The extension training was pioneered by faculty members of the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary in Baguio City in the mid-1980s under the leadership of Dr. Grover F. Tyner, Jr., PBTS President, and with the help of faculty and some seminary students. The main purpose of the program was to reach the general church membership and not just the pastors. The materials used were primarily Study Course books focusing on Baptist Doctrines, Bible Study, and Church Administration. No seminary or Bible school credit was given to the students, but they were given certificates after completing the designed program.
Rev. James Slack of the Philippine Baptist Mission (PBM) of the Foreign Mission Board (FMB), Southern Baptist Convention, initiated a Church Growth Survey among Southern Baptist Churches in 1971-72. He led the FMB missionaries to think of an additional approach to train more leaders in addition to what the resident Southern Baptist theological institutions (PBTS in Baguio City and Mindanao Baptist Bible School in Davao City), were providing. Theological Education by Extension (TEE) was formalized.
Dr. J. Gordon Harris, newly appointed FMB missionary to the Philippines in 1971, volunteered to help. Also, PBM asked Dr. David Leslie Hill, another missionary, to develop and lead the extension program. More missionaries under the PBM were involved in promotion, teaching, and training extension teachers.
In 1988, the name Seminary Education by Extension (SEE) was adopted and an office was set up on the Baguio campus. Filipino personnel were employed to assist in the growing ministry under the new leadership of Dr. Weldon Viertel and his wife, Mrs. Joyce Viertel. Under the umbrella of the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary, Baguio City, people were made to realize that they, too, can get seminary training without going to Baguio, for a lesser cost and at their own pace. People had a sense of pride in identifying with PBTS when it comes to seminary training.
After Dr. Viertel’s retirement and return to the United States, Rev. Mark Weiler took over as the Extension Dean. Rev. Feliciano Montenegro was invited to serve as SEE Dean in 1996. During his leadership, the office was moved from Baguio to 2444 Taft Avenue, Manila for easy access to majority of the centers. After Rev. Montenegro’s retirement in March
2000, the SEE office was transferred on a temporary basis to the University Baptist Church in Sampaloc, Manila. Dr. Joyce Abugan, the Academic Dean of the resident school, picked up a portion of the extension dean’s responsibility in April 2000. For better coordination with the resident seminary plus budget and personnel constraints, all SEE records and files were returned to Baguio in 2001.
During this time, an increased number of qualified pastors and leaders served as volunteer faculty in various centers. (Most of those who have graduated through the extension classes, in turn, are leading studies in their respective places of ministry.) More qualified students have enrolled in degree levels and are working on the completion of their respective degree programs.
In 2008 Dr. Lizette F. Knight accepted the SEE Directorship. She served until May 31, 2010. Dr. Joyce Abugan directed the extension program until December 2012. Under her leadership as Academic Dean and President, the number of centers, facilitators, enrollment, and graduates increased considerably. Active local centers have been established in Luzon and Visayas as well as abroad.
In March 2013, Team PBTS under Dr. Armando M. Canoy started to implement reforms in the Extension Program by calling all the SEE facilitators right after graduation for a special meeting. The meeting ended with an agreement to have an annual summit or gathering for SEE Facilitators on January 2014. The PBTS-SEE Summit is for theological education enhancement, facilitator’s teaching skills development, fellowship, awareness of administrative policies and regulations, and consultations. This started the campaign to improve the extension education program. The first PBTS-Summit was successfully held last January 2014.
Many events and personalities have become part of the extension ministry in various ways. One thing stands out through the victories, difficulties, and limitations: SEE continues to be a partner in training more leaders for the Lord’s kingdom. What was started as a denominational venture has broadened in scope, geographically and otherwise. Changes continue to challenge the context of ministry and will call for new strategies to respond to current needs. PBTS plays a strategic role in equipping the equippers, both through the resident and extension training programs.