Two previous posts focused on the first letter of the paradigm framework MINISTER which also serves as thrust of the association. Breakthroughs under Ministerial identity include finalization of Code of Ethics, ministerial vestment, and resolving the perennial debate on pastoral identity of those engage in other endeavors, apart from church work.
The next thrust is Institute which is associated with continuing education for pastors. It is a response to the call for upgrading of Pastors’ education at all levels . Reviewing the tradition, it was found out that an Institute preceded the annual national assembly of Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA). It was not just systematized so as to lead to a particular degree or diploma.
The idea or dream to set up an institute to offer degree courses through ladderized scheme was conceptualized by previous CBMA leaders long time ago. There had been initiatives leading to this direction, although some experienced natural death. One sustained project was the Institute for Advanced Theological Studies (IATS). Undertaken by the College of Theology, Central Philippine University , the program of studies has equivalent hours credit in the College.
During my term, the challenge to reach the dream was intensified due to the pressing demands and favorable conditions. Foremost was my election to the Board of Trustees of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) and subsequent appointment as chair of the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns (TEMC) Committee. There was relative unity between the leadership of the CPBC and CBMA National which led to the synchronization of programs and direction in CPBC and CBMA activities and leadership. Majority of the CPBC Board were pastors. Hence, the strong support to the CBMA initiatives.
At that time, I was also serving as director of the University Outreach Center and coordinator of the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) program. We opened an extension class which meet once a week at the Convention Baptist Bible College for Negros students. The experience made me integrate instruction with outreach and relate this to the CBMA dream. This, after pastors who were enrolled in the MSSW encouraged me to integrate social work courses in designing a masteral program for pastors. Moreover, some of us were teaching in a Korean seminary in Iloilo City which offered Master of Arts in Missiology. Learning from such experiences, we reflected on the question: Why can’t we design similar approach for a graduate studies program for pastors in the CBMA?
Completing the favorable condition was the approval of the CPBC Unified Theological Education System (UNITES). It was conceptualized by the TEMC, with Pastor Billy Reyes and Prof. Josita Alpha Jalando-on, as lead. Previous studies and initiatives of various organizations related to continuing theological education were incorporated in the concept. Unanimously approved and endorsed during the 2007 CBMA National Assembly, it was subsequently approved the CPBC Board of Trustees for implementation.
Two breakthroughs were then undertaken namely: Formulation of Standardized Curriculum for CPBC-related theological institutions; and the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) program. Under the CPBC UNITES, MSPM classes are conducted in provincial centers by TEMC and CBMA. Participating theological institutions will grant the degree. Enrolment can be done simultaneously while attending classes or later.
The program is student -friendly and very affordable, with only P500 as payment per semester/ summer plus contribution for transportation expenses and food of the faculty for four semesters and two summers. Starting in North Negros Baptist Bible College, learning centers were established in Central Philippine University, Ajuy Christian Development Academy, Antique Christian Center, Filamer Christian College, Convention Baptist Bible College, Asian Christian Outreach (ASCO), Lambunao, Iloilo and South Negros Bible Institute. The program was incorporated in the annual CBMA Institute and seminars of the Institute for Advanced Theological Studies.