JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 18, 2010– Union University has entered into a three-year partnership with the Singapore Baptist Convention and the Baptist Theological Seminary of Singapore to help Baptist churches in Singapore in their efforts to reach the nations for Christ.
“It’s an unbelievable open door for the gospel,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “The Lord has given it to us and we need to be faithful stewards of the moment. It gives us a wide open door to follow through on our commitment as an institution to be a Great Commission university.”
The partnership agreement was officially announced Nov. 18 by Dockery and representatives from Singapore visiting the Union campus. Though the initial length of the agreement is three years, Dockery said he expected the partnership would be extended and expanded after that first term.
“We are grateful for this partnership extended by Union University, particularly to our Baptist Theological Seminary,” said Peter Tang, executive director of the Singapore Baptist Convention. “It will really widen our ability to provide training for both those who aspire to be pastors as well as those who are already serving as pastors. We believe that this quality teaching and training from Union will really prepare our pastors to serve God to a higher level.”
Located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia, Singapore is an island city-state of 5.6 million people. Dockery said the city is expected to grow to 7 million inhabitants over the next 10 years. Singapore is often ranked as one of the top five financial centers in the world, with one of the world’s strongest economies.
The population is 75 percent Chinese and 15 percent Malay, with the remainder a mixture of Indian, Eurasian, Filipino and Indonesian. About 60 percent of the population is Buddhist, 15 percent Muslim, 14 percent Christian and 10 percent Hindu. Singapore has the fifth highest per capita income in the world, with a small upper class, a large middle class and little poverty, Dockery said. About 90 percent of the residents are homeowners, and 95 percent of the people speak English.
Dockery traveled to Singapore in April, and the trip sparked his interest in a partnership between Union and Baptists there. The Baptist convention in Singapore consists of 36 fairly strong churches, with about 12,000 members. Baptist churches in Singapore largely began through the work of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. Though the convention is relatively young (the seminary began 21 years ago), the churches have matured and are actively involved in sending out their own missionaries.
The city is strategically located, with Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India and the Philippines all within just a few hours of travel time.
“If Asia is the future of the 21st century, Singapore is the open door to Asia,” Dockery said.
The partnership between Union and Singapore Baptists will include cooperation in such areas as faculty and student exchanges; academic program development; study tour opportunities for church leaders, faculty and students; collaborative research and seminars; promotion of church health, church growth and church planting; and evangelism and discipleship, Dockery said.
Through the partnership, Union will also provide degree programs for pastors in Singapore.
Richard Wells, Union’s vice president for church relations, will be the first Union faculty member to travel to Singapore as part of the partnership, when he goes in July to teach a course at the seminary. Faculty members Hal and Mary Anne Poe are scheduled to teach there next fall.
In addition to Tang, Choon Sam Fong, dean of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Singapore, and John Massey, an International Mission Board missionary to Singapore, were on hand for the announcement.
“It’s very encouraging to know that we have a larger, international network of brothers and sisters in Christ,” Fong said about the partnership. “We can do something together that will benefit not just the seminary or the university, but Christian communities in Singapore, in Asia and maybe in the U.S., too.”
Dockery hailed the announcement as “a huge step forward for Union’s global commitments.”
“We’re looking forward to working with our Baptist friends in Singapore,” Dockery said, “and in helping to equip them to do their part in reaching the nations with the gospel.”