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AGST Alliance theses/dissertations

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A. PhD(Education)

Binsen Samuel Sidjabat (2017)

Adult religious education through devotional books in Indonesia: An investigation of Andar Ismail’s Selamat series and its significance for theological education.

This research examines the works and thought of Andar Ismail, Indonesian Presbyterian pastor and Emeritus Professor of Christian Education, specifically in his 27-volume SelamatSeries of devotional books. This dissertation describes the teaching contents of the books, and then identifies Andar Ismail’s understanding of the reason, purpose, curriculum and learning strategy for effective adult religious education. It shows that, informed by the Bible and by the psychology and sociology of adults, he considers adult religious education in the church as a fundamental need as it guides adults towards experiencing God’s shalom (selamat), living a Christ-centred life and being motivated and competent in understanding the Bible. Based on his understanding of adults’ roles and tasks in family, church, society and market place and their need to grow spiritually, Andar Ismail has designed creative learning materials by integrating curriculum construction theory, the Bible, theology, knowledge, a descriptive teaching approach and journalistic principles. Finally, this research explores the extent to which Andar Ismail’s model, thought and work may have significance for theological education in Indonesia.

Supervisors: Edward Sands and Allan Harkness.

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation please contact Samuel directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The dissertation is available in both Bahasa Indonesia and English.

Casey Ng Kong Chiew (2015)

Contextualising theological education: An emic study of practical contextualisation of theological education in Singapore.

Contextualising theological education has been a popular buzzword since the 1980s. However, little research has been done to evaluate the success of contextualising theological education in Singapore. The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between the espoused understanding of selected theological institutions and their practice in practical contextualisation of theological education.

The theory of action framework, as developed by Chris Argyris and Donald Sch�n, was employed in this research to critically analyse the practice of contextualising theological education in Singapore. In theory of action, finding congruence between espoused theories and theories-in-use is essential for effective practice. In this research, espoused theories of 47 participants from four theological institutions were gathered and analysed against the theories-in-use implied by their actions, and triangulated by data gathered from interviews with a focus group composed of eight other theological educators from different theological institutions. A comparative thematic analysis reveals varying levels of congruence and dissonance between espoused theories and theories-in-use in 12 areas of practical contextualisation in theological education (grouped under five broad dimensions - structural, sociological, historical-cultural, pedagogical, and missional). Consequently, four recommendations are presented to bring congruence to the dissonances so as to contextualise theological education more effectively in Singapore. The findings of this research can contribute towards helping theological institutions to re-examine themselves and address the gap between their espoused theories and theories-in-use so that significant benefits will accrue in the training of Christian leaders

Supervisors: Graham Cheesman and Allan Harkness

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation, please contact Casey directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Soh Hui Leng Davina (2015)

The motif of hospitality in theological education: A critical appraisal with implications for application In theological education.

Taking an interdisciplinary conceptual approach, this dissertation establishes the viability of hospitality as a practice in theological education for teachers to create a hospitable teaching-learning environment for the holistic formation of students. It accomplishes this by examining how hospitality has been proposed by educators to address the perennial ills and challenges in Christian higher education, theological education, and higher education. Its interpretation of the biblical metaphor of hospitality then provides the conceptual framework to approach the application of hospitality by teachers in theological institutions seeking to form their students holistically. This research uses the cluster concept to define hospitality and identifies the constitutive elements of hospitality as inclusion, presence, care, and reciprocity. It proposes ways theological educators can practise at least one, if not more, of the constitutive elements to create an effective environment for the holistic formation of students.

Supervisors: Graham Cheesman and Allan Harkness

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation, please contact Davina directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Alex Tang Tuck Hon (2012)

Till we are fully formed: A conceptual investigation of a Christian spiritual formation paradigm in the English-speaking Presbyterian churches in Malaysia

This study examined the current spiritual formation approaches in the English-speaking Presbyterian churches in Malaysia. A conceptual inquiry was conducted to assess the appropriateness of these approaches. These spiritual formation approaches were found to be inappropriate for holistic spiritual formation in these churches. A more holistic approach to Christian spiritual formation (CSF) which is comprised of the formative strands of person-in-formation, persons-in-community formation, and persons-in-mission formation in a CSF paradigm was proposed. In this approach CSF was defined as the intentional and ongoing process of inner transformation to become like Jesus Christ, become a people of God, and be God's agents for his redemptive purposes. This dissertation recognised that the ontological, epistemological, and pedagogical foundations of CSF are restoration of the imago Dei and the making of shalom.

