Tattered Shoes

notes from a continuing journey

"The Art of Bridge Building": Redefining Seminary

As a disclaimer, the following was written by me, but its not really an official blog-post.

I really wanted to blog something today, but there are still so many other things for me to write. I just couldn’t justify taking the time to satisfy my blogging appetites. Instead, I decided to post an article that I wrote yesterday for a newspaper column. It gives a good picture of some of the work that I am doing here in Manila for APNTS.

By Jarrett Davis
APNTS Communications Officer

What comes to mind when you think of “Seminary”? Pristine brick edifices? Arched church ceilings? Monks and Priests behind high walls? Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary (APNTS) believes that a Seminary should be more about bridging divides, than building walls. Its founding motto is, “Bridging Cultures for Christ.” Through this key drive, the school has committed itself to developing leaders from its surrounding communities.


Human Trafficking is perhaps one of the greatest and darkest challenges of today’s society. It is an inhumane business that nets a global profit of nearly 32 Billion US Dollars. As a part of the fight against this terrible crime, APNTS has partnered with the Visayan Forum Foundation as well as Microsoft Philippines, to offer the StepUP Program. This program offers employable computer and life skills to out-of-school youth from at-risk communities.

APNTS utilizes what they call the “Multiplier Effect”, which is the idea of training trainers from the local communities that are able to, in turn, train others. This method had greatly aided in the programs ability to spread in a grass roots fashion. Dr. Robert Donahue is professor of Missions and Urban Ministry and Director of Donald Owens School of World Mission. He has directed the “StepUP” program since its inception 2 years ago, and reports that nearly 600 trainers and youth have been trained in the program over the past two years, and nearly 150 have been trained to train others and establish community centers.

The stepUP program brought a new awareness of the communities surrounding the APNTS. Many participants in the program came from socially and/or economically underprivileged areas and were delayed in their educations. Although, the StepUP program was able to give them employable skills, it was not able to help them finish a basic education. Something else was needed.

Alternative Learning System

In response the greater educational needs of its surrounding community members, APNTS partnered with the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) to establish the Alternative Learning System (ALS) on their campus. ALS is designed for filipnios who have not gone through formal schooling. The program, funded by a grant from Overseas Council International, helps academically delayed students to meet requirements for graduation, employment, and even higher education.

Dr. Nativity Petallar is the Director of the Holistic Child Development Program at APNTS and coordinates the ALS program at the school. Dr. Petallar is able to work alongside of her Masters and PhD students to help them not only teach and minister to the children and youth, but to help them to become advocates of the children and young adults in their contexts. She comments that most NGO’s focus on social and economic development a people groups, however, the approach of APNTS the approach of APNTS adds another special concentration on the spiritual development of children.

The students of this program come from a diversity of backgrounds. Some are coming out of Human trafficking situations and receive rehabilitation from the School’s partnering agencies. Other groups are vulnerable to drugs and other social equally significant social problems. The HDC students of APNTS strive to work in this context to bring a holistic kind of development these young people.

Why a Seminary?

While the common image of Seminaries may be their walls and edifices, APNTS hopes that its image will be of the bridges that it is able to build. APNTS president Floyd Cunningham says, “Seminary education must not only convey knowledge, build competency, and shape character, but direct attention to our immediate context of ministry. …We must think outside the walls and reach beyond whatever seals off the church, by bridging the walls that separate us from the people among whom we live.”

APNTS continues to expand its advocacy in these areas through the integration of trafficking and migration issues into its curriculum, and by encouraging its students and ministry partners to support such community-based initiatives. The school is excited to be an integral part of the lives of the people it serves, however it recognizes that it would be unable to do what it does without the generous participation and support from its partnering organizations.
  • 23 March 2011