Dr. Eyingbeni-Hümtsoe Nienu (front row, second from right) was installed as the Principal of the Baptist Theological College, Pfütsero, for the tenure 2019-2024 during a program held at the Chakhesang Mission Centre Church, Pfütsero, on May 5. (Photo Courtesy: BTC)
Through the ‘divine lens,’ her work as a scholar has consistently focused on equality; as an administrator, she seeks to establish a conscientious community that promotes the same
Morung Express Feature
Dimapur | May 5
The Baptist Theological College, Pfütsero (BTC), has a new Principal: Dr. Eyingbeni Hümtsoe-Nienu. One of the region’s most sincere feminist theologians, she has become the first woman to serve as the Principal of the College in Nagaland State’s Phek district. On May 5 (Sunday), she was installed as the Principal for the tenure 2019-2024 during a program held at Chakhesang Mission Centre Church in Pfütsero.
“I am a bit overwhelmed,” admits Dr. Eyingbeni while speaking to The Morung Express after she took office on May 1. “Even though there are more obligations now, this is just another form of ministry. I have visions and plans for the years ahead but will take each day at a time,” says the theologian who taught Christian Doctrine and feminist theologies at Clark Theological College (CTC) in Mokokchung for nine years before she moved with her family to take up the position at BTC.
With most of her theological training through institutions attached to the Senate of Serampore, she has made a major scholarly contribution to ‘Tribal Theology’ drawing from tribal/indigenous resources. Her feminism is contextual, meeting at the intersection of Naga folklore and Biblical teachings, drawing theology that empowers not just Naga society and women but also secular proponents of gender justice.
Now, as the head of an institution that is one of four in the State affiliated to the Senate of Serampore, she hopes to “establish a community that promotes equality, particularly in terms of gender.” But beyond this, she makes it explicit that “sexism, tribalism and denominationalism will not be tolerated.”
These are also some of the hopes of the BTC in appointing her the Principal for the next 5 years. “She was unanimously selected by the search committee,” informs Senowekha Kenye, Chairperson of the BTC.
“She is one of the highest intellectual theologians among Nagas,” acknowledges Kenye, stating that the BTC now wants to upgrade from BD to one that offers MTh to students too – and no better qualified person, he says, than Dr. Eyingbeni, to propel this process.
‘God cannot be limited’
With few institutions of theological training in the State headed by women – a feminist, fewer still – the ‘feminist’ tag may seem an added burden in a society that remains suspicious of the word. But Dr. Eyingbeni is clear.
“Women are human beings. Women have been suppressed, oppressed and abused. To be able to represent them, to stand for them, to be their voice, that is an honour,” she asserts.
The categories of feminine or masculine, she writes, cannot limit God. “God’s being and activity can never be bound or limited by human thoughts, speeches and categories,” she wrote in a paper, extrapolating to us, “God cannot be limited by gender or language. Language is a human expression of our search for God but it cannot completely define God.”
Speaking of broadening expressions of God, she suggests praying in inclusive ways. “God, you are our mother and father, our sister and brother…”
Seminaries & churches
Much of this approach is what is required at the BTC that aspires to become an institute that “parts quality education and brings out dedicated God fearing theological graduates who are pastors and missionaries with purpose,” says Senowekha Kenye.
Churches, its pastors and missionaries, are only as good as its seminaries, affirms the new Principal.
“If our ministry does not profess oneness in Jesus Christ and God, our ministry, teaching and sacrifices will be meaningless. It is Jesus Christ who has shown to us Christians to be kind, compassionate, to value everybody,” explains Dr. Eyingbeni.
And, “if the churches are failing, it is because the seminaries are failing.”
She feels strongly about the “importance of promoting Christ-centered values in seminaries so that our churches can also speak of the values of Jesus Christ and Christianity.”
As the head administrator at BTC, there is little doubt that in setting her goals, she is close to achieving them.
“She is not just a sincere scholar but every student who worked with her has excelled,” notes Dr. Mar Pongener, Principal of CTC, referring to Dr. Eyingbeni who taught MTh students at the CTC. “She contributed the maximum towards the ministry of CTC,” he says. With her commitment to justice and education, he confirms, “she is gifted to be an administrator and will be able to bring the best to BTC.”
Another former colleague from the Eastern Theological College, Jorhat (ETC), meanwhile attests to her uncompromising analytical skills. “She is theologically sound, and very analytical and critical towards her discipline,” acknowledges Dr. Woba James, Head of Department, History of Christianity, at the ETC. While she has “good rapport” with colleagues and students, “she does not compromise even with her colleagues when it comes to academics.”
Teaching remains Dr. Eyingbeni’s first passion, and she will continue to teach at the BTC while also filling her new shoes as a leader, a role, she thinks, no woman should shy from playing.
“Muster courage and pick it up!” she advices women who may feel like it is not time to become leaders yet.
“Leadership is not just for the individual but for all women and the community,” asserts Dr. Eyingbeni, noting that women today need to be role models for younger women to become confident leaders of their communities.
At her new place of posting, she hopes to build up just this kind of community.
“I want to build up—build up the College, the community, build up Pfütsero in general,” aspires Dr. Eyingbeni for the immediate future.
Her focus will be on students, to train the students to become “conscientious people—make them aware of local and global issues, enable them to have an opinion on the world around them, educate them to be refined, not in a western sense, but in a contextual manner.”
With “pulpit ministry” of utmost importance, the Principal wishes for students to “become dynamic preachers of the truth.”
No better person to guide them through this than Dr. Eyingbeni Hümtsoe-Nienu who wrote in another paper, “…the way God sees them ought to be how society should perceive them. This is what is entailed in reading through divine eyes. Theological education can take concrete measures to promote justice and accord dignity…” to all.
Professional and personal background
Dr. Eyingbeni Hümtsoe-Nienu acquired a Bachelor of Theology from Clark Theological College, Mokokchung, in 1997, followed by a Bachelor of Divinity at Eastern Theological College in Jorhat in 2000, a Master of Theology (Christian Theology) from ETC in 2002 (where she also taught from 2008-2010) and a Doctorate of Theology (Christian Theology) from South East Asia Graduate School of Theology, Singapore (renamed: ATESEA Theological Union) in 2009. She taught at the Academy of Integrated Christian Studies, Aizawl (2002-2004). She has published a number of books and papers, was Advisor to the Clark Centre for Peace Research and Action and headed the Department of Christian Theology at the CTC from 2017-2019.
Hailing from Hümtso Village in Wokha district, she grew up and schooled in Kohima. Dr. Eyingbeni is married to Zhalie Nienu who was Pastor at the Chakhesang Baptist Church, Mokokchung, before they moved to Pfütsero. They are parents to Enya Tsalü Nienu.