Supervisors: Jennifer Turner and Allan Harkness

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation, please contact Alex directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Rosalind Yeet-Wah Lim (2009)

Faith Formation of Children in the Malaysian Baptist English-Speaking Congregations: A Vygotskian Approach

Historically the goal of childhood faith formation in Baptist congregations has been to nurture children to become regenerate believers, persons in community, and persons in ministry and witness. However empirical observation and field survey showed that Malaysian Baptist English-Speaking (MBE) congregations are not aware of this faith formation goal for their children, and existing formation practices reveal inconsistencies in approaches and styles. Furthermore, most MBE congregations view faith formation of children more of a parental responsibility than a co-nurturing process with parents and congregation working together. This dissertation proposes that the Vygotskian sociocultural approach is appropriate for MBE congregations to recover the original goal for faith formation of their children in a way which is biblical, contextually meaningful, and consistent with the Baptist confessions, as the formation of their children's attitudes, beliefs, and personalities is influenced by knowledge, sociocultural variables, and personal meaning making.

Supervisors: Cynthia Dixon and Allan Harkness


B. Doctor of Education

Frank McLean Hawthorne (2017)

An Attachment Theory perspective on Christian conversion and spiritual maturity in four people groups in South and Southeast Asia.

This dissertation represents a study of psychological processes implicated in Christian conversion and spiritual maturity. Centrally, this study asserts that conversion and spiritual maturity can be understood psychologically in terms of attachment processes. This understanding can supplement theological and missiological understandings of conversion and spiritual maturity. Much of the focus in Christian missions has been on levels of conversion in specific contexts. Strategizing and implementing strategic efforts to increase the numbers of converts has been a major missions focus. In contrast, the focus of the present study is on Attachment Theory and the role secure attachment relationships have in the process of conversion and on the quality of a convert’s relationship with God after conversion. This focus is taken because it is hypothesized that the quality of a convert’s relationship with God has significant impact on the convert’s spiritual maturity. In turn, spiritual maturity is thought to bring about desired outcomes that are of concern in the missiological literature—including greater participation on the part of converts in evangelistic efforts among their own people groups and other, unreached and less reached people groups.

Psychological theory and psychometric methods are used in this study because they provide the framework and tools needed to investigate the quality, antecedents, and consequences of a convert’s relationship with God after conversion. The study sample was comprised of 788 respondents from four distinct people groups in South and Southeast Asia. The groups represented three major non-Christian religious backgrounds. Data, gathered using a survey questionnaire, were analyzed using structural equation modeling techniques, including confirmatory factor analyses and path analyses. Results supported hypotheses indicating that secure attachment relationships have a meaningful role in the processes of conversion and spiritual maturity of converts. Findings of the study could serve to inform Christian pastors, evangelists, church planters, missionaries, and educators in the regions of South and Southeast Asia and beyond.

Supervisors: Martin Dowson and Allan Harkness

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation please contact McLean directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Lau Ying Kheng (2016)

Encouraging Singaporean seminary students to use reflexivity in their ministry practice

