In 1977 the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene approved a plan to establish a graduate Seminary to serve the Asia and Pacific regions of the church. The particular needs of the church in this part of the world demanded this. Dr. Donald Owens, Professor of Missions at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City and formerly a missionary to Korea, was elected to head the new seminary, which would become the first master’s-level theological institution of the Church of the Nazarene located outside the United States.
In 1979, the church purchased a site in Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Formerly an orphan¬age, the location consisted of ten acres with 22 wooden frame buildings. The proximity of the location to Manila was a deciding factor, as leaders hoped that the cosmopolitan setting would provide models for evangelism for the other cities of Asia and the Pacific. The Church of the Nazarene had directed its attentions to Metro Manila only a few years earlier.
Beginning in 1980, extension seminars were held involving several NTS professors as well as Rev. Angelito Agbuya, pastor of the Angeles City, Philippines, Church of the Nazarene. Students represented various countries in the region. Meanwhile, Dr. Owens became Director of the Asia Region and moved to Manila. As extension classes were held over the next few years, general church leaders concluded that the new Seminary should become autonomous from NTS. In preparation for the opening of a residence program, Dr. Owens searched for faculty members and initiated construction of an administration and classroom building, the ground breaking ceremony for which was held in January, 1983. Other buildings on the campus were renovated for student and faculty living. The Commission on Immigration and Deportation, Department of Justice, Republic of the Philippines, gave its approval for APNTS to begin as an educational institution for non-immigrant students.
Dr. Owens devised the logo of the school, which has continued throughout its history. It represents the Word, the Spirit and the Cross, set within the Asia-Pacific context. Dr. Owens also established the motto of the school, “bridging cultures for Christ,” and the school’s guiding scriptural text, “For there is one God, one Mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). He chose the school’s official hymn, “In Christ There is No East or West.” Regular classes began on November 14, 1983. The faculty included Dr. Owens, Dr. Angelito Agbuya, Dr. and Mrs. Ronald Beech, long-time missionaries in the Philippines, and Dr. Floyd Cunningham. Dr. Agbuya taught preaching, Christian education and pastoral ministry courses, and directed field educa-tion. Dr. Beech served as Academic Dean and Registrar and taught Bible and missions courses. Neva Beech taught students music and English. Floyd Cunningham taught church history and, in the early years, theology, and served as Dean of Students and Chaplain. The Seminary was formally dedicated and the faculty installed on January 15, 1984. Students from Korea, India, and Japan, as well as the Philippines, enrolled.
In April 1984, Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks, for¬merly Academic Dean of European Nazarene Bible College and at the time teaching at Southern Nazarene University, was elected President of the Seminary. He began serving in the office in July 1984, and he and his family moved to Manila later that year. During Dr. Fairbanks’s time, the school de¬veloped both a mission statement and insti¬tutional objectives that served the school for twenty years. His message through his years at APNTS centered on both servant leadership and excellence in ministry.
Dr. Fairbanks pursued recognition with the Philippine government, and accreditation. To that point, no autonomous theological school in the country had sought or achieved government recognition. In 1987, the seminary received its permit to operate from the Philippine government’s Department of Education, Culture and Sports (now the Commission on Higher Education), and full recognition from the same Department came on June 13, 1988. Accreditation for degree programs was granted by the Asia Theological Association (ATA) in 1988, and by the Association for Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA) in 1991. Meanwhile, the library was strengthened with the addition of several important collections centering on Wesleyan and holiness studies, and came to number over 37,000 volumes by 2008. At the same time, extensive renovation and building programs on campus continued under the guidance of Rev. Gordon Gibson, who served as Campus Development Coordinator from 1984 until 1992. In the same capacity served Mr. Terry Sanders, 1992 to 1998, Mr. Greg Taylor, 1998 to 1999 and, again, from 2004 to 2008, and Mr. David Hendrix, 1999 to 2004.
The faculty was strengthened in succeeding years. Dr. Fairbanks himself taught in the area of church and ministry, including pastoral and Christian education subjects. Dr. James Edlin taught Old Testament, 1985 to 1988, and served as Academic Dean. Dr. Wilfredo Manaois, Christian Education, taught from 1986 until his retirement at age 70 in 1999. For several years he served administrative roles, including Dean of Students, Registrar, and Assistant to the President. Dr. Donald LeRoy Stults taught Missions, 1987 to 1991; Dr. Dean Flemming, New Testament, 1987 to 1992, and 1993 to 1997; Dr. Lourdes Manaois, Christian Education, 1987 to 1991, and 1993 to 1999; Dr. M. Robert Fraser, theology and church history, 1988 to 1992. Floyd Cunningham became Academic Dean in 1989.
