The idea of establishing a program for theological education by extension (TEE) started in Lebanon in 1971. An interdenominational and Arab international TEE association was established and several self-instructional courses were cooperatively prepared. When the Lebanese Civil War began in 1975, the TEE association ceased to operate.
In 1979, friends who had been aware of the disbanded TEE association and other friends of extension education began to meet in Amman, Jordan to see about establishing a new TEE association. Leaders in local churches and Christian organizations from six evangelical traditions in Jordan began to meet to outline the parameters of a new TEE association. Mr John DiPasquale coordinated the discussions at that time.
An ad hoc Committee for TEE agreed to sponsor a conference in November 1980 with a wider group of participants to explore the idea of establishing a regional TEE association. The conference was held with participants from Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus and Jordan. The keynote speaker was Dr Bruce Nichols of the World Evangelical Alliance Theological Commission. Nichols recommended that as a part of establishing a TEE association the appointment of an Executive Director would be critical to the success of the new organization. At the end of the conference it was decided to begin to make plans to launch a new TEE association.
In 1981 a work-team was formed of an expert with brothers from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and they formulated the PTEE Constitution and By-Laws. Mr John Dipasquali was appointed executive director of the program, and since that time the program officially began.
The group was divided into sub-committees. Some delegates were assigned to write the constitution and by-laws while others were given the role of creating curricular objectives. After the conference, delegates returned to their countries and continued to work on their assignments.
In February 1981 a second gathering was held in Amman. The delegates were pleased with the results of their work together, and they planned a third meeting for May 28-31, 1981.
Thus, on May 31, 1981, in Amman, Jordan, representatives from Middle Eastern church denominations, institutions and organizations formally established the Program for Theological Education by Extension (PTEE). John DiPasquale became the first Executive Director of the PTEE and Amman became its administrative center.
The General Assembly (GA) decided that PTEE would work under the sponsorship of the Evangelical Free Church1 in Jordan.
The founders of the PTEE chose to make it a program that would offer its courses at a university Bachelor’s Degree level. In the beginning the PTEE served churches primarily in Jordan and Egypt.
Under the leadership of John DiPasquale, the PTEE moved into an office space provided free of charge by the Mahatta Evangelical Free Church. The PTEE grew under the leadership of its director and a textbook development program was instituted for preparing self-instructional materials. PTEE member Dr. David King of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary contributed two self instructional courses: Jeremiah and Christian Education.
PTEE’s first classes began in Amman in the summer of 1981 and in Assuit, Egypt in 1982. David King opened PTEE summer classes in Spain for Arabic reading students in the early 1980s.
PTEE also became a member of the Asia Theological Association (ATA) in the 1980s. The ATA provides educational services, including accreditation, to over 100 evangelical theological institutions across Asia. In 1983 the PTEE became an associate member of the ICETE which is International Counsel for Evangelical Theological Education2, an organization that serves evangelical accrediting agencies around the world. In June 1985 PTEE Director of Curriculum Production, Richard Hart, was appointed ICAA Associate Secretary for TEE. These relationships brought the PTEE into global fellowship with traditional and extension theological educators.
Mr DiPasquale resigned as executive director in October 1985 to take a new position with another organization, and in his place the PTEE GA appointed Richard Hart.
In 1986 a PTEE tutor training curriculum was developed. Mr Jiries Habash—who also served as Chairperson of the PTEE Executive Committee—and Richard Hart began using the curriculum with tutor candidates in 1987. Meeting in two and a half day seminars, tutor candidates learn how to teach adults with success. These tutor workshops normally train between 5 and 10 people per session, and by 2006 nearly 500 Middle Eastern adults had been trained.
In 1988 Dr Robert Miner joined the PTEE as Assistant Executive Director. In 1990 the PTEE moved to new quarters in Jabal Hussein. With the growing work, new staff members were added: a full-time translator, part-time secretary-bookkeeper and a textbook layout and graphic design person. The PTEE office became a curriculum development center. The Text Book 2000 project was launched with the goal of raising enough support to finish our then 30-course curriculum by the year 2000.
From 1992 to 1996 Dr Miner and Mr Habash led the PTEE in the absence of Richard Hart, who was on study leave in the United States. Under Dr Miner’s leadership the PTEE extended into Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Gulf.
When Mr Hart returned from his studies, Dr Miner continued to share in the leadership of the PTEE, and now serves as a consultant to the program.
In 2000 the PTEE opened its first class in Sudan, and in March 2001 a full time dean for Sudan was appointed. Classes are now offered in Greater Khartoum and other Sudanese cities. By 2006 some 200 study centers (mostly churches) had been used for PTEE classes throughout the Middle East and in Western Europe.
In 2002 the PTEE was granted accreditation of its academic awards by the ATA which is renewed every five years. The three awards were: the Certificate of Theology, the Diploma of Theology and the Bachelor of Theology. In 2005, the PTEE was also granted accreditation for the same awards through the Middle East Association for Theological Education (MEATE).
Needing to enlarge its office to meet the increasing responsibilities in the region and the increasing demand for the program curriculum, the PTEE moved its center to the Zahran neighborhood of Jabal Amman (near 3rd Circle) in August 2004. In 2012 PTEE moved to a new site in the Ar Rawabi neighbourhood after funds to purchase a building were received. The center was renamed the PTEE Ministry Center.
The PTEE Ministry Center now has a team of eleven full-time and part-time staff members. Personnel are involved in curriculum development (including the writing and field testing of courses), keeping student records, managing field operations, accounting, fund raising, communications and preparing publicity materials.
PTEE’s Bachelor of Theology degree now has 37 completed courses. More courses will be developed in the coming years.
In 2005, the development of a 12-course high-school level Certificate of Ministry, which is also called the Secondary Education Equivalent Diploma (SEED) program, was approved. This certificate is aimed at adults who haven’t completed their high-school studies, but still desire a biblical leadership study program.
Beyond that a Master of Arts (MA) in Theology by extension study is in the planning stages. The MA course delivery design will be similar to the Bachelor’s level delivery. Students will study at home and attend weekly seminars facilitated by PTEE trained tutors.
In 2006 the PTEE celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Since 1981, the PTEE has progressively widened its service area to include now Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. Tutors have been trained in at least nine different countries. The movement continues to grow, to the glory of God.
In 2008, a goal was set for the year 2020. By 2020 the PTEE would like to have PTEE classes being offered by local people in all the countries of the Arab World.
With the retirement of Dr Richard Hart from his position as executive director, the PTEE membership at the 2013 PTEE Annual Meeting appointed the third PTEE Executive Director, Jiries Habash.
1The Evangelical Free Church in Jordan is a Jordanian denomination and does not have any official relations with any denomination outside Jordan
2 Formerly known as International Council of Accrediting Agencies (ICAA)