This dissertation addresses the urgent need to educate Singapore seminary students in radical and innovative reflexivity so that they will continue to be effective in ministry in a rapidly changing world. The action research among twenty-six students at the East Asia School of Theology have shown that reflexivity can, and must be taught. However reflexivity is recommended not as a methodology but rather as a posture. Just as servant-leadership is not simply concerned with techniques but the heart, so training in reflexivity is the education of the practitioner's posture, attitude, and mindset: of maintaining balance as both teacher and learner; and of readiness to effect change through the three requisites which prepare for reflexivity - challenging assumptions, engaging with emotions, and employing reflexive dialogues. For maximum effectiveness it has been found that these must operate within an attitude of restfulness in the rhythm of deep learning and, very importantly for the Christian minister, with dependence on the direction of the Holy Spirit in making choices. When seminary students are taught reflexivity, they learn to search honestly within themselves, especially in the moment of service, to expose embedded motives and pre-judgements, be alert to emotions that can stumble or expedite critical learning, and use reflexive questions to invent new paradigms for lifelong learning and ministry. Finally, this dissertation shows that even more fundamental than the underlying theories, biblical discussions, and suggested curriculum, the reflexivity classroom must be dynamic, developing, and dialogic. Without live awareness of incontext modelling of reflexivity, there will not be the spontaneous discovery and application of learning by both the teacher and the student which serves to create the atmosphere for the curriculum implicit in this training.

Supervisor: Jennifer Turner

Winnie Chan Sin Ming (2015)

Appropriate parental participation in faith nurture of primary school aged children in urban Chinese families of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

This study investigated how the parents of primary school aged children of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) of the Methodist Church in Malaysia can be better equipped and be more effective as partners in faith nurture of their children. The study used the qualitative research method of grounded theory. Data were collected through interviews with sixteen parents and seventeen children from four different Methodist Chinese churches in Sarawak.

The emerging theory has five propositions: 1) The major responsibility of faith nurture of children lies with the parents. 2) The church and the family need to be in partnership in nurturing the faith of the children. 3) Parents need help to build up their own life and emotions if they want to nurture the faith of their children adequately. 4) Parents need to encourage a two-way direction when communicating faith matters with their children. 5) Children's faith is nurtured when they spend time doing ordinary everyday things with their parents.

Finally, this study proposed three possible ways to support parental participation in faith nurture of their children in the SCAC churches: 1) Churches be more intentional in offering creative and accessible ways for the faith community so as to partner with parents in forming nurturing environments that promote the faith development of children. 2) Parents may find it helpful to join a parent support group for building their own life and emotions. 3) Families may need to spend time with each other, talking about faith matters and also enjoy doing ordinary everyday things.

Supervisor: Rosalind Lim-Tan

Perry W. H. Shaw (2012)

Congregational leadership for growing Arab churches: A critical-contextual and systemic study of Middle Eastern Arab Protestant churches

This thesis has examined the extent to which healthy church life in the Arab world is reflective of critically contextual systemic patterns of congregational leadership. Comparative quantitative data using Parsons and Leas' (1993) Congregational Systems Inventory found that two clusters of behaviour were typical of numerically growing Arab churches. Either within the study itself or in research elsewhere elements of the first cluster of planned strategy, mandatory process, and collegial relatedness were found to be somewhat characteristic of the broader Arab society. However, the second cluster of dispersed authority, visionary pastoral and lay leadership, and metamising learning patterns was found to be atypical of Arab society. A dialogue with biblical-theological reflections on leadership suggests that both typical and atypical characteristics of healthy Arab churches find affirmation in Scripture, pointing to the significance of critical-contextual patterns of leadership.

Supervisors: Paul Sanders and Rowland Edwards


C. MTh(Education)

Wong Siew Cheong (2016)

An investigation into the continuing learning experiences of Borneo Evangelical Mission pastors in Miri, Sarawak, with particular reference to their use of heutagogy.

Heutagogy, defined as self-determined learning, was established by Hase and Kenyon at the turn of the millennium. Heutagogy is well established in higher educational institutions of developed countries in Europe, North America and Australasia, but it is a new concept in Malaysia and in particular the Christian faith communities in the state of Sarawak. Church pastors need to continue learning the truths in their relationship with God, self, church and those outside the church in order to enhance their personal spiritual development.

In order to investigate church pastors’ continuing learning and the extent of their use of heutagogy for personal spiritual development, this research used hermeneutic phenomenology methodology to discover the phenomenon of the lived experiences of four Malaysia Bible Seminary graduates who were pastoring Borneo Evangelical Mission churches in Miri, Sarawak. The pastors were interviewed on how they continued their learning. The interviews were transcribed and analysed to explicate the essential themes of the participants’ heutagogical learning.

