In Pursuit of Excellence in Theological Education
~ Dr. James Kalong, Academic Dean
An institution’s pursuit of academic excellence is made up of several components—grand vision and mission, significant goals and objectives, proficient teachers and spirited learners, innovative pedagogy and creative activities, great curriculum and stimulating courses, vital accessible resources and a fine library, cutting-edge learning tools and conducive learning spaces, engagement in research and professional forums, financial stability and standard facility, efficient staff and collegiality among the faculty, et al. While OTS has not perfected in all these components, however, towards this end we continue to develop and shape our ethos in providing excellence in theological education. Along this vein, a couple of significant events during the current academic year merit mentioning.
The first event was a weeklong faculty workshop in December 2017 entitled “Pedagogy on Contextual Theology” conducted by Dr. Simon Chan, Professor of Theology at Trinity Theological College, Singapore. “Theological education,” according to Dr. Chan, “is not only a dialogical process in the class but also how we model our lives.” By this, he meant that, besides what is being taught in the class, a teacher’s lifestyle and attitude shape the thinking and understanding of the students. Furthermore, he remarked that academic exercise must have a bearing in the church. “If theological education is not build on the faith of the church, it will die a natural death . . . If theology is true, it must be linked to the life of the church and the freedom that Christ gives:’ said Dr. Chan. While theological education is for the whole person and it should be learned through apprenticeship by imparting life skills for everyday through participation, practice, and imitation, nonetheless, it must transcend individual development in light of the faith community and that learning in the community context would better prepare for life and everyday living and not just some skills for professional life. He encouraged the faculty to be “critical in thinking but vibrant in faith” and to relate the aims and objectives of courses to the life of the church.
Dr. James Kalong, Dr. C. Cho-o and Dr. Pangernungba Kechu were at Baptist World Alliance Conference in Bangkok, June 2017.
Dr. Sashila Pongen participated in the Consultation of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Bangkok, December 2017.
Ms. Alongla Aier attended Langham Preaching, All India Consultation in Hyderabad, November 2017. She was also the resource person of NCF Pondicherry Retreat, February 2018.
Another weeklong faculty workshop was conducted in February 2018 entitled “Excellence in Theological Education” by Dr. Steve Hardy, a theological education consultant who works for the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education 1′ (ICETE). The faculty was trained through a series of presentations on the role of teachers, academic leadership, and curriculum development. Akin to Dr. Chan, Dr. Hardy also echoed by saying, “Students learn from the life of a teacher, not classroom . . . students will remember who we are as a person and what validates our teaching is who we are.” From his vast experiences of being a teacher and a consultant, Dr. Hardy said that “teachers need to be experts through experience” and “facilitate learning and not lecture.” Besides, Dr. Hardy stimulated the faculty to be pastoral in their profession so that they would encourage, empathize, listen, share, comfort, and walk side by side with students. All in all, the two workshops have not only challenged but also rejuvenated the spirit of teaching among the faculty.
From February 26 to March 2, 2018, Dr. Elaine Vaden from Atlanta, Georgia, a missions professor and practitioner, taught a modular course on Global Missiological Perspectives. Besides lectures and discussions on Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Protestant to Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic understandings and practices of missions, her core presentation dwelt on Missions in a Religiously Plural World. Dr. Vaden has been teaching Missions at OTS for the past couple of years.
Another significant highpoint in academic affairs is the visit of the Asia Theological Association (ATA) evaluation team towards accrediting the academic programs of OTS. Three members from the ATA Regional Staff comprised the team. and they spent three days during the first week of Apri12018 and scrutinized the academic programs and documents. They also interviewed several community members representing the administration, faculty, staff, students, and the alumni of OTS. If accreditation is granted by ATA, OTS degrees/ diplomas would be validated by the theological fraternity both at the national as well as international levels. To this end, we keep our fingers crossed for the approval by the ATA Accreditation Commission.
The 2017-18 year was an eventful academic calendar. While there are so much more to cover and talk about that happened through the year, we are at our proudest moment when our students graduate and we commence them for ministry to take up roles and positions in pastoral, missions, teaching, and various other church and parachurch ministries. To the Class of 2018, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His face upon you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). Amen!
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