SHAWNEE, Kan. (ABP) – A dozen students and three faculty members from the Myanmar Institute of Theology spent two weeks in October on the campus of Central Baptist Theological Seminary for a new doctor of ministry degree collaboration between Baptist schools in Shawnee, Kan., and the country historically known as Burma.
Meanwhile, Central Seminary is securing services of missionaries Duane and Marsha Binkley, fluent in both Thai and Karen, to help minister to the many refugees from Myanmar who are coming into the United States.
Jointly appointed by American Baptist International Ministries and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Binkleys have ministered to Karen refugees in the U.S. and Thailand since they were commissioned at a combined CBF/ABC meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2007. Their work recently was broadened to work with other ethnic groups from Burma.
This fall the couple has helped Central to develop educational resources for refugee leaders from Burma. Beginning in January they will put their language skills and experience to work in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
The new cross-cultural doctoral program, the result of a longtime partnership between Central Seminary and the Myanmar Institute of Theology, focuses on the missional studies track for the D.Min. in congregational health. After students from Myanmar studied in Kansas, students from Shawnee were scheduled to travel to Myanmar. That way the two groups learn from each other about contextualizing the gospel message and how to adopt a missionary lifestyle in ministry to their own culture.
“I am very glad that Central is working for the Burmese people, not only in the D.Min. program but also with people who are refugees here,” said Samuel Ling, president of the Myanmar Institute of Theology. “It’s a great seminary and we are very blessed by having cooperation with Central.”
American Baptist ties to Myanmar date back to missionary Adoniram Judson, who arrived in Burma in 1813. For six decades Myanmar’s military dictatorship has targeted minority groups like the Karen for ethnic assimilation. In order to survive, these groups must flee Myanmar by crossing the border into Thailand. Tens of thousands of them have relocated to the United States. When they do, they frequently turn to Baptists for help with assimilation and physical and spiritual needs.
Central has been granting degrees for MIT students since the 1950s. In 2009, the Henry Luce Foundation gave $300,000 to support the partnership between the two schools for three years, underwriting joint study, faculty and student exchanges and ministry to Burmese refugees in the United States.
“One of the key emphases in Central’s curriculum is global Christianity,” said Central President Molly Marshall. “Central frankly acknowledges that Europe and North America are no longer the strongholds of Christianity and keenly recognizes that the many flourishing cultural forms of Christian identity can also inform the processes of ministry preparation. There is much to learn from our global Christian neighbors.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.