Handbook of Theological Education in Africa/Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism

By Kater, John L. | Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Handbook of Theological Education in Africa/Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism


Kater, John L., Anglican and Episcopal History


Handbook of Theological Education in Africa. Edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri and Dietrich Wemer. (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2013, Pp. xxx, 1113. £54.99); Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism. Edited by Hope Antone, Wati Longchar, Hyunju Bae, Huan Po Ho, and Dietrich Wemer. (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2013, Pp. xxii, 666. £38.49.)

A volume of more than 1100 pages, which aims to provide a thorough survey of theological education on the African continent and includes more than one hundred chapters (several of them in French) by an incredibly diverse group of authors, is a daunting read. To attempt to review such a volume seems almost so daunting as to be foolhardy. This is not a volume for a bedside table; although it provides a truly noteworthy compendium of information on a subject of more than peripheral interest to some, its sheer size and volume make it a valuable resource but also surely limit its audience.

The preparation of this volume followed the 2010 publication of the World Council of Churches' The Handbook for Theological Education in World Christianity (which includes only sixteen contributions from Africa). The editors of this volume, Isabel Phiri of South Africa and Dietrich Wemer of Germany, identified five goals: to provide regional analysis of theological education across Africa; to identify common themes and challenges; to describe new forms of theological education emerging in Africa; to provide more visibility to African institutions of theological education; and to encourage cooperation among those institutions (xxvii).

The breadth of diversity to be found among its authors, the overwhelming majority of whom are African, is itself instructive in the sense that it illustrates just how mammoth a job the editors have set themselves. Theological education across the continent is as multi-faceted as the contexts in which it takes place, from Egypt to South Africa and from the Adantic to the Indian Oceans. Along the way we encounter many common themes (and inevitable repetitions) and also of settings vastly different from each other.

The task of editing such a volume must have been nearly overwhelming. Most of the authors are writing in their second (or third, or fourth) language, yet the prose as it appears in print is nearly always clear and correct. One advantage of such a volume is that it gives access to many theologians and educators from across the continent whose voice and audience are often severely limited.

The recurring commonalities from across the continent are many. Perhaps the most important is the legacy of colonialism and its heritage. This includes privileging European languages, imposing western academic models and pedagogies on peoples whose perspective is radically different, denominational competition, and uncertainty with regard to how true inculturation might re-shape the enterprise of theological education.

In many parts of Africa, the emergence of new religious movements and conflict with other traditions, especially Islam, also impacts the process of theological education. And as the gap between the experience of African Christians and those in the West grows, that conflicted relationship also impacts the educational enterprise.

Although the social and political landscape across the African continent is as diverse as that of any other region of the world, some shared realities also take their toll on theological education. The HIV/AIDS crisis has had enormous effects on church life, and therefore on theological education, throughout the continent. At the same time, it has challenged the churches to both a pastoral response and to consider its implications for theological education. Seven chapters of this volume are dedicated to "gender issues and HIV/AIDS," which might seem an odd juxtaposition except that the AIDS crisis dramatically affects families.

Furthermore, most African countries have experienced violence in varying degrees. …

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