It is gratifying through this volume to see how seriously the Churches consider theological education. After all, this is what will determine the quality of ministerial leadership which in turn has important repercussions for the kind of churches that evolve and the calibre of Christian disciples that will be nurtured.
In the early 1970s, I was privileged to serve the Churches of Africa. I was an associate director of the Theological Education Fund (TEF) of the World Council of Churches with area responsibility for sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the African countries that had thrown off the colonial yoke found that they were now facing an epidemic of military coups and vicious dictatorships of the Idi Amins, Hastings Bandas, and the Mobutus. The downtrodden discovered that the only thing that had changed was the complexion of their oppressor. Angola and Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) were ruled by Portugal, South West Africa (now Namibia) and South Africa were languishing under the boot of apartheid and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was ruled by whites as well.
The TEF's Third Mandate was summed up as ‘contextualisation’ not ‘indigenisation’, which was thought to be too backward looking and too anthropological. Contextualisation sought to deal with our present reality, this so-called Sitz im Leben. We concentrated on three areas. The first was faculty development, aiming to produce competent theological teachers who could pass muster as staff in any academic institution anywhere in the world. Such qualified personnel would be able to shape theological students academically to hold their own with their peers anywhere in the world and who would learn to theologise authentically in their particular context. We secondly wanted to help theological institutions and faculties to improve their libraries. Thirdly, we wanted to help establish associations of theological institutions and teachers as the ecumenical dimension of our work.
We all hoped that the students who went through these institutions would be able to think theologically, apply what they had learnt to their contexts relevantly, think critically, and act prophetically – that they would exercise their ministerial functions competently and that they would be persons who were growing in their spiritual and prayer life.
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