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U. S. SUPPORT OF REFORMED THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION IN CHINA: THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE NORTH CHINA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, 1942- 1969 (an additional chapter to 历史光影中的华北神学院》香港:中国国际文化出版社 at the request of the author 趙曰北 敬上)

The American faculty of North China Theological Seminary, with the exception of Watson and Julia Hayes, were evacuated from Tenghsien on 10 June 1942. Six months previously the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and war had broken out between Japan and America. By late summer, with the exception of Alex MacLeod (a British subject), they were all safely in the United States. They thought at the time they would be returning to rejoin the Chinese faculty who were attempting to maintain the Seminary under difficult circumstances. What would the future hold for the school to which they had given their lives, and its vision of a theological education for the Chinese church that needed the depth of training and leadership that the school had provided?

Most of the returning missionaries settled in the Philadelphia area. Philadelphia was a center of the conservative and Reformed faith that NCTS had promoted since its beginning in 1919. But, like the students who walked out of their classes that year knew, the historic Christian faith was under attack. There were divisions in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). Theological seminaries and missionary societies were flashpoints of disagreement. In the seminaries students had to deal with a sacred text that many pf their teachers found full of errors. In missionary work questions were raised about whether the gospel was the only way to know God.

These were two profound issues that created much uncertainty in some theological seminaries. In 1929 Princeton Seminary was reorganized and a new school committed to the Reformed faith called Westminster Seminary, had been established in Philadelphia, taking several faculty members such as the widely read Gresham Machen[1] and Old Testament scholar Oswald Allis[2]. This group had been mentored by B. B. Warfield, the Princeton Seminary professor who, who he was teaching in Pittsburgh had influenced Watson Hayes. In 1934 a new independent Presbyterian mission board was formed following a weak rebuttal by the PC(USA) Board to Pearl Buck, a former employee, China missionary and Nobel prize winner for her novel The Good Earth. She had stated that missions, other than medical, were a waste of time as everyone was going to be saved anyway. Both the new seminary and the new mission board soon fractured. But the city of Philadelphia was a lively center of theological debate and missionary enthusiasm with many strongly Biblically based churches. That is where the returning missionaries from Tenghsien settled and where they kept their vision alive.

The evacuees did not take long to regroup. On 29 December 1942 the Tenghsien missionaries and their American supporters organized a so-called “Home Council” for the North China Theological Seminary “to ensure the continuation of the work that has proved so valuable and to provide for a full resumption of activities at the earliest possible moment.” Watson Hayes had inspired many local enthusiasts for China missions and construction of the buildings on the campus had been largely paid for by donors from the Philadelphia area. The Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, in a prosperous Philadelphia suburb, had been particularly generous in its support of Watson Hayes and his new school. Most importantly a former Philadelphia minister, Clarence Edward Macartney[3], now serving the historic First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and the moderator of the controversial 1924 General Assembly (the annual meeting of the whole denomination), was a strong supporter. His congregation, the so called “cathedral of Presbyterianism” in western Pennsylvania (Watson Hayes’ home), with all its wealth was solidly behind NCTS. Macartney was a committed Board member from the beginning and served as President, a considerable investment of time for a very busy (and influential) man in his seventies. My mother served as secretary and many of the meetings were held in our apartment in West Philadelphia. She was a popular promotional speaker for NCTS at missionary events in the city.

My mother reported[4] that the NCTS property was now next to a Japanese military encampment and that students had retreated to the missionary compound nearby. Former NCTS professor Martin Hopkins[5] was now their only contact with China. Having returned in 1943 he was attempting to get money for the Seminary where he was teaching in West (“Free”) China from the American Council. From reports from POW camps in China she announced the death of NCTS’ founder Watson Hayes as well as news of my Father, the only NCTS faculty member still imprisoned. The next general mailing, dated 10 October 1945, had better news: the surrender of the Japanese on 14 August meant that “Plans for building up the faculty to the level required by a high grade Seminary are already being made,” she reported[6]. On behalf of the American Council, she appealed for funds: “Our Mission Boards are cooperating sympathetically by permitting us to choose the particular men who are best qualified for this Seminary responsibility. However, beyond lending us some of the teaching personnel, the Boards cannot assume the financial obligations because they do not dominate the policy in any way. For this reason the progress of the NCTS must depend upon the gifts of individual churches or members who wish to support a work that is founded unequivocally on the Bible as the word of God and on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only hope for sinful man. If you feel led to contribute to this great work we ask that you draw your check to” Horace G Hill, the treasurer, in Berwyn, suburban Philadelphia.

