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Union Biblical Seminary welcomes new leadership

    January 25, 2005
-from reports

At left, Leaderwell Pohsngap, outgoing principal of Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India, points out a recently constructed campus building to his successor, Samson Parekh.

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Ben Wiebe, former pastor of St. Catharine’s United and Brussels Mennonite Churches in Ontario, has been appointed for special assignment by Mennonite Church Canada Witness to teach at the Union Biblical Seminary and the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in India.

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Pune, India — After more than seven years guiding the Union Biblical Seminary (UBS) in India, Leaderwell Pohsngap recently retired, turning over leadership to his successor, Samson Parekh. UBS has been a longtime ecumenical partner of the Mennonite family in North America.

Under Pohsngap’s leadership, new construction and new educational programs abound, including a new missions building and the construction of an elementary school to serve campus families and the surrounding neighborhood, teaching children from kindergarten to 12th grade. The new school should open in July 2005.

Parekh said academic excellence must be tied to the real world if the seminary wants to help graduates spread the gospel.

“I know the practical realities that missionaries go through. I was on the streets, talking to people, even getting beaten up on occasion,” Parekh said. “Faculty (members) need to be connected with the grassroots. I will hold faculty responsible for effectively connecting the doctrinal and pastoral levels of theological education to the practical missionary level. Bridging those levels of theological education will make a UBS education much more useful in the real world.”

UBS continues to follow a self-conscious path between the mainline denominations, which dominate the Indian seminary universe, and the growing Pentecostal movement. Studies in conflict resolution are growing out of this third way approach.

Parekh comes from Gujarat state, where he most recently was principal of Methodist Theological Seminary. He earned a master’s degree in theology from Princeton University and a doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary. He worked as an evangelist in India as part of Operation Mobilization, served at different times as executive secretary and as youth director with the Gujarat Regional Conference of the Methodist Church in India and pastored several churches in the United States and India.

Pohsngap graduated from Union Biblical Seminary in 1979. He and his wife, Rivulet, served as missionaries in Kenya before he earned a doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky. At Union, Rivulet developed a program for the wives of the male students, so that they may graduate and serve along with their husbands. Two of the Pohsngaps' three sons are now students in the United States.

Mennonites have been partners with the inter-denominational Union Biblical Seminary from its beginnings in Yavatmal, in central India. In 1983 the seminary relocated to Pune, an urban area about 90 miles from Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay.

Mennonite Church Canada Witness partners with Mennonite Mission Network (USA) for ministry in India. Recently, Ben Wiebe, former pastor of St. Catharine’s United and Brussels Mennonite Churches in Ontario, was appointed as a Witness worker for special assignment. Wiebe will travel to India to teach at UBS and at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, Karnataka.

In Bangalore, Wiebe will present a month long module called the Dead Sea Scrolls (for the fourth time), helping students understand Judaism of the Old and New Testaments, in the context of Jesus’ ministry. The goal is to help develop leaders and teachers. Subsequently, Wiebe will travel to UBS to teach introductory courses in New Testament, preparing students for ministry.

“The need is great, the challenges and the questions are in some ways familiar but some times also very different. We learn as much as we teach,” Wiebe said. He also hopes to visit and connect with Mennonite Churches in Madyah Pradesh and Andra Pradesh.

Wiebe brings considerable teaching experience to this role, having also taught Christian Ethics, New Testament Greek, New Testament Exegesis, and a Masters of Theology New Testament seminar.

Together with his wife Patti, Wiebe will spend February and March in India on this special Witness assignment. “It is wonderful to go and work with new people preparing for Christian service and also to meet with former students now involved in service. Pray that God will lead and enable us,” he said.