The findings indicate that the participants learned through formal, non-formal and informal settings, and that they used heutagogy extensively. The participants learned heutagogically through their interactions with people when they received feedback and critiques. They also learned heutagogically when they made reflections on their reading of books, and when they filtered and analysed Website information. Other findings pertaining to the participants’ use of heutagogy include topics such as: challenging system thinking, contextualising to local culture, evaluating from a Biblical perspective, depending on self-motivation, management of time, passion in learning, depending on God, and involvement in their everyday life matters. These essential themes will be discussed with reference to secular academic literature in order to infuse this literature with biblical and theological reflections. The implications of heutagogical learning for pastors will be considered at the end of the research.

Supervisor: Phillips Koh

Karen Hoisington (2010)

Asking Questions: A Vital Approach for Faith Formation in a Singapore Chinese Community of Faith

Singapore Chinese churches, with their roots in Confucian heritage cultures, tend to comprise people who prefer learning approaches that are teacher-centric, book-orientated, and rote, with an emphasis on knowledge acquiring. If the purpose of local churches is understood in terms of ministry to God, to believers and to the world, then the educational approaches must nurture believers to become better thinkers and practitioners of their faith. This research explored the extent to which asking questions is a vital learning approach for faith formation in a Singapore Chinese church, and the extent to which this approach could be developed. Shari Tishman's thinking classroom model provided the criterion for asking questions in church-based adult educational settings.

Supervisor: Matt Rawlins

Chuah Seong Peng (2009)

The Role of Critical Theological Reflection in Training Lay Leaders

This thesis arose from a need in the local church for an effective leadership training programme which facilitates transformational learning. It proposes critical theological reflection as a suitable method to facilitate such learning. To show critical theological reflection as an evangelical approach to theological reflection that brings about transformational learning, the epistemological, biblical and theological understanding involved in its process were presented, and its importance is demonstrated in its role in helping the leaders face the challenges of postmodernism and the emerging church movement. The feasibility and the challenges of introducing such learning method in the Asian context were also investigated. Finally, a working outline and format of a lay leaders' training programme that incorporates critical theological reflection is presented.

Supervisor: David Burke


D. PhD(Theology)

Jeremiah Chai-sei Chu (2015)

Hong Kong evangelical theology in the context of 1997: A study from 1982 to 1997 with critical theological reflections on its roots in the holiness-revival movement.

Jeremiah's research is an exegetical, social and historical exploration of Hong Kong Evangelicals (HKEs) doing a 'theology of 1997' during 1982-1997. Although HKEs had long been emphasising Biblical faith, they neglected its contextualisation. However, they were given a chance for a theological breakthrough while facing the crisis of 1997. Jeremiah's findings are significant for HKEs and global Chinese churches. First, he suggests HKEs should be historically defined as 'second phrase denominations' (compared with Mainline churches as first phrase), with the majority coming from the American Holiness-Revival Movement, which was originally a social holiness movement, and these churches are capable enough to revive this tradition. Second, the issues surrounding 1997 can facilitate a unique political theology for HKEs without necessarily adopting the political theologies of the West, and especially by bringing an evangelical dimension to post-1997 Christian witness in Hong Kong and China.

Supervisor: Jason Yeung

Click here to read a summary in English and Chinese. If you would like to read a copy of the full dissertation, please contact Jeremiah directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Roger Senior (2014)

The contextualisation of leadership in Paul's ministry and writings: A study with application to English-speaking Methodist churches in Peninsular Malaysia.

The leadership in the Pauline churches of the New Testament was examined with the aim of identifying the theological principles which influenced the process of leadership contextualisation, as the churches both built on the leadership understandings prevalent in the contexts of the time, and also prophetically challenged and transformed them. These principles include Christ's unique position as ruler and mediator, his example of service and weakness, the sociality of the trinitarian God, and the truth of the gospel. In order to show the value of this research for today, district superintendents of the English-speaking Methodist churches of the TRAC Conference in Peninsular Malaysia were interviewed. These interviews indicate that the pastors are broadly following Pauline theological principles, but some areas in which more contextualisation could be stimulated are identified.