For the next twenty years Horace Hill would be a tireless advocate for NCTS. Though neither a scholar nor clergy, he was deeply committed to its ministry. Recruited by Watson Hayes in the 1930’s, Hill was a local Philadelphia boy who demonstrated financial wizardry that led him to the position of Secretary Treasurer of the Atlantic Refining Co., a major oil conglomerate whose gas stations with their ARCO signs dominated the eastern United States. His mansion in Berwyn in suburban Philadelphia  (where he worshipped at Trinity Presbyterian Church), became the American headquarters of NCTS. Organized, systematic, conscientious, and dedicated to the work of theological education in China, NCTS became his monument. Today he is all but forgotten.

Later that same year American Council supporters were informed that four Chinese members of the NCTS faculty were still in Tenghsien and gifts could be sent as their need was great. The NCTS buildings, they said, were in reasonable repair “it is evident that the Lord has saved them from the usual destruction so that His work may be resumed.”[7] A subsequent letter in the summer of 1946, after Kenneth Kepler[8] and Martin Hopkins had revisited the property, reported that the faithful remnant that had stayed on “were finally forced out by a God-despising element of their own countrymen.” The letter was signed by Charles Ernest Scott[9] as Executive Secretary of the American Council and was particularly poignant because his own daughter, Betty Stam, had been martyred by those same people twelve years earlier. The Seminary was ”pushing open the door of great opportunity in China” and the American Council was pressing ahead, funding the refugee NCTS in Xuzhou[10] north Kiangsu, as the school regrouped there for greater safety than Tenghsien provided and where their first China NCTS Board meeting since the war was held.

The PC(USA) Board in America under the liberal Lloyd Ruland, its Secretary for China, had set itself to reclaim both the property and the Seminary. On 11 June two members of the NCTS American Council (Romig and Ross) travelled to New York City and met with Ruland and a colleague at 156 Fifth Ave. to discuss title to the property which had originally been registered by Watson Hayes with the American Consulate in the name of the “American Presbyterian Church”. American Council member T. Edward Ross[11], a chartered accountant and a  founding partner of Coopers Lybrand, stood up for NCTS and its independence and was not intimidated. After this important meeting he told the Council:

“My impression is that Dr. Hopkins and those associated with him in China should be urged to rally the forces of the conservatives in the Chinese Church, the missionaries from the Southern Church and others interested in maintaining a sound testimony, for the purpose of strengthening or restoring a body which would be the real continuing successor of the management of the Seminary at the time the property was placed in [the] Church. Unless there is  some such organization when the time arrives for the Foreign Board to act, the Board may feel justified in assigning the property elsewhere.”[12]

There was a savage irony here: as the property was about to be destroyed and all missionaries expelled from China the Presbyterian establishment in America was scheming for a takeover.

Further evidence of the hostility of the wider church to the theological position of NCTS came over conflict about the disposition of funds from the Restoration Fund set up by the denomination in response to war devastation of mission property in East Asia. At the annual meeting of the American Council held on 7 April 1947 it was noted that a contribution to the Restoration Fund of $17,739.08, sent directly to the denomination by First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh towards the rebuilding of NCTS, had not been received and to notify Dr. Macartney accordingly. A further motion called on supporting churches in future to send their contributions to the Restoration Fund directly to Horace Hill “as a guarantee that the money has reached its designated destination.”[13] In a subsequent letter to Dr. Scott and my father, Horace Hill referred to “political machinations” performed by the Board in support of the Church of Christ in China and against the Presbyterian Churches of South Shandong and North Kiangsu that had stayed out of the Union of 1927 in the interests of doctrinal and theological consistency. NCTS was regarded as suspect, all the more because of its wide influence and success. On 17 January 1948 the Board set a strict limit of $10,000 that churches could give NCTS as their response to its Restoration Fund.[14]

