UM Theological Institution Association Launched
The first ever African Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions was officially launched at the Africa University campus on Sept. 6, 2011. The event was witnessed by members of the African College of Bishops and deans of faculties and heads of United Methodist-related theological institutions in Africa. The launch coincided with the annual African College of Bishops meeting.
The launch was preceded by a two-day working session which was attended by representatives of the African Episcopal areas of the United Methodist Church who serve in United Methodist-related theological institutions.
“The formation of this association will enable us to retain our identity as The United Methodist Church in Africa,” said Rev. Dr. Beauty Maenzanise, dean at Africa University’s Faculty of Theology.
Bishop Gaspar Domingos, president of the Africa Central Conference concurred, saying the association was being formed at the right moment in Africa’s development. “African wisdom needs to be collected and at this moment, Africa needs information which is contextual to its history, identity and struggles.” Bishop Domingos added. He said for a long time, African students of theology were taught and conditioned to quote western theologians, but he was optimistic that this association would help to promote the referencing of African theological thinkers.
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, resident bishop of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church, added that the formation of the association would see the expansion of theological education on the African continent.
President-elect of the association and long time proponent of the need for an African theological association, Professor Kasap Owan said the objectives of the association were to create common programs and structures in all theological institutions of The United Methodist Church in Africa. Capacity strengthening in the areas of library development, staff development, development of doctoral programmes, exchange programs would be some of the priority areas for the association.
“This association will aim to coordinate the teaching of Methodist theology on the African continent, and we count on the support of the leadership of the global Church to make this initiative possible,” he said.
The Rev. Rena Yocom, assistant general secretary for Clergy Formation and Theological Education, the General Board Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the association would enhance and coordinate the work of theologians belonging to The United Methodist Church in Africa.
In a joint submission to the African College of Bishops, the African Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions said the purpose of the association was to guide all United Methodist theological institutions in Africa toward offering relevant and redemptive studies for future leaders of the church and world. To do this, the association would identify, articulate, and respond to challenges, trends, and opportunities in theological education with particular emphasis on the Wesleyan heritage.”
Leaders of the association were elected from the three Central Conferences of the church which are the Africa Central Conference, Congo Central Conference, and West Africa Central Conference. Dr. Kasap Owan, president of the Katanga Methodist University, Democratic Republic of Congo, was elected as president. Rev. Yatta Young, from the Liberia Annual Conference and dean of the Gbarnga School of Theology in Liberia, was elected vice president. Julio Vilanculo, an Africa University alumnus and director of Mission and Theology at the Cambine Mission Center, Mozambique, was elected as secretary.
The following were elected as Conveners of Languages for the respective annual conferences: French: Lody Pungumbu; Portuguese: Andre Feijo; English: Isaac Kyambadde; and member-at-large, Dr. Maraidzo Mutambara, a lecturer at Africa University’s Faculty of Theology.
Seven representatives from theological institutions of the respective United Methodist annual conferences in Africa attended the historic meeting: Maenzanise; Rev. Sanda Sanganza, Africa University lecturer; Rev. Guy Mande Muyombo, an Africa University alumnus and president of the Kamina Methodist University in North Katanga, DRC; and Rev. Kimba Evariste, also an AU alumnus and president of the Kabongo Methodist University in North Katanga, DRC.
The newly formed association supported a petition going to the General Conference in April, 2012, that would form a Central Conference Theological Education Fund which would be apportioned to respective annual conferences. Such a fund could be used for the development of theological schools, Course of Study materials; development of libraries and contextually developed resources; scholarships, faculty development, as well as support for associations, networks of faculty and schools and new approaches to theological education.
The proposal includes the creation of a committee of persons named by the Central Conferences to provide oversight to the policies/procedures/disbursements of the Central Conference Theological Education in Africa. It would be elected by the Council of Bishops and would include one person from each episcopal area, selected from the African College of Bishops, Boards of Ordained Ministry, and theological Schools. There would also be representatives of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the General Board of Global Ministries. The proposal would make a total of $5 million available in the 2013-2016 quadrennium, and would be administered by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
According to Bishop David Yemba, the idea to set up the African Association of United Methodist Theologians has a beginning in the Francophone Geneva Group of The United Methodist Church and was re-emphasized in both the Kampala and Atlanta consultations on global United Methodist theological education. This was affirmed by the United Methodist African bishops. Implementation of the event was organized through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and made possible through Africa Theological Education Initiative quadrennial fund.
*Article produced by Sharai Nondo, Acting Director of Information and Public Affairs, Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe.