Blog Interview – Dr David deSilva – Ashland Theological Seminary

logo 1) Please introduce yourself and your role at Ashland Theological Seminary.

deSilva 1 My name is David deSilva, and I serve as Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary.

2) Tell us a little about Ashland.

Ashland Seminary is a graduate division of Ashland University, a school founded in 1888 by members of the Brethren Church, with roots in German Anabaptist and Pietist movements.  The seminary is currently multi-denominational in scope, with over 700 students coming from about 70 different ecclesial bodies.  We offer Masters-level programs in biblical studies, historical and theological studies, practical theology, and counselling/mental health, as well as the Doctor of Ministry degree.

3) Are the courses full time, part-time or a mixture of both?

ATS 2 Students can proceed through any of our degrees essentially at the pace that their other responsibilities allow.  More students are part-time than full-time.

4) How do Ashland students fund their studies?

Most students have outside employment, which they use to fund their program.  Many also seek financial aid through federal grant and loan programs or through their church bodies.  Scholarships are becoming increasingly available thanks to the generosity of donors and the diligence of our development team.

5) Does Ashland take students from overseas?

Ashland has always welcomed international students, both for the privilege of teaching them and for the many ways in which they enrich everyone’s experience here.  Faculty and administration typically go out of their way to make international students feel connected and at home.

6) What type of ministry is Ashland intended to prepare students for?

ATS 1 About one-quarter of our students pursue the Master of Divinity degree, which is required for ordination and full-time ministry in several mainline denominations.  Another third pursue a degree in counselling with the goal of working in the mental health field in either a secular or Christian context, although they are particularly well-equipped to work with clients coming from a Christian world view.  Another quarter pursue a two-year Master of Arts with a view to entering or advancing ministry in a church that does not require the MDiv or to embarking upon some other form of Christian ministry, whether youth work, Christian education, or serving in a para-church context.  About one sixth are enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program: many of these have already been serving churches for at least several years.

7) When students leave Ashland what kind of ministries / jobs do they go into.

See response to question #6.

8) What is distinctive about what Ashland offers compared with other colleges in the US and overseas?

Student surveys tells us that we do a very good job of teaching them to interpret Scripture, to communicate its challenge in preaching and teaching, and to think through issues theologically.  This is not distinctive, per se, but it is a strong statement about our ability to deliver, as it were, in areas traditionally of great importance for a seminary education.  I would say that our commitment as a faculty not only to the education of our students, but also to their formation as disciples and as Christian leaders, is a distinctive strength of our institution.  Our faculty is wholly committed not only to the disciplines that we teach, but also to the church that our students will serve and to the God to whom we must all give account.

9) Please tell us about the library and other research facilities.

We have a solid collection of about 80,000 books and periodicals on campus; a special arrangement with other Ohio libraries called OhioLINK makes virtually any book accessible to faculty and students.  For the occasional, truly arcane monograph there is “Inter-library Loan.”

10) Does Ashland offer a distance or on-line learning option. If yes, please tell us more about it.

We offer as many courses online as we do at any one of our physical locations; increasingly we are opening up “face-to-face” classes to remote populations through such video-conferencing tools as “WebEx.”  We hope to be able to offer complete degrees online (such as the MA in Practical Theology and MA in Biblical Studies) in the very near future.  Students can, however, currently complete more than half of any of our degrees from a remote location.  I personally teach several online or synchronous courses each year.

STEP Bible Software v.2.0 Released

Many Christian scholars from overseas who have spent time studying in the UK return to their own countries find their ministry of training others to understand the Bible frustrated. This is because the in-depth Bible Study resources, so readily available in universities in the UK, are now out of their reach – both physically and financially. This is even more frustrating when one realises that about 85% of the evangelical churches in the Two Thirds World are led by people with no theological training at all. It is a problem that I have been aware of for many years – indeed it was the inspiration behind Theology on the Web – “making biblical scholarship accessible” which led me to launch my first website in 2001.

STEP Bible version 2.0

The folks at Tyndale House in Cambridge share this vision and are working hard to meet the need for biblical resources. For me it is always a pleasure to visit there and meet members of the team working on their Scripture Tools for Every Person (STEP) project. This software, now in Beta version 2.0, is already one of the most powerful original-language Bible study tools available and is intended to be made available free of charge. There are plans to add hundreds more Bible translations, secondary literature and other resources – see the slideshow here. If you haven’t already visited the website – stepbible.org – I would strongly recommend that you do.

