with the FTESEA Executive Committee. He encouraged the FTESEA
to continue its bilateral relationship with Nanjing and to begin
a new partnership with the CCC Commission on Theological Education.
The Executive Committee readily agreed.
partnerships with Nanjing and the Commission, the FTESEA has
- Provided books for
the libraries at Nanjing and other Three-Self Patriotic Movement
and China Christian Council (TSPM/CCC) seminaries throughout
- Provided a major
grant for building the new Nanjing library;
- Provided scholarship
assistanc to seminary faculty members doing advanced theological
study in the USA and Canada;
- Provided major grants
for the purchase of computers to TSPM/CCC seminaries;
- Provided other grants
as requested by Nanjing and/or the Commission.
In 1985 Bishop K.H.
Ting asked the FTESEA to support two publications. The first,
Nanjing Theological Review, converted Nanjing's publication
of the same name into traditional characters for distribution
to Chinese living outside of China. After initially publishing
each quarterly issue, it was decided in the mid-1990s to publish
an annual issue of articles selected from the quarterly issues.
All of the work on this publication is done in the Amity Foundation's
Hong Kong office. The second publication, the Chinese Theological
Review, which is published annually, translates into English
CCC statements, articles/essays, sermons, etc. written in Chinese
for Christians in China. Janice Wicker has been the editor of
this journal from its beginning.
The following individuals
have been leaders of the Board of Founders of Nanking Theological
Seminary and the Foundation for Theological Education in South
T. Cartwright, Secretary for China, Japan, Korea and East
Asia of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, was elected Secretary of the Board of Founders at
its organizational meeitng in 1937 and served until his retirement
in 1961. Sometime before his retirement his title becamse
Stanley Smith was appointed Board of Founders Field Representative
in South East Asia, with an office in Bangkok for the first
year, then in Singapore.
R. Fleming, Church of Scotland missionary, was appointed Field
Representative in 1957, with his office in Singapore. When
Frank T. Cartwright retired in 1961, Fleming was appointed
Executive Secretary. The Board of Founders (in 1963 FTESEA)
official office was moved to Singapore, with a part-time clerical
office continued in New York. When the Association of Theological
Schools in South East Asia (ATSSEA) was formed in 1959, Fleming
was appointed its Executive Director.
John Fleming returned to Scotland in 1967, Kosuke Koyama was
appointed the ATSSEA Executive Director and Alan Thomson was
appointed the FTESEA's Executive Director. Both had their
offices in Singapore.
Thomson returned to the USA in 1972, Ivy Chou, from Malaysia,
was appointed by the FTESEA and the Theological Education
Fund of the World Council of Churches to be the Executive
Director of their Joint South East Asia office. The office
was in Bromiley, England.
Ivy Chou retired in 1977, Marvin D. Hoff, Secretary for Operations
and Finance in the Reformed Church in America, was secunded
by the RCA to serva as the interim FTESEA Executive Director.
served as the part-time FTESEA Executive Director while serving
as the Senior Minister of the Reformed Church of Palos Heights,
Illinois and the President of Western Theological Seminary,
FTESEA established an Advancement Program, Hoff added these
new responsibilities to his contract ast the FTESEA's Executive
Director and did not seek another ministry in the RCA.
decided to end its Advancement Program at the December 2003
Annual Meeting. Hoff continued to serve as Executive Director
Hoff retired as Executive Director of FTESEA and H.S. Wilson
was appointed as the new Executive Director.