April 4, 2013

"Resurrected" MSPM? Thanks to NETS!

My lenten blog and the invitation for the 3rd Graduation Ceremony of the Negros Theological Seminary have inspired me to repost this blog which was first published April 9, 2012 on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.
Congratulations to the Batch 2012 of the Negros TheologicalSeminary (NETS). Special mentioned to  Pastor Teofilo Boy Mahilum and Pastor Stephen Gallenero for being the pioneer graduates, as far as the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) is concerned. With your graduation, the sustainability of MSPM program is already assured in Negros or even in Panay. More so, that the guest speaker in your 2nd Commencement Exercises   is one of the pioneer faculty of the MSPM, Dr. Melvin M. Mangana.

Pastor  Mahilum, Seminary President, welcomes
graduates and gusts to the NETS First Commencement
Exercises held in 2011 in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
When we started the program in 2007, some downgraded  our voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.

Some students  even experienced  “harassment” from  an on- and- off  personnel who intimated to monitor the program as it is suspected  to be used against the CPBC leadership. A ridiculous claim as the program was approved by the Board of Trustees of the referred institution. Of course,  the reactions mostly came from  people who have been conditioned to believe that  they are the  center if not the sole reservoirs  of  learning or power. Apart from them or their blessings, no other initiatives will ever prosper.

However, like the unknown kid in the Bible, whose small initiatives resulted  to the feeding of  5,000+,  we were not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. Such voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.
MSPM pioneer students during the Semestral Joint Class in North Negros Baptist Bible College

The MSPM stands as witness to the unprecedented unity in the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) and Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) five years ago. It is one of the   two breakthroughs  undertaken when the  CPBC Unified Theological Education System(UNITES) was conceived, approved by the CPBC Board of Trustees and gradually implemented by the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns Committee. Those were the days, my friends, we thought would never end, when theological institutions affiliated with the Convention  were so united to formulate a Standardized Curriculum.

A combination of Master of Social Work and Master of Ministry, the mission of the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries program is to prepare pastors for leadership roles in  church, church-related institutions  and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced  pastoral leadership in church and community services. For we have a holistic mission and ministry  exemplified by  our Lord and Master  Teacher, Jesus, the Christ as he  put into action the avowed mission in Luke4:18-19.

Three years after  the program was implemented, it has produced  23  pioneering graduates from Panay and Negros, despite some attempts to sabotage the program . The Conferral Ceremony  was held  on May 1, 2010 at  Ajuy Christian Development Academy, Ajuy, Iloilo with the approval of the General  Secretary of the CPBC, Rev. Job Santiago, who served as speaker on said event. Pastor Stephen could have joined that Batch, but without his knowing it,  he opted to graduate in NETS together with Pastor Boy today.

MSPM program  is unique as it democratizes the center of  learning and power. The program  exemplifies a sharing, self-reliant , self sustaining and  empowering community. Faculty are volunteers.  Students in respective centers shoulder the transportation expenses  and accommodation. Classes are conducted in provincial centers  offered by  churches and institutions who subscribe to the idea.  Participating theological institutions conferred the degree to graduates.

Baptist Pastor united in prayer of thanksgiving for the learning  opportunity
through the MSPM during the  Semestral Joint Class held at North Negros
Baptist Bible College in 2008
As such, the program serves as good news  to  pastors who dream for an alternative continuing pastoral education, affordable but qualitative, without necessarily   leaving their pastorate and families. Its message to the whole CPBC constituents is clear. Nothing is impossible if we only share. Our pastors can earn masteral degrees if we pool our resources together.  The CPBC, with the help of our theological institutions and volunteer faculty – our pastors and lay leaders  can liberalize the educational opportunities and improve the plight of the pastors.

Prof. DZ P. Lariza together with the
Pioneer graduates of NETS
But  such beauty and uniqueness of the program  are not attractive to people who do not believe in empowerment and sharing of resources for the benefit of the many. Changes in leadership in our Convention and respective bible schools  have curtailed the development of the program. Politics and personal  interests  caused  some  to scamper for the opportunity to push for their respective agenda  when  in the leadership position.  Some opted to  put a new label to the same product.  With  my complex  health condition, the more the program was sidetracked.

However, as the saying of old contends “you cannot put a good  person or product down.” By God’s own timetable, NETS  was organized. Subsequently,  a new center of learning and empowerment has been established.  I am glad that the school administration included  in their course  offerings  the MSPM.   With this development, coupled with  the graduation of Pastor Boy and Pastor Stephen, today, we are assured  of the "resurrection" of the MSPM . Those who have started the program in Negros and in Panay  can  now earn their respective degrees in NETS.   Let us spread this good news ! God bless.
*Statement of Support, read by Prof. DZ Patriarca-Lariza on my behalf,  for the 2nd Commencement Exercises of the Negros Theological Seminary (NETS) in Escalante City on April 9, 2012 as requested by the  Seminary administration.

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