Union Theological Seminary graduates set to transform ministry, mission in the Philippines

by Cheon Young Cheol

The Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines celebrated the graduation of seminary students 11-12 April.

Located in the City of Dasmariñas, Cavite, Philippines, the seminary was born from the 1907 merger between the Presbyterian Ellinwood Bible School and the Methodist Florence Nicholson Seminary.

Its alumni have led missions to the barrios, spearheaded evangelisation, and established churches in rural and urban areas while providing spiritual leadership in ecumenical circles as well as pastoral services to the Filipino people.

Council for World Mission Deputy General Secretary–Programmes, Dr Sudipta Singh, spoke at the commencement.

He highlighted that, while graduation marked the end of the students’ academic journeys, the very word “commencement” denotes the start of the next chapter in their lives—a chapter that will “have the potential to radically transform the mission and ministry of the church in the Philippines.”

Singh further revealed that although “seminary” has its roots in the word “seedbed” where young seedlings were cared for, protected, and nurtured with the goal of “… reinforcing commitment to conformity and obedience to the official teaching of the church,” which Singh criticised as “a regimentation process to produce an army of men and women trained to perpetuate… the prevailing order,” he posited that Union Theological Seminary graduates are called to be something more.

With a nod towards the seminary’s unique profile and heritage, Singh identified that the graduates must be of a different stock since the seminary positions itself as a “seedbed of revolutionaries” – a greenhouse that produces countercultural fruits ready to challenge and contest all manifestations of centralised and abusive power.

“Being pastoral is profoundly political,” declared Singh. “The politics of Christian witness in the context of Empire is to resist the temptation to be co-opted by the Empire, and the nerve to come out of the Empire. In that politics, we experience a profound spirituality.”

Singh also reminded the graduates that a faith that does not produce repentance and transformation is for naught—and a recipe for the church to fail. As the graduates go forth into the world, they must see to it that the community around them be provided the foretaste of the eschatological banquet.

“The church is not [the means to] the end, it is the wrappings that cover the Divine gift that we await with anticipation – the Reign of God,” stressed Singh, who closed with a benediction for students: “as spirit-filled disciples, may you be out of control; out of control of all unjust authorities and sinful systems and be God’s partners in turning the world upside down.”

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