At the end of the war Alex MacLeod had been repatriated following imprisonment by the Japanese in Pudong Shanghai concentration camp. He re-joined his family on 15 November 1945 and provided active leadership fpr the American Council, speaking in churches, corresponding with clergy, and promoting the work of the Seminary from Duluth, Minnesota, to the East Coast. Health considerations delayed his return to China until 8 September 1948. He re-joined the faculty in Wuxi, Jiangsu, where the Seminary at a cost of $20,000 had once again relocated the previous summer. Inflation was rife, the political situation was extremely unstable, and funds had to be kept in America by the Council. On 16 December 1948 an emotional appeal went out from Horace Hill to supporters on behalf of the Council: “We cannot let them down at this crucial time and we appeal to our friends to give generously to the support of this Godly band of 150 souls who are giving first place to the things of the Spirit. Send your checks and have a substantial share in saving this great work from the forces which are seeking its destruction.”[15]

With liberation the beginning of May 1949 there were fresh challenges, not only from the new regime. The Council met with both Dr. Ruland[16] and with Dr. Fulton[17] of the Southern Presbyterians and in a letter on 12 August 1949 described relations as “not being as cordial as they should have been. We agreed that we should approach our problems as mature Christians and seek the Lord’s guidance for the proper solution if these problems.” Ruland was anxious to eliminate NCTS’ presence as a challenge to his more liberal and inclusive faith. Darby Fulton, as a much loved Evangelical peace-maker, stood firm as an advocate for NCTS and won the day. “In the first place we found that we were unanimous in the conviction that NCTS must be preserved as the unwavering exponent of the entire Reformed faith must be guaranteed for the future through whatever safeguards may be required, and that its prestige in China and among its American supporters would be strengthened by having it continue as an arm of the Chinese Presbyterian Church receiving some help from the established Presbyterian Mission enterprise.”[18]

Martin Hopkins was present for the 1952 annual meeting in Philadelphia, his first for nine years. He had been on his own in Wuxi as the only foreign faculty member as he watched the historic changes taking place in China. He had stayed on for almost two years until expelled. He observed that “The meeting was well attended and there were no signs that their interest in the Seminary had been diminished by the tragic turn of events in China. There was no attitude of defeatism, but a firm faith in God and a strong purpose to carry on both in the present and in the future if the way opens up again.”[19] Hong Kong alumni had asked for the Seminary to relocate there. Alex MacLeod had relocated there with his family in 1949, not wanting to risk further separation after his five years as a prisoner of war. The alumni request was turned down. Council approved MacLeod’s move to Taiwan to teach in the Theological College in Taipei connected with the Presbyterian Church on the island. Martin Hopkins proposed instead that, since the door was closed to foreign missionaries in China, literature was a viable alternative, Alex MacLeod having already published a commentary on I Peter in Chinese. Hopkins (who had earlier published in Chinese) saw a similar opportunity. Funds were approved for him to have a literary assistant, Rev. Timothy Lin[20], and an office Council would pay for in Wilmington, Delaware. Hopkins was one of very few China missionaries who was not only fluent in Mandarin but could write clear (and beautiful) characters without difficulty.

The American Council’s 1957 gathering was chaired by Oswald T. Allis in the absence of Charles Ernest Scott. At 77 the doughty defender of an historical Old Testament was anxious to reassure donors that the original aims of NCTS were still being fulfilled. With a balance of over $40,000 there was no shortage of funds, this in spite of payments to Taiwan Theological College and a grant to a student Martin Hopkins had vouched for.

American Council members were, however, ageing. The original vision for a Reformed faith in China was, it appeared, further away than ever, as repression and persecution intensified. Wang Ming-dao, a remarkable prophetic voice and a courageous Beijing pastor closely connected with NCTS,  was arrested in 1957. Recruiting new members for the American Council proved a challenge. Three of the six Council members were now Scott’s – Charles Ernest and his sons Rev. Francis and medical Dr. Kenneth. Francis had been a missionary in China and now was pastoring in the eastern United States, Kenneth[21] was a missionary physician, first in Korea and later in India. A large bequest for NCTS was received and Charles Ernest Scott, their father, suggested that instead of going to Chinese theological education, since NCTS (in their view) no longer existed, it be redirected to a hospital in Korea Kenneth Scott knew. My father felt that this was a loss of the original vision for the Council and perhaps even a betrayal of trust.