Supervisor: David Harley

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation, please contact Roger directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Paul R. Woods (2013)

The migration phenomenon in East Asia: Towards a theological response from God's people as a host community.

This dissertation works towards a theological response from the East Asian church to intra-regional migration. It provides an introduction to migration theory and the experiences of people on the move, as the basis of a theological reflection.

Migration is a significant part of modern life, and the Asian church has begun to respond and reach out to migrants. However, this concern for the Other (someone different and distinct from oneself) is patchy and lacks robust theological foundations. Migration brings those in the host countries face to face with racial and social Others, who may face ill-treatment and exploitation, to which the church is sometimes perceived as indifferent. The principal motifs employed in the work are Otherness and liminality. Through these, this research explores the commandments in the Pentateuch which require fair treatment of the alien in Israel. A similar approach is applied to Christ's life and teaching and the example of the early church in the New Testament. The same motifs of Otherness and liminality are used to examine the status of God's followers before Him and other nations. The apparent tension in the Bible between social inclusivity and religious exclusivism towards aliens and religious Others is investigated by means of an attractive vector operating inside a space of acceptance to move non-believers towards faith in Yahweh. This space originates within the Godhead and extends out into the wider world. The church draws on the Triune God by a process of cascading, through which various aspects of His nature and experience flow down from Him, to the church and thence through it into the broader society. Finally, the work synthesises the findings from the scriptures into suggestions for a theological response from the church, as individuals and as a group within society, and gives some pointers towards concrete action within the transnational space.

Supervisor: Jonathan Ingleby


E. MTh(Theology)

Hiew Hoong Cheong (2015)

The significance of a theology of place in the Malaysian emigration debate.

This thesis explores the theology of place and how this may contribute to the Malaysian Christian's response to the ongoing emigration debate. My contention is that God's idea of place and specifically 'place as home' is more important than has been generally recognised and must be taken into account before one considers emigration. The implications are applicable not only for Malaysian Christians but for all Malaysians and potential emigrants.

This research began with a discussion of the Malaysian emigration debate - how Malaysians have been concerned with the rate of skilled emigration abroad which has led to a crisis of 'brain drain'. The Malaysian church has not been spared when young Malaysian Christians and their families emigrate, leaving the Malaysian church bereft of a new generation of leaders. A survey of the importance of place introduced three approaches to a theology of place, followed by an exploration of how a special place called 'home' may interact with emigration; and an examination of how Christ dealt with the tension between emplacement and emigration. Consideration of how memory and imagination play a part in homecoming and homemaking was followed by proposing three ways in which Christians can be homemakers in Malaysia.

This thesis concluded that emigration would lead to a loss of a sense of place with all its accompanying effects which would dehumanise us. What is needed then, is not emigration but faith, to trust God that he has a purpose in emplacing Christians where we are.

Supervisor: Ong Meng Chai

If you would like to read a copy of the dissertation, please contact Hoong Cheong directly: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Justus Moni (2008)

Changing world order and the Islamic Jurisprudence: A study of the Judicial Provisions of Islam and their applications in Global Multi religious Community with special reference to Hyderabad, India

Well known for its religious plurality and communal harmony, Hyderabad has become a victim of communal intolerance, violence and terrorism. This study is an attempt to understand how the scriptural law of Islam is interpreted to the community in Hyderabad, specifically in the concept of jihad (holy war). Islamic jurisprudence is defined, and details given of the technical interpretations of the concept of jihad. The range of interpretations of the Qur`anic references that are often quoted for jihad, peace and relationship with non Muslims are studied. A comparison is made between biblical hermeneutics and Muslim interpretation in relation to war and peace. The key finding of this study is that peaceful coexistence is advocated sufficiently in the Qur`anic texts so that those who advocate jihad could focus instead on working for communal harmony.

Supervisor: Siga Arles




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