1) Please tell us about yourself and your role in STM.
Hello! My name is Rev Dr Ezra Kok, the Principal of Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM). I am also a lecturer in New Testament studies.
2) Can you tell us more about the history of STM?
STM came into existence as a joint Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran and Methodist venture on the 6 January 1979. For Anglicans and Evangelical Lutherans this marked a further stage in their co-operation in theological education in Malaysia, which had earlier included the Christian Training Centre and Kolej Theoloji Malaysia. Since then, we still holding onto our vision and is thankful to for the many contributions people have made towards the growth and development of STM. The journey of STM began at the ELCM premises at Brickfields (1979-April 1983). Since then, we have moved to the Methodist High School premise in Sentul (June 1983-1991) and from Sentul, we moved to Xavier Hall in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya (1992-1997). For nearly twenty years, STM was nomadic. Finally, in 1998 we shifted to our permanent campus at Seremban in time for the new academic year. During our short history the total number of graduands has exceeded 700 and they are serving in different parts of Malaysia and beyond. Our faculty has increased in qualifications and experience, and we are glad to see that the supporting churches are taking steps to prepare suitably qualified ministers for teaching in the seminary.
3) What courses does STM offer?
We offer undergraduate to postgraduate programs. In the undergraduate programs, a student can pursue the Diploma of Ministry (DipCM), Bachelor of Theology (BTh), Diploma of Theology (DipTh), Bachelor of Divinity (BD), Graduate Diploma of Christian Studies (GradDipCS), Master of Christian Studies (MCS), and Master of Divinity (MDiv).
For the postgraduate programs, a student can pursue the Master of Ministry (MMin) and Doctor of Ministry (DMin) for the professional track and the Master of Theology (MTh) and Doctor of Theology (DTheol) for the research track. (The DTheol is offered through ATU) We have also courses for the laypeople in the form of Theological Education for Extension (TEE) programs like GradDipCS and MCS for graduates and DipCM and BTh for undergraduates.
4) How do students fund their studies at STM?
The majority of our students come through the recommendation of the different denominational churches and are mainly supported through the conference’s or synod’s scholarships. We also have students who are supported by local individual churches as well as some students on self sponsorship. Click for more information.
5) Does STM take in foreign students?
In the past, foreign students constituted almost 30% of the student population in STM. In recent years, however, we have encountered some problems procuring student visas for our foreign students. However, foreign students can still study in the postgraduate programs on a part-time basis.
6) What type of ministry does STM prepare students for?
We prepare students mainly for the denominational churches that are our founding and partner churches namely, the Methodist Church in Malaysia, the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malaysia, the Lutheran Church of Malaysia, and the Presbyterian Church of Malaysia. The majority of our students enter the ordained ministry of those churches although there are many who also opt for a variety of careers in education, mission organizations, community work, and other church-based ministries.
7) What is distinctive about what STM offers compared with other seminaries in the region?
There are some distinctives about what STM has to offer. Firstly, we have a faculty that is almost 100% local lecturers. Many of them hold a doctorate in their areas of specialization. Secondly, we offer modules on religions and faiths that are part of our unique Malaysian heritage. Thirdly, we are constantly wrestling with the issues of contextualization and indigenization of the Gospel in our multi-pluralistic and multi-cultural settings. Fourthly, our library holdings is one of the best in the region for theological and biblical research and study.
8) Can you tell us something about the library and research facilities?
The Library currently holds approximately 50,000 titles in the various collections, and receives about 250 current journals and periodicals. We also have a reasonable collection of multimedia and audiovisual materials, as well as microfiche. Our archives contain works on Malaysian church history and we are very keen to acquire additional materials to further expand our collection. To keep up with advances in information technology and knowledge management, the catalogue and library management system were fully automated in 2000 and Internet research facilities have been made available. As STM continues to develop and expand its community and programmes, the Library plans to similarly develop and expand by increasing its holdings and improving its facilities in order to offer up-to-date resources as well as a conducive environment for research.
9) Does STM offer distance learning or elearning?
Our main distance learning programs are currently the TEE program located in various centers in Malaysia namely, Seremban, Petaling Jaya (CTEE in Luther House), and in Kuching (housed in Trinity Methodist Church). The TEE program is conducted in four languages namely, English, Chinese, Tamil, and Bahasa Malaysia. We have also other theological centers working closely with STM where their students graduate with a STM certification. These centers are the Ipoh Theological Center (ITC), SiYuan Theological Center in Sitiawan, and the Sekolah Alkitab Malaysia (SAM) in Penang. We are also in the process of monitoring our first overseas center at Lay Academy for Ministry and Missions (LAMM) at Melbourne, which belongs to the Chinese Methodist Church in Australia.
We will be slowly working on other forms of elearning as the need arises.—
My thanks to Dr Kok for taking part in this series.