A CALL TO THE SEVENTH CONGRESS
OF ASIAN THEOLOGIANS (CATS VII)
Methodist Theological University, Seoul / Korea
June 30 – July 6, 2012
“EMBRACING AND EMBODYING GOD’S HOSPITALITY TODAY”
“The time is ripe and propitious, the ground is fertile,
the issues are challenging and urgent in order for Asian
theologians to come together to share life and work, project
together concerns for the future, and help in the renewal and
reinvigoration of the life and mission of the Church and of the
ecumenical movement in Asia.”
(A Call for the First Congress of Asian Theologians, CTC
Bulletin Vol. 1, November 1997)
What is CATS?
The Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS) is a bi-/tri-annual
conference of theologians throughout Asia, founded in 1997 by
Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), South Asia Theological Research
Institute of the Board of Theological Education of Senate of
Serampore College (SATHRI BTE-SSC), Association of Theological
Education in South East Asia (ATESEA), and the Program for
Theologies and Cultures in Asia (PTCA). It was later joined by some
others, most notably by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences
What is CATS for?
In the words of the original conveners, CATS was created for the
- To clarify, promote and enhance the cooperative process of
theological studies and reflection among committed Asian
theologians who are prepared to deal with critical Asian issues
as part of the Asian theological agenda.
- To vitalize, facilitate and foster a cross-fertilization of
theological insights and studies among Asian theologians from
various Asian contexts.
- To serve and assist Asian Christian communities and people
through articulation and engagement.
- To witness to the Gospel among intellectual and religious
communities through academic studies and existential reflection
of theological issues in the Asian context.
- To help in deepening the theological foundations of the
ecumenical movement in Asia and in developing a new Asian
- To assist in locating present and future ecumenically
committed leaders for Asian Churches and in providing ways and
means to equip and to nurture them.
- To participate in the ongoing studies and discussion of the
wider international ecumenical theological community and make a
distinctive Asian contribution to them.
- To consider and develop a continuing structure for
collective and common work among Asian theologians and assist in
advancing and consolidating regional infra structures for
theological studies and education.
CATS was held in the following places with a theme set for each
CATS I, “Asian Theology in a Changing Asia: Asian Theological Agenda
Towards the 21st Century.” Suwon, Korea, 1997.
CATS II, “Celebrating Life Together.” Bangalore, India, 1999.
CATS III, “Visioning New Life Together among Asian Religions.”
Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2001.
CATS IV, “Building Communities of Peace: Asian Theologians in Search
of New Pedagogies of Encounter.” Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2003.
CATS V, “Sharing Hope for a New World.” Hong Kong, China, 2006.
CATS VI, “Doing Mission from the Underside: A Challenge to the
Understanding of Mission Since 1910.” Iloilo City, Philippines,
Now the Continuation Committee of CATS VI is calling for the Seventh
Congress on the theme: “Embracing and Embodying God’s Hospitality
Rationale of the Theme
We Christians believe that God through Jesus Christ has invited all
human beings to take part in God’s communion of life and love, which
is often symbolized in the Bible as a banquet. God’s invitation to
and hospitality for this communion, which embraces all, but in a
special way the marginalized, are truly the foundation and essence
of Christianity. Indeed, our faith rests on, and our joy and praxis
spring from, God’s generosity to include us, with the entire
creation, in God’s own life.
Christian churches, which have been sent forth to proclaim and
minister such divine hospitality to the end of earth, become
themselves the eschatological sign and foretaste of this banquet of
salvation as they gather together for worship and fellowship, and as
they offer care and hospitality particularly to those in need.
Hospitality for the church does not simply mean an art of welcoming
others; it is first of all about remembering the host of the
universe and the gifts we receive, and secondly, sharing the gifts
by embodying and enhancing God’s most inclusive life, love and
justice in the church, society and creation.
In the course of history, the scope of the concept of hospitality
has diminished, as specialized individuals and institutions have
developed to offer—on behalf of or instead of the church—care for
people with specific needs such as the sick (hospitals), dying
(hospices), sojourners (hotels), etc. Hospitality has thus
progressively been domesticated to simply mean a courteous welcome
of visitors in the context of a private household (Cf. Christine
Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian
Tradition [Eerdmans, 1999].). Yet, the church today is
challenged to revive the most profound and most universal sense of
the term so as to renew its sense of identity as an instrument as
well as a recipient of God’s hospitality.
At this difficult time for Christians in Asia, therefore, it is not
only opportune, but also necessary that theologians from across this
region come together, reflect on and celebrate together God’s
hospitality, which we embrace and experience through the church,
neighbors and creation, and which, in turn, we are called to embody
and witness in our own contexts.
