What is Public Theology? There are many nuances of public theology and therefore a concise definition of public theology is difficult. However, as our religious belief is open, God has called us to live out our faith. In the public square and on public issues, we believe and need to have a systematic approach in understanding how our religious convictions guide and direct our daily living. We also are called to engage and dialogue with our society in which God places us on public issues that are of concerns to others. We further believe that through these discourses and dialogues, we can impact and transform our society. The study and practice of this is public theology.
History of the Center for Public Theology In January 2022, CESNA initiated the Center for Public Theology as a part of the Pathways for Tomorrow grant given by Lilly Endowment. An integral part of CESNA’s mission includes “Respond from a Biblical perspective to contemporary issues that concern Christians and society at large.” In her Pathways for Tomorrow proposal, CESNA explains that Chinese churches traditionally lack the training to discern current social issues and respond to them from a Biblical perspective. Public theology is a branch of theology targeted to help Christians live out their faith and engage in dialogue with society. Lilly Endowment agreed with this vision and approved CESNA a grant of close to one million dollars, spread over five years to reach this goal.
As a result, to fulfill its mission and to fill the void of Chinese believers, with grant funding from Lilly Endowment, CESNA established the Center for Public Theology dedicated to nurturing and training Chinese Christian leaders on how to respond and dialogue on contemporary religious and social issues. Dr. Agnes Chiu is the inaugural director of the Center. In addition, CESNA established the Research and Strategic Initiatives (“RSI”) to oversee the Center for Public Theology and the newly established Spiritual and Character Formation Center, Church Empowerment Program, and the Pastor Care Project, all fruits of different Lilly Endowment grants. Dr. Chiu is also the director of RSI.
In October 2022, CESNA’s Center for Public Theology became an official member of the Global Network of Public Theology (GNPT, https://gnpublictheology.net/), sharing resources with other universities and seminaries which have a dedicated interest in advancing public theology. Dr. Chiu represented CESNA and presented at the 2022 GNPT Conference in Brazil.
The Center for Public Theology has three contexts: academic, church, and society at large. To reach out to these constituents, the Center plans to launch the following in 2023:
a. Academic symposia
b. Academic research and resources
c. Social media sharing of messages via podcast, Facebook, Instagram, and Line.