Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Checking out the Future: A Perspective from African Theological Education

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Checking out the Future: A Perspective from African Theological Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article refers to the Global Survey on Theological Education, conducted between 2011 and 2013, to provide sub-Saharan African critical reflection on the future of theological education in the continent. It considers the many contextual factors and shifting world views shaping Africa today, including the demographic shift of the heartlands of Christianity from the North to the South. It summarises and analyses seven critical responses from the survey findings, concluding that issues such as accreditation, accountability, integrity of leaders, viability of vision, and collaboration must be perceived in their interdependence and addressed systematically and comprehensively for the future of theological education in African Christianity.

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Between 2011 and 2013, a Global Survey on Theological Education (hereafter, the survey) was conducted. It was launched in October 2011 and concluded in June 2013 (21 months); more than 1650 responses from theological educators and church leaders in eight languages from all parts of the world and practically every church denomination were gathered. The survey was a joint research project of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Theological Education; McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago; the Ecumenical Theological Education Programme; World Council of Churches, Geneva; and the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston. The report indicated that 86 percent of the respondents see theological education as most important for the future of world Christianity. (2)

The various responses to the survey indicate that theological education has gone from a mere church's and theological educators' concern to a critical imperative with implications for transformation on which the very future of Christianity rests. This current picture shows that African Christianity and God's mission are standing at a precipice. This means that to neglect theological education is an abortive stance that has serious implications for the future of Christianity and God's mission in Africa. In order to secure the seemingly uncertain future of African Christianity and God's mission, the church is presented with two options. First, it can choose to stand idle and continue the march into an oblivious future where there is a possibility of Christianity becoming history--not the history of Christianity, but Christianity as the story of the past. Second, the church can choose to take action and reclaim a future and re-future it (give it an alternative future) in the direction of a paradigm of the reign of God's kingdom. The former is easier; the latter requires deliberate and conscious effort to ensure a sustainable future of theological education in Africa.

This article takes the survey as its point of departure to give an African--more specifically, a sub-Saharan African--critical reflection on the future of theological education in the continent. Yet it is important to understand the forces currently pressing on theological educational methodology and the implications they have on doing theology in Africa.

A Complex, Changing, and Challenging Context

Today's Africa is being shaped by numerous contextual factors. These challenges are defining and shaping the image of African Christianity. To understand theological education in Africa, we must first understand the contextual forces that, when taken together, are challenging the very nature of theological education. They are crucial in defining quality in theological education; developing educational frameworks, organizations, and philosophies; designing, developing, and evaluating curricula; developing faculties; and rethinking institutional structures. But what are these contextual challenges shaping the African continent? What are their implications for theological education? There are many challenges; here I limit myself to a few, such as worldview shift, demographic shift in Christianity, socio-political and economic pressure, globalization, and pluralism. …

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