Dr. Fairbanks resigned to accept a call to the presidency of Mount Vernon Nazarene College. The Trustees chose Dr. John Nielson, Vice-President of Eastern Nazarene College, and formerly a missionary to Denmark, as President of APNTS. He and his wife Janice Nielson settled in Manila in February 1990. Dr. Nielson stressed the importance of worship, and oversaw the renovation of the chapel. Dr. Nielson’s theme throughout his years at APNTS was building a “Christ-culture” transcending national and eth¬nic cultures. Janice Nielson emphasized minis¬tries to children. They served until 2001. During Dr. Nielson’s years, the first students arrived from Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Myanmar. The accounting, registrar’s office, and library were computerized. Janice Nielson began “Kids’ Klubs” for children on Saturday morning. The school began national culture days and chapel presentations. Small “covenant” groups began on campus. Dr. Nielson worked with the region to establish the Fairbanks Media Center, which was dedicated in January 1994. The Mediator, the official journal of the school, began publi¬cation in 1996. Also in 1996, the school began a MA program in Christian Communication. This degree program was recognized by the Philippine government in 1997. Dr. Nielson oversaw scholarship partnerships with sister denominations, especially the Wesleyan Church and the Free Methodist Church. He also began a national scholarship plan for Nazarenes in the region. Dr. Nielson taught preaching, character formation and worship courses, and frequently led chapel services, and Janice Nielson taught Christian Education. Dr. Abraham Athialy taught in the area of pastoral ministry, 1992 to 1998, and served as Dean of Students. Dr. Roderick Leupp taught theology and Christian ethics, 1992 to 2000; Dr. David Kelly, Biblical Studies, 1993 to 1994; Dr. Dwight Swanson, Old Testament, 1995 to 1997. Prof. Beverly Gruver taught English and second language acquisition courses from 1997 to 2010, and served as Dean of Students from 2003 to 2010. Dr. Robert Donahue has taught missions courses since 1999 and directs the Owens School of World Mission. Prof. Joven Laroya taught Christian Education and Pastoral Ministry, 1999 to 2001; Dr. Stanley Clark, a Wesleyan Church missionary, Christian Education, 2000 to 2004; Dr. Stephen Bennett, a New Zealander, taught Old Testament, 2000 to 2002; and Dr. Christi-an Bennett, Church History and Missions, 2000 to 2002.
The Nielsons resigned in 2001 to accept ministry assignments in the United States and Europe. In the Nielsons’ honor, in April 2003 the Seminary dedicated a major building on campus, the Nielson Center for Education and Evangelism.
In January 2003, the Board of Trustees chose Dr. Hitoshi (Paul) Fukue, who had been serving on the faculty since 2001, as President. Before coming to APNTS in 2001, Dr. Fukue had served for many years as a pastor in Japan, and had served as President of Japan Christian Junior College. He was inaugurated as President in April 2003. He resigned from the presidency in May 2007 to accept a pastorate in Japan.
Dr. Fukue oversaw the development of the Master of Science in Theology program. The Donald Owens School of World Missions began in 2004 with Dr. Robert Donahue as Director. The school also underwent a series of plan¬ning and mission review processes. A five-year plan and strategic objectives resulted. In chapel messages, Dr. Fukue helped the community to develop a theology of suffering.
Dr. Fukue himself taught theology, ethics, sociology of religion and preaching. Prof. Mitsuko Fukue taught interpersonal and in¬tercultural communication, 2001 to 2007; Dr. Gilbert Montecastro, biblical studies, 2002 to 2006. Prof. Rovina Hatcher taught Christian education from 2003 to 2011. Dr. Kwon Dong Hwan has taught Christian communication from 2004 to the present, and directs the Fairbanks International School of Communication. Dr. Oh Won Keun taught Old Testament from 2004 to 2007.
As Academic Dean, Floyd T. Cunningham served as Officer-in-Charge during the sixteen months between the presidencies of Dr. Nielson and Dr. Fukue, and again following the resignation of Dr. Fukue. He became Interim President in September 2007, and became President in July 2008.
Dr. Lee San Young joined the faculty, teaching counseling, Asian religion, and spiritual formation courses in 2007. She took the office of Academic Dean in April of 2009. Dr. Mitchel Modine joined the faculty in 2008 to teach Old Testament. Dr. Jason Hallig taught New Testament Greek for a number of years and re¬turned to APNTS to teach New Testament. In 2009, Dr. Darin Land joined the faculty to teach New Testament.
In 2009, under the Asia Graduate School of Theology and in cooperation with Compassion International, APNTS launched a PhD program in holistic child development. It was during this time that Dr. Nativity Patellar joined the school as the director of this newly formed program. Four hundred graduates of APNTS have gone on to pastoral, teaching, missionary, ad¬ministrative and many other forms of minis¬try in various countries, including: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States.