A God-Inspired Partnership
Why West Africa Theological Seminary and Providence International University Have United
The long-standing dream of a Christian mega-university is steadily taking shape with the emergence of PROVIDENCE INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY (PIU), in Imala Kingdom, Ogun State, Southwestern Nigeria. It is an Oxford University-style institution operated on the highest possible standards, with a strong Christian core surrounded eventually by two dozen or more autonomous colleges or faculties. An eventual enrollment of 100,000 resident students, with an additional one million online, is expected. Initial or early faculties include colleges of agriculture, education, nursing and theology.
The founding dream of the PIU visioners, starting in 1999, was for WATS to one day become the heart and soul of the university, as its autonomous theological faculty. The vision was not for WATS to start the university, but to one day join it. However, it was only possible for WATS to take the PIU vision seriously by around 2021, when enough progress had been made with the university acquisition of land, launching of basic infrastructure and beginning of the lengthy process of approval by the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC).
By late 2021, the WATS Board of Trustees, Governing Council and Administration formally approved joining this vision. It was clear that a multi-year process would be necessary to establish WATS facilities on the PIU campus, where the expansion of seminary enrollment could be many times more than could be contained on its Ipaja, Lagos campus. In the meantime, WATS remains indefinitely on its Lagos property, even while beginning to fulfill some of its functions as the heart of a new university.
Advantages for WATS
This union has given WATS a huge breath of hope and prospects of dynamic national and international expansion. Seven distinct advantages to WATS stand out with the fulfillment of this dream of cooperation:
o WATS enrollment. To be a part of PIU, each faculty is expected to optimize its enrollment. For WATS that means an institutional commitment to move to 4,000 pastors-in-training over the next decade. Nigeria is now the sixth most populous country in the world, and will surpass US population before 2050, making this goal very achievable, with strategic student recruitment and maintenance of high standards. Additionally, the inevitable international status of PIU will greatly enhance the recently lagging international nature of WATS enrollment.
o WATS ministry expansion. The strength of WATS has always been its primary focus on training leadership for the African Church. With integration into PIU, it will now expand its ministry dynamically in a second direction: providing required Spiritual Formation and Christian Worldview training for eventually tens of thousands of PIU students.
o WATS expanded national and international platform. PIU will command a large national and international platform which will of necessity carry WATS along. PIU advertising and growing reputation will ensure a broader awareness of WATS and its mission than ever before.
o WATS facilities expansion. PIU offers to WATS premium opportunities to eventually greatly multiply their current land holdings. WATS currently exists on less than three acres of land, but can be given access to at least seventy-five acres on the PIU campus of the future.
o WATS visibility. WATS will soon stand out among Nigeria’s many Bible colleges and seminaries as totally unique and the most visible of its kind in West Africa—and beyond.
o WATS accreditation. A painful problem for all seminaries in Nigeria over the past decades is the requirement of the Nigerian government to affiliate with NUC-approved university religion faculties—none of which is focused on pastor training, but only the academic study of religion. However, by becoming a part of PIU, WATS can eventually escape this syndrome and yet remain legitimately university-accredited, as a PIU partner.
o WATS staff advantages. Because of its location away from the huge and expensive Lagos environment, WATS faculty members will be able to purchase their personal landed properties in the expansive planned community all around the PIU campus.
Benefits for PIU
PIU cannot properly fulfil its vision without WATS. It is a university unlike any other in Africa, where its core identity is embodied in a theological faculty that sets the moral and spiritual tone for every other college within the whole.
o Putting Jesus Front and Center. PIU is established on solid Christian foundations. Having WATS at its core, providing required training to all PIU students in Spiritual Formation and Christian Worldview, is a signal to all stakeholders and the public that we are unapologetically and thoroughly a biblically-based and Christ-centered institution.
o Spiritual formation training. At the core of PIU is its founding pledge to train students who will “stand for a lifetime,” on sound and godly principles. PIU is open to students from all creeds and religions, but participation in our spiritual formation training and other generally required Christian activities is mandatory.
o Christian worldview training. The modern clash of worldviews in which New Age, Post-Modern, and other secular philosophical and social systems are taking over academia worldwide requires PIU to inculcate deeply the values and necessities of a biblical and Christian worldview. WATS bears this responsibility vis-à-vis the entire university, ensuring that PIU will graduate students who are thoroughly grounded in a biblical worldview.
Why is WATS Autonomy Important?
WATS must always remain WATS. Historically, seminaries that have evolved into universities have normally experienced the loss of original vision and spirituality, though we believe this can and must be avoided in the case of WATS. The PIU/WATS vision is therefore unique—with WATS retaining its own integrity and autonomy yet coming alongside all other faculties. While WATS must accept the high standards of PIU (spiritually, morally, academically, financially, etc.), it will remain forever autonomous in its name, its governance and its administration. PIU will expect WATS to remain true to its own founding mission and theology. Joining PIU must not change the fundamental nature of WATS that has characterized it since its founding in 1989.
How do we Move Forward?
These are exciting days both for PIU and for WATS. Over coming months and years, PIU will experience drastic growth and development. Space and facilities for the future relocation of WATS will be gradually made available. In the meantime, the robust relationship with PIU and WATS has already begun. Through the prayers and other support of God’s people and through the continued providential guidance of God, we will see this God-inspired partnership through to an exciting and transforming end.