Established in 1995, the Global Research Institute (GRI) at Fuller Theological Seminary offers a fellowship to post-doctoral non-Western Christian scholars, enabling them to undertake research at Fuller Theological Seminary and complete texts for teaching in their home countries. The GRI program operates out of Fuller’s Center for Missiological Research (CMR). The Global Research Institute exists because Fuller believes that one of the primary tasks of the global Christian community is to provide local churches and Christian institutions with written material that reflects the history, needs, priorities and peculiarities of their specific contexts, and that these local concerns must matter to churches and Christian scholars everywhere. Today this need is particularly compelling in Asia, Africa and Latin America where the Church is experiencing its most rapid growth. This program provides a fellowship that allows recipients to take a two academic quarter sabbatical (6 months) to Fuller Theological Seminary’s Pasadena campus to research and write materials to further the intellectual and spiritual mission of the church in the scholar’s particular region. More details about the program go here.
I, Johnson Thomaskutty, started my GRI Research Fellowship at Fuller on 1st October 2015 and today (31st March 2016) I finish all the requirements toward its successful completion. CMR and Fuller provided the following resources toward my research: first, its extensive primary and secondary resource facilities at the David Alan Hubbard Library; second, interactions with global scholars like Marianne Meye Thompson, Frederick Dale Bruner and others from the Johannine point of view; third, interactions with New Testament scholars such as David J. Downs, Joel B. Green, Tommy Givens, Donald A. Hagner and others from the broader New Testament points of view; fourth, interactions with missional and theological points of view with Amos Yong, John Goldingay, Veli-matti Kärkkäinen, Scott Sunquist, Mark Labberton, and others; and fifth, multi-level interactions with PhD and Masters level students and scholars.
The most valuable aspects of the program include: first, encouragements from Amos Yong, Director of CMR, and his comments and recommendations; second, time-to-time personal one-on-one interactions with Marianne Meye Thompson and David J. Downs and their constructive criticisms and encouragements; third, the program helps scholars to interlock their majority worldviews and methodologies with that of the western scholarship; fourth, as a person writing about Didymos Judas Thomas I was able to see how Thomas was perceived in the western academia and was able to fill the gap with the Indian understanding of the historical person; fifth, the program provided me with a broader outlook and extended resources; sixth, provisions at various levels of the research; and seventh, I was benefited by the encouragements of GRI to attend the following conferences: (1) Golden Jubilee Conference of the School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller, Pasadena; (2) the “John and Judaism” Conference at Mercer University in Atlanta; (3) Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in Atlanta; and (4) Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting in San Dimas, California.
The primary audience of my forthcoming book on Thomas would be academic scholars, students, and the common people alike. Thomas was so far looked at from a disciplinary point of view. My upcoming book attempts to address him from an interdisciplinary point of view, i.e., by bridging the New Testament, Apocryphal, and historical traditions together. Through this my ultimate aim is to invite the global audience/readers toward the historical person. A comprehensive study that focuses on Thomas and the Thomas traditions from the eastern context is a genuine need of the time. The need to build the Thomas scholarship, by bridging the eastern and the western perspectives and by interlocking the canonical, extra canonical, and traditio-historical evidences, is yet to be actualized.
I would like to make known the following things with regard to the GRI program: first, I remain ever thankful to GRI and its sponsors for this remarkable program; second, the program provided me with new insights in my thought processes about the historical person called Didymos Judas Thomas; third, special appreciation goes to Prof. Amos Yong for his initiatives to encourage and facilitate my scholarship toward the higher levels, Prof. Marianne Meye Thompson for her critical reading of my exegeses and helpful suggestions, and Prof. David J. Downs for his interactions, meal fellowships, and motivations as my academic interlocutor; fourth, the program provided me an excellent opportunity to present my views during the CMR Colloquium in Geneva Room, Fuller, Pasadena; and fifth, special thanks to both the School of World Missions and School of Theology for their openness and time-to-time encouragements.
As a Thomas scholar, I was privileged to present my views at the church pews and receive feedback from, first, Rock of the Nations Church, Norwalk, California; second, IPC Los Angeles, Whittier, California; third, Sadhana Sangat Hind-O-Pak Church, Artesia, California; fourth, India Christian Fellowship, San Diego, California; fifth, Fremont Grace Church, Fremont, California; sixth, United Methodist Church, San Francisco, California; and seventh, International Assembly of God, Phoenix, Arizona. Moreover, it was my honor that I was interviewed for Light from the East Studios by Eric Sarwar and Joe Bevins. My friends Mathew Varghese, Joy Clement Daniel, David Muthukumar, Achenkunju Pappy, John Wesley Mathew, and co-GRI scholar Prof. Teresa Chai deserve special thanks for their friendship and love during my stay in Pasadena. Fuller staff members, Johnny Ching and Sam Bang, made all the arrangements for my travel and smooth stay in the US. Thanks are also due to the students, faculty, and administration of The Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India. Finally, the sacrifices of my wife Shiny, daughter Jemimah, and son Jeremiah make all my travel and research plans possible. Thanks to one and all.
Johnson Thomaskutty, GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California