Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Theological Education in the Brazilian Context

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Theological Education in the Brazilian Context

Article excerpt

The Background of Theological Education in Brazil

To speak of theological education in the Brazilian context, it is necessary to recall a bit of the history of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB) and its search for autonomy and contextualization. Compared with other provinces in the Anglican Communion, the IEAB is relatively young: it became independent in 1965, only forty-three years ago. Nonetheless, Anglican history in Brazil goes back to the second half of the nineteenth century and the colonial chaplaincies.

Initially these chaplaincies sought to isolate themselves from the local culture; they celebrated the liturgy only in English and did not show any initiative toward enculturation. Only in 1890 did the Anglican witness begin to make itself heard in the local language. This happened through the work of two US missionaries from Virginia Theological Seminary, James Morris and Lucien Lee Kinsolving, later the first Anglican bishop for Brazil They both tried to learn Portuguese and soon established missions that would later become parishes. But the two missionaries alone could not meet the needs of the Brazilian people; the growing church needed to train persons with vocations to serve in a pastoral capacity. In 1893 the first two Brazilian deacons were ordained, but they had no theological training. At the first convocation in which he participated, one of them, Vicente Brande, requested that the church strive to offer theological training for the laity and for candidates for ordained ministry. That convocation charged the missionary William Cabel Brown with this task.

Over the next two years, a committee studied the feasibility of founding a seminary, and William Brown was made supervisor of theological education. Nearby missionaries directly tutored interested students. At the convocation of 1900, noting the surge in the number of Brazilians with vocations, Bishop Kinsolving declared that it was time to make the seminary a reality. So on June 15, 1903, the first Episcopal seminary in Brazil officially opened in Rio Grande with eight students-a date the IEAB officially marks as Theological Education Day. The seminary initially operated in a residence. Students were divided into two groups, one of which undertook preparatory work, while the other group studied for the ministry. The seminary geared its program to ministry to the Brazilian public. In addition to the emphasis on Brazilian history and Portuguese language, there was a requirement that students involve themselves in missionary activities in both rural and urban areas, in prisons, and in other missionary situations.

But in 1909, fearful that the Brazilian church would not be able to support the clergy financially, Bishop Kinsolving decided to close the seminary, setting a precedent that has been followed frequently. (In a country with an unstable economy and a church that was not yet independent or self-supporting, the first target of cost containment was always theological education.) In subsequent years, Bishop Kinsolving called on the pioneer missionary James Watson Morris to come back to Brazil to coordinate theological education. Morris accepted, but with the condition that the seminary would never again close its doors. And so in 1920 the seminary was reopened, this time in the city of Porto Alegre. But Morris's condition was not met: in 1933 the seminary again suspended its activities for lack of candidates, only to reopen two years later.

In the 1950s the church invested heavily in theological education, and the seminary became a College of Theology, with a faculty that included professors from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and the Pontifical Catholic University of Porto Alegre. The seminary regularly invited theologians from Europe and the United States to share their research. It sought to maintain a standard of excellence that included academic rigor, devotional life, and commitment to mission and contextualization. …

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