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A letter from Paul Matheney in the Philippines

November 2012

Greetings from the Philippines,

Mary and I work primarily as professors and administrators of the graduate programs in religious studies at Philippines Christian University (PCU) in Manila and Dasma.  One thing we have learned from studying the history of Christian missions is that the Christian faith only survives when its establishment is accompanied by theological education.  When education in theology is lacking the church dies.  Churches need pastors who know the content and theology of Christian tradition and who are well versed in the Bible and its interpretation.  This is only possible when institutions teach and train pastors and educators.  Without them the Christian Church and its traditions fade and weaken.  From our first days here, the need for graduate-level education has been impressed upon us.  In the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia the need is great.  We have few leaders with doctoral degrees and few teachers who have degrees beyond the basic theological degree, the M.Div.  For this reason Union Theological Seminary and PCU organized a graduate program to meet the need for well-trained theological educators and directors of theological formation centers throughout Asia.  We sought out the deans, directors and professors who needed help from throughout Southeast Asia and invited them to come to us.  Many came and more are waiting to come. 

We have taught students from Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia, China, and India, as well as from throughout the Philippines.  Soon we will have our first students from Pakistan, where there are no Protestant professors with a doctoral degree to date.  Our faculty is also multinational.  We have faculty from the Philippines, the U.S., India, Korea and Myanmar.  They are graduates of some of the finest theological schools in world, such as Duke, Yale, Princeton Seminary, Gregorian University, Heidelberg, as well as of the best schools in the Philippines and Korea.  For many centuries the Philippines has served as a center for theological training for Asia.  The University of Santo Tomas, located in walking distance from PCU, has been training priests, theologians and missionaries since before Harvard was founded.  Christians from throughout Asia continue to hope that we will take up this responsibility and continue our work. 

In Protestant circles the tendency has been to send promising students to the U.S. or Europe for their education.  This is becoming increasingly difficult to arrange.  Cost alone is prohibitive.  In addition it has not always had the best results in that many students just stayed in the U.S. and did not return to take up the reins of leadership.  Our program was established as an answer to this situation.  The crisis in leadership has grown, while fewer and fewer study abroad and fewer still return.  Throughout Asia Christianity is growing rapidly, but this growth cannot be sustained without well-trained theological leaders. 

We need your support, help and prayers.  Currently many of our students begin the program but do not finish their degrees.  The largest problem is lack of financial support.  The other problem is that their churches call them to return to their schools prior to completion of their degrees because their presence in needed.  Only about one in five of our students graduates.  We are doing all we can to change this.  We want them to graduate.  Below is a list of those who have graduated and returned to leadership positions.  Please keep them in your prayers.  Thanks.

The following are graduates of our Ph.D. program based at PCU in Manila in chronological order since the establishment of the degree: Lahphai Awng Li, Rhoniel Arevalo, Lian Dokham, Mary C. Nebelsick, Khup Lian Pau, Rosemarie Hermano, Van Bik, Luke Sui Kung Ling, Mang Lian Pau, Mercidita Rivera, Za That, Za Biak, Roland Ceu, Uk Cung, Guilermo Juan, Jr, Rey Manglicmot, Daniel Miranda, Antonio Pacudan, Man Leng Sung, Sang Cung Uk, Siang Chin Tial and Van Zing.  (22 graduates)

The following students have graduated with our D.Miss. degree since the start of the degree program: Daniel Miranda, Edgar Tauran, Naomi Damian, Jung Hyun Lee, Young Soo Kim, Alberto Patacsil, Hrang Hlei Khuai, Pau Lun, Van Thiang, Za That, Jeong Oh-Sung, Lee Sei-Jeon, and Daniel Samuel (post mortem). (13 graduates)

The following students have graduated with a master's degree since the beginning: Rhoniel Arevalo, Kang Choon Ock, Rosemarie Hermano, Luke Sui Kung Ling, Rey Manglicmot, Mercidita Rivera, Za Biak, Siang Chin Tial, Sang Cung Uk.  Nawl Hre Cin, Biak Maung, Zing Doi, Ester Maul Cin, Sui Chan Lian, Cin Van Cer, and Thla Peng Cung.  (16 graduates)

We focus all our work on preparing for the great future that Christianity has here.  Please help us through your support and prayers.  We are ensuring a secure foundation for churches throughout Asia.  This is a turning point.  What happens now will be up to the leaders we prepare. 

In Christ,

Paul Matheny and Mary C. Nebelsick

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 203
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 211

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