In 1960 while on furlough both my father and James Dickson[22] met with the American Council. A committee was formed at that annual meeting consisting of Taiwan missionaries Kenneth Kepler (formerly of Tenghsien), MacLeod and Dickson to make recommendations. James Dickson, as Principal of the Taiwan Theological College, had been a classmate of MacLeod’s in Princeton Seminary and was a well-known and highly respected Evangelical statesman but he proved powerless, due to declining health and the realities of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, to stop the theological drift of the school. When a required course in Ephesians which my Father had taught was cancelled and one in Ecumenics was substituted he knew his time was drawing to an end. In 1970 MacLeod retired from the Yangmingshan Seminary to join fourteen organizations and churches establishing the more congenial China Evangelical Seminary which, while not specifically Reformed, was committed to a high view of Scripture. He teamed up with J. Hudson Taylor III, whose grandfather had first challenged MacLeod’s father in 1897 to go out to Zhejiang. But he always looked back on NCTS as his happiest years as a theological educator.

However the original vision of NCTS did live on in a miraculous manner. In the mid 1960’s three Chinese students at Westminster Theological Seminary met and discussed the future of evangelical Bible-centred and honouring theological education. They met with the three remaining NCTS trustees: Oswald Allis, Horace Hill and his son John Hill and after a year of negotiation and the appropriate assurances from them, the two merged and the China Graduate School of Theology was birthed. The embryonic school received the few remaining assets of the American Council, took its legal status of incorporation, and in 1975 started classes in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, soon to be a leading theological institution for the Chinese church and diaspora. As Wilson Chow, one of the three founders, states: “The China Graduate School of Theology US Board was formed and held its first meeting in Philadelphia in December 1969. The rest is history.”[23]

 

毛大

A Donald MacLeod,
Research Professor of Church History,
Tyndale Theological Seminary, Toronto

 

[1] J, Gresham Machen (1881-1937) who taught at Princeton Seminary (1906-1929) and then at Westminster.

[2] Oswald T. Allis (1880-1972) taught Old Testament at Princeton (1910-1929) and at Westminster (1929-1936).

[3] Clarence Edward Macartney (1879-1957) Minister of Arch St Church, Philadelphia (1914-1927) and First Church Pittsburgh (1927-1957).

[4] Dorothy M MacLeod (DMM), Secretary, American Council to NCTS American Council supporters, 26 February 1945.

[5] Martin Armstrong Hopkins (1889-1964) PCUS (“Southern”) missionary to China, 1917-1951.

[6] DMM to American Council supporters, 10 October 1945 (Author’s archive)

[7] DMM to American Council supporters, 10 October 1945 (Author’s archive).

[8] Kenneth Kepler (1905-2001) served in China with PC(USA) (1930=1947) and PC(US) (1956-1971),

[9] Charles Ernest Scott (1876-1961) Missionary to China with PC(USA) 1906-1946 (Xinan and Qilu University).

[10] Charles Ernest Scott to friends of NCTS, 26 July 1946 (Author’s archive).

[11] Donor of a unique Rare Bibles collection now at the University of Pennsylvania.

[12] T. Edward Ross “NCTS Memorandum of Interview June 114 1946” (Author’s archive).

[13] Minutes of the  Annual Meeting NCTS Inc.,  7 April 1947, (Authors archive).

[14] Horace Hill to MacLeod & Scott, 2 March 1948 quoting Motion 47-993, China Letter 272, (Author’s archive).

[15] Horace Hill to the American Council supporters, 16 December 1948 (Author’s archive).

[16] Lloyd Stanton Ruland (1889-1953) PC(USA) missionary Shandong 1912-8, 1921-7; appointed China Secretary 1938 – 1951, Described as a “China Casualty” broken by the events he witnessed during those years.

[17] Charles Darby Fulton (1892 – 1977) Executive Secretary, 1932-61 PCUS Board of Foreign Missions.

[18]  Horace Hill to the American Council supporters, 12 August 1949  (Author’s archive).

[19] Martin A. Hopkins to the American Council supporters, 24 June 1954  (Author’s archive).

[20] Timothy Lin (1911-2009) Ph.D. Dropsie College in Hebrew. OT prof. 1st Chinese Baptist Church, LA, 1961 on. President, China Evangelical Seminary, Taipei, 1980-1991.

[21] Kenneth Munro Scott (1916-2014) PC(USA) medical missionary in Seoul Korea (1952-64) and India (1964-74).

[22] James Dickson (1900-1967) – see my “The Centenary of James Ira Dickson)” Channels, vol. 16, No 2. Pp 8-12.

[23] In an email to the author, 13 April 2016.