Landmark Ph.D. Consultation for Africa

LPI Scholars Director Meritt SawyerBy Meritt Sawyer, International Program Director, Scholars

Langham Partnership International was one of the primary funders of a landmark consultation for faculty development and doctoral training in Africa held this August. Held by Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), it was hosted by the leadership of NEGST, the Faculté de Théologie Évangélique de Bangui (FATEB) and the Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA). This upbeat, collegial consultation was conceived, planned, and delivered almost exclