Philosophy of Theological Education
AGST Mission Statement
The purpose of The Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines as a post graduate consortium of Evangelical institutions is to glorify God by providing quality theological education to prepare teachers, scholars and leaders for building and renewing the Church in Asia. AGST seeks to develop students spiritually, intellectually, and morally, and to equip them with values, knowledge, and skills for building up God's Church and extending his kingdom.
AGST and Contextualization
An AGST education seeks to contextualize learning in terms of communication, organization, theology and education. First, it focuses upon shaping message and ministry informed by the contextual needs of the Asian people. Second, AGST develops educational forms and structures appropriate to the specific needs of Asia, including its spiritual, socioeconomic, and political situation. Third, AGST emphasizes doing theology in ways appropriate and authentic to the Asian situation. We seek to relate the timeless Gospel more directly to urgent issues of ministry and service in Asia. Finally, AGST develops types of theological training that are liberating and creative, avoiding elitism and authoritarianism in our teaching. We seek to bridge the widespread gap between academic study and practical application in the Asian context. To this end we seek to utilize more fully Asian resources, especially faculty, research materials and texts. We seek to interact with Asian thinkers, theologians and practitioners from a variety of perspectives.
From an Asian Evangelical perspective, AGST seeks to address the Asian context both as the blessing of God and as the object of transformation. We recognize the reciprocal relationship between Text and context. Addressing the contemporary Asian scene from the perspective of Scripture, AGST guides students in shaping biblical/theological perspectives regarding:
Asian forms of Christian spirituality, life and service;
Mission and community in the midst of cultural, linguistic and religious pluralism as well as the forces of modernity, secularization, urbanization and globalization;
Poverty and oppression caused in part by individual and corporate sin and by unjust laws;
Nation building in the neocolonial and post colonial era; and
Christian identity, often as a persecuted minority.
The characteristics of the Asian situation which are enumerated above raise a variety questions and imply many issues. For example: What is the mission of the Asian church and the shape of Asian evangelism? What does Asian diversity and plurality mean for the life of the Christian community? What does the experience of colonialism mean for the understanding of oppression, injustice, and human indignity, and alternatively for understanding human liberation and development? How does one do theology in the context of modernization and secularization? What does the experience of being a minority community mean for the life of the Church? AGST seeks to guide students in developing exegetical skills and biblical understandings from an Asian perspective. Recognizing both the contributions and limitations of the West we seek to understand the biblical authors afresh from an Asian mindset.
AGST Educational Philosophy
As a consortium, the faculty and Board of AGST is deeply aware of its special responsibility for guiding the educational process. Our philosophy of education is rooted in and grows out of the theological commitments expressed in our Statement of Faith.
We believe that God is truth and does not lie, and therefore divine communication and action are characterized by truth and thus by reliability, infallibility, and consistency. All truth is consistent with God's person, His word, and His work. God is the source and measure of all truth, thus requiring diligent research of the Scriptures, of the witness of the Church in the past, and of the situation in our day to which the truth of God must be addressed. God expects His people to be creative and critical thinkers using the criterion of His infallible Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As a community of scholars, our teaching and learning must transform our thoughts, emotions, intuitions, and experiences in the Asian context. Knowledge is fundamentally relational; it is incomplete unless it affects life and community. Since we subscribe to this integrative and relational understanding of truth, we examine our lives for evidence that truth is affecting our behavior and relationships. We seek holism, drawing our students into the learning process so that thought and life are integrated. We can never be satisfied with simply communicating ideas without relating them to the context and ministry of our students. In this sense, we affirm that theological education contains an experience-oriented dimension. Since we need to understand and appropriate God's truth revealed in creation, it is our responsibility to make critical use of the disciplines and insights developed in the arts and sciences.
It is our task as a graduate school to foster the development of teachers, scholars and leaders for education and ministry who will then train God's people for ministry. Thus, AGST exists to serve the Church and its educational institutions, and our instructional programs are to reflect this reality.
Jesus defined his own mission as "servanthood" both to God and to people. We recognize that elitist attitudes and ambitions are entirely inconsistent with servanthood, so we reject these. We seek, instead, to humbly serve our students as we serve our Lord and his Church. Our motivation toward excellence derives from our responsibility to be stewards of the gifts, opportunities, and resources God has committed to us. We seek to discipline our personal and professional lives, and thus to honor him in the way we administer our stewardship.
We are challenged by Christ's sensitivity to the people he taught, to their prior understandings, needs, and learning readiness. We admire his creativity in relating spiritual and moral truths through concepts familiar to his listeners. Jesus did not allow his followers to be passive learners, but challenged them to actively consider the things they heard and to search out the meaning of his statements. Jesus Christ was not only a model teacher, he is also the embodiment of personal and spiritual wholeness–what the Bible refers to as "maturity." In AGST we strive to stimulate growth in our students, to develop their God-given gifts, to expand their horizons, to acquire new cognitive and affective ways of thinking and to develop a passion for ministry.
AGST Core Competencies
Although AGST programs address a variety of ministry-related disciplines, there are core competencies each program, to varying degrees, strives to develop in its students. These include: a high expertise in understanding and practicing one's discipline in the contemporary Asian context, critical thinking skills, a biblical and contextual world view, healthy relationships demonstrating sensitivity to human diversity, passion for ministry, effective communication and teaching skills, organizational and leadership skills, mentoring and disciple making skills, and the ability to model a life of Christ-like maturity.
28 YEARS OF WORKING TOGETHER TO EQUIP LEADERS IN ASIA
By Dr. Theresa Lua, AGST Dean
AGST has turned 28 this year. We look back with gratitude to the Asia Theological Association (ATA) for forming AGST as its educational arm. In a meeting at Taipei in December 1983, ATA under the leadership of Dr. Bong Rin Ro decided to establish its own postgraduate theological school. This is in response to the need to “train Asians in Asia.” ATA envisioned seminaries in countries like Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Singapore to jointly offer postgraduate degree programs in Theology, Bible, Missiology, and Christian Education. Specifically, AGST was established “to supply teachers for theological schools, to curtail the ‘brain drain’ to the West, to provide economical training for Asians and to encourage cultural adaptation of theological education.”1
The leaders of seminaries in the Philippines pursued this vision. In January 1984, a consultation among seminary presidents and deans was held to discuss the agenda of forming the AGST Philippines. Initially five seminaries showed interest. In that meeting, Dr. Rodrigo Tano represented ATA as a member of its executive committee. In April 1984, Dr. Bong Rin Ro visited the Philippines and met with representatives of interested schools.2
On June 21-22, 1984, nineteen delegates from fifteen seminaries in seven Asian countries met together in Hongkong to establish the AGST.3 Dr. Bong Rin Ro was appointed as AGST Dean and Dr. Tano, the Philippine Area Dean.4 First to be offered was the Doctoral Program in Religious Education (now Doctor of Education). From 1985 to 1986, the area committee consisting of leaders from participating institutions joined hands to develop the curriculum and library resources, enlist faculty, and recruit students from all over Asia. In June 1987, the program formally started. From this batch, we had eleven graduates from the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.5
Today AGST Philippines has nine member schools namely, Alliance Graduate School (formerly Alliance Biblical Seminary), Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (formerly Far East Advanced School of Theology), Asian Seminary of Christian Ministries, Asian Theological Seminary, Biblical Seminary of the Philippines, International Graduate School of Leadership (formerly International School of Theology-Asia), Koinonia Theological Seminary, and Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The presidents of these seminaries sit in the AGST Board while the academic deans along with the program directors compose the Administrative Committee, chaired by the AGST Dean. These seminaries support the AGST by paying for membership fees, hosting a specific program, allowing their faculty to teach in AGST, and sharing their library resources, facilities, and support staff. “The Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines is a sterling example of cooperation among evangelical groups.”6
The AGST Philippines continues to develop relevant programs to address various needs in Asia. It offers Th.M.-Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, and Church History; Doctor of Education (with concentrations in Educational Leadership, Adult and Continuing Education, and Counseling); Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies, Doctor of Missiology; Ph.D. in Holistic Child Development, Ph.D. and D. Min in Peace Studies. Some of these programs are recognized by the Philippine government through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). It will soon launch a Ph.D. in Holistic Child Development. AGST also has its own publication, the Journal of Asian Mission (JAM). Currently, the students come from Korea, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, U.S.A., and Zambia. Our graduates are serving as seminary presidents, academic deans, faculty members, leaders of denominations and para-church organizations, pastors and missionaries all over Asia and beyond.
As one of the graduates, I am grateful to the AGST Philippines for equipping me for my ministry in theological education. Now, I have the privilege to serve both, the AGST and the ATA. Thanks to all pioneering men and women who laid the foundation for the AGST Philippines. Thanks to the efforts of the previous Deans namely, Dr. Rodrigo Tano, Dr. James De Young, Dr. Lee Wanak, and Dr. Junias Venugopal. And thanks to the leaders and faculty of the participating seminaries for their continuing commitment to the consortium. Though they come from various theological persuasions, they have chosen to focus on what unite them and to work together to build God’s kingdom.
Twenty-eight years ago, ATA had a dream. Now, we have not only AGST Philippines but AGST Japan, and AGST Alliance (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia). Indeed, God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). To God be the glory!
1 AGST Philippines1987-1989 Doctoral Program in Religious Education Catalog, pp. 2-3.
2 For detailed account on the formation of AGST Philippines, see Cunningham, F. Laying the Foundation for the Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines (2004, Unpublished Paper), p. 4.
3 AGST Philippines1987-1989 Doctoral Program in Religious Education Catalog , p. 3.
4 Cunningham, F. Laying the Foundation for the Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines (2004, Unpublished Paper). pp. 5-6.
5 AGST Philippines1991-1995 Doctor of Education Catalog, p. 12.
6 Cunningham, F. Laying the Foundation for the Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines(2004, Unpublished Paper), p. 1.
Dr. Theresa R. Lua, Dean
ASIA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
54 Scout Madrinan
Quezon City 1103, NCR
QCC P.O. Box 1454-1154
Telefax: (63-2) 410-0312