The STEP Bible in action

Here is a short video that gives a helpful introduction to just some of the things the STEP software can do:

Blog Interview – Willem J. de Wit – Evangelical Theological Seminary, Cairo

logo 1) Please introduce yourself and your role at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo.

willem My name is Willem J. de Wit. Born in the Netherlands, I teach Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt.

2) Tell us a little about the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC).

This year we will celebrate our seminary’s founding by American Presbyterian missionaries 150 years ago. The seminary was originally housed on a boat that sailed over the Nile, so that students could combine studying with preaching the Gospel in villages. Nowadays, we have our main campus in Cairo and branches in Minya (250 km south of Cairo) and Alexandria (225 km north west of Cairo). Altogether, there are over three hundred students.

3) What programs does ETSC offer?

faculty
Some ETSC faculty and students in the library of the Center for Middle Eastern
 Christianity. Dr. Michael Parker (sitting) is ETSC’s Director of Graduate Studies.

Currently, our seminary is reviewing its curriculum and introducing new degree names. From fall 2014 onwards, we hope to offer the following degree programs:

  1. Master of Divinity (MDiv): a four year full-time program in Arabic that prepares students for ordination in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt (the “Synod of the Nile”).
  2. Master of Arts in Theology (MAT): a four year part-time program  in Arabic (equivalent to two years full time), offering personal development, equipment for non-ordained ministry, and preparation for further studies.
  3. Master of Theology (ThM): a one year full-time or two year part-time advanced theological program, with specializations in Biblical Studies, Christianity in the Middle East, and Systematic Theology.
  4. Master of Arts in Organization Leadership (MAOL): a three to four year part-time non-theological program in English, combining general and Christian perspectives on leadership and management, offered in cooperation with Development Associates International.

From fall 2015 onwards, we also hope to offer some shorter certificate (non-degree) programs to serve various interests and needs.

4) How do ETSC students fund their studies?

students
ETSC Faculty

The seminary receives financial support both from churches and individuals in Egypt and from abroad, so that tuition fees can be kept relatively low.  For international students we are sometimes able to secure a scholarship.

5) Does ETSC take students from overseas?

Yes, certainly. Our programs in Arabic have drawn students from Sudan, Syria, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries. Our advanced program in English has received students from many nations: Norway, Syria, Italy, Korea, India, Sudan, Germany, etc

6) When students leave ETSC what kind of ministries / jobs do they go into?

Some ETSC students in front of the Mohammed Ali mosque
 at the citadel in Cairo.

Graduates of our ordination track usually become pastors in Egypt, especially in villages and in new church plants in ever-expanding Cairo. One recent graduate became a missionary pastor in Iraq and a soon-to-be graduate is currently serving half-time in Gaza. Graduates of our part-time programs usually use their degree to be better equipped for ministries in which they are currently serving
Graduates of our advanced program in English have become full-time or part-time faculty at our seminary and at seminaries in Sudan and in the United States. Some graduates have continued their studies overseas, at institutions like Princeton Theological Seminary and Yale Divinity School. One of them is now the head of our seminary library and another is the chairman of the board of our seminary. International graduates serve as pastors or in other positions in their home countries.

7) What is distinctive about what ETSC offers compared with other colleges in Egypt and overseas?

chapel
Inside the recently renovated chapel of ETSC.

Our seminary is one of the leading centers of Christian theology in the Arab speaking world. As a Presbyterian seminary we have welcomed students from many Protestant denominations and even some from Coptic Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
For international students, Egypt is a fascinating country: it is the second country of the Bible, has an incredible number of Pharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic monuments, and is the center of the Arab Spring. Compared to most Western countries, life is very cheap. Although mass demonstrations are now less common than during the last few years, our on-campus accommodation makes it easy for students to stay a day at home in case of unrest in the city.

Two types of international students will especially enjoy studying in Egypt at our seminary:

•    students interested in studying Christianity in the context of the Middle East and in an Islamic society;

•    non-native speakers of English who have a TOEFL score that is above 500 but just not high enough to be admitted to most schools in America or Europe—ETSC specializes in offering high quality theological education to people for whom English is a second language.

8) Please tell us about the library and other research facilities.

Students of the ordination program
during a conference last September

ETSC has two libraries on its main campus: a general theological library with some 50,000 volumes (half in English, half in Arabic) and a specialized research library in its Center for Middle Eastern Christianity (CMEC).

9) Does the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo offer a distance or on-line learning option. If yes, please tell us more about it.

We offer programs in our branches in Minya and Alexandria. Next academic year we hope to start implementing on-line distance learning.

My thanks to Willen de Wit for his contribution to series. ETSC publishes its own journal, the Cairo Journal of Theology. Please pray for the faculty of students of ETSC.