As a Guest in Asia
Historically, the majority of Asian churches today owe their origins
to the Western missionaries, even though there are some other
churches which trace their roots to ancient apostolic communities or
native missions. While we Asian Christians are thankful for their
passion, self-sacrifice and care, we cannot remain uncritical of the
legacy of Western mission which is tainted by colonial ambitions and
In a colonial context, Western churches have tended to present
themselves as teachers, givers and hosts, while regarding people in
Asia—including fellow Christians—as their students, recipients and
guests. In Asia with its great religions and cultures, however, it
is truer to say that Christianity is a guest rather than a host, and
as such, should cultivate an attitude to learn, not only to teach,
and humbly recognize care and help it receives, rather than
unilaterally seeking to offer them. The almost exclusive focus on
“teaching,” “giving” and “hosting” of Western churches and the same
mentality continuing in some local churches in Asia thus betrays an
arrogant, if innocent, confidence on Christian superiority and their
monopoly of truth and salvation.
We are called today, therefore, with a renewed awareness that we are
not only hosts, but also guests, to have eyes to see and ears to
hear God’s gifts, grace and hospitality overflowing not only through
Word and sacraments which we treasure in the church, but also
through neighbors, religions, cultures and creation we daily
encounter outside the church.
Our Identity through Judeo-Christian Tradition
This perspective as a guest and recipient helps us better realize
our true identity, which is deeply rooted in our own religious
Israel, God’s chosen people, is a recipient par excellence of
God’s favor. According to Hebrew Scripture, divine law sanctions
that they are to provide food, shelter and legal protections to the
itinerants and those in need. Yet, this is to be understood in the
context that Israel were the itinerants and needy themselves, who
were delivered from slavery and led to the promised land. “You shall
not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for
you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). Profoundly
imprinted in their history is their identity as “aliens and tenants”
(Lev 25:23), with God, even in the promised land.
Jesus Christ, the bread of life (John 6:35), who provides the living
water (John 4:14) and rest for the souls (Matt 11:29), came as a
stranger and guest himself. As an infant and child, fragile and
dependent, God the Son entrusted his life and well-being to human
parents and their community, allowing himself to be nurtured and
educated, thus being prepared for his mission on earth. In his
public ministry, Jesus was willing to be a guest as he traveled,
thus becoming dependent on the care and hospitality of others, as
well as being vulnerable to their hostility and evil, even to the
point of laying his very life in the hands of the malicious hosts of
the society. Jesus identified himself particularly with the poor and
marginalized, and taught that the good we do to the “least of these”
people would be vindicated as our benevolence to himself. “For…I was
a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt 25:35).
Church, the “New Israel” and body of Christ, following the footsteps
of the Lord who had “nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58), journeys
towards the Reign of God as a guest and stranger in this world.
While often succumb to the temptation to collude with or participate
the powers and principalities of the world, thus posing itself as
the host of the universe and salvation, the church has always been
reminded of its true identity as an itinerant and tenant, who is
hosted and given abundance of gifts by God. Particularly in Asia,
the church is keenly aware that it is a sojourner who depends on the
goodwill of the hosts, and a learner who grows in knowledge of God
in encounter with other religions and cultures, while it is ready to
become a prophet, when necessary, who stands firm, with the
oppressed, against the evil of the hosts.
Thus, it is through such identity of ours, which is thoroughly
immersed in the context of receiving gifts and sharing vulnerability
of God and others, we envision our mission, our embodying of God’s
Issues at Stake
In the Congress, Asian theologians are encouraged to address issues
including (but not restricted to) the following:
- Lord’s supper as the locus and expression of divine
hospitality; church as an assembly surrounding the table of
banquet; Eucharist as a source and expression of unity (and
- Word of God heard and spoken from the vantage point of a
stranger/guest; problems of interpretation of Scripture from the
viewpoints of hosts.
- The issue of discrimination and participation of minorities
and oppressed in the church and society; empowerment of people
including the disabled, outcast, poor, women, children,
migrants, foreigners, inmates, those with contagious disease,
- Promotion of peace and justice, and of reconciliation and
healing where necessary, between and within nations and
communities to ensure a hospitable environment for all without
violence and threats.
- The issue of ecology as the host of living beings; question
of science, nature, life and faith.
- Mutual hospitality of religions; receiving God’s gifts from
Venue, Schedule and Application
Methodist Theological University
31 Naengcheon-dong, Seodaemoon-gu, Seoul
Postal Code: 120-701
Tel: +82 (2) 361 9114
Fax: +82 (2) 361 9299
June 30, 2012 (Day of Arrival for female participants) [There will
be Women’s Forum on July 1, 2012.]
July 1, 2012 (Day of Arrival for male participants)
July 6, 2012 (Day of Departure for all)
Please fill in the application form
enclosed to CALL TO THE SEVENTH CONGRESS OF ASIAN THEOLOGIANS (CATS
VII) and send it to the CCA office or to any of the emails below by
17 February 2012.
A committee will process the application based on certain criteria
and guidelines. (Also downloadable
from the CCA website).
Rev. Grace Moon
Executive Secretary, Faith, Mission and Unity
Email: email@example.com ;
Rev. Dr. Henriette Hutabarat Lebang
Christian Conference of Asia
Christian Conference of Asia
c/o Payap University, Muang Chiang Mai 50000,