Decolonizing Seminary Curriculum: Implication for Philippine Practical Theology
Dr. Victor R. AGUILAN
Silliman University Divinity School
One factor that contributed to acceptance and conversion of the indigenous population to Christianity was there recruitment and development of native pastors and religious teachers. However these native clergy and religious educators became instrument of Westernization. Missionaries established Bible Schools and Seminaries. These institutions were replicas of what they have in the West. These seminaries shaped and formed pastors and theologians in the image of white missionaries. The legacy of empire continues to shape how knowledge is produced, circulated and reproduced by the theological institutions.
With the rise of nationalism and liberation theology, Philippine Seminaries and Filipino theologians have attempted to critically evaluate Western theology. Silliman Divinity School has made such attempt. We recognize our captivity to Western theological methods, sources and assumptions. SUDS continues to face the challenge of revising and designing a theological curriculum that criticizes the colonial legacy embedded in current curriculum. It is not enough just to include academic publications from Filipino and Asian thinkers on course reading lists. It also calls for us to go beyond that, however, to examine all our teaching practices and our syllabi and ask questions how the learning could be useful to the life and ministry of the churches.
The research will attempt to present a critical reflection on the theological curricula. This involves reflecting on the content and delivery of our modules, identifying how they are shaped by that problematic legacy of colonialism, and finding ways forward that move beyond it. This paper will explore the importance of decolonizing theological education in the Philippines, especially in the Seminary that was established during American colonialism, by engaging in an expressly postcolonial and decolonial approach. After examining the coloniality in curriculum, the paper will argue for new methods and sources for developing a postcolonial seminary curiculla. This will include: (1) reappropriation traditional and indigenous religious practices (2) critical appreciation of “folk” Christian practices and (3) appropriation of the experiences of the people’s struggles against colonialism and neocolonialism
A full-time faculty member of the Silliman University Divinity School and the Department of Philosophy since 1993, Victor Aguilan teaches courses in Christian Ethics, Philippine Church History, and Philosophy of Religion. He is also the Coordinator of the Graduate Studies Program of the Divinity School. He has a Master of Divinity from the Silliman University, a Master of Theology in Church History and a doctor of theology in Social Ethics from the Southeast Asia Graduate School of Theology (SEAGST), a consortium of Protestant Seminaries in Asia. He is the external-officer of the Silliman University Faculty Association (SUFA). Dr. Aguilan and his wife, Evangeline, have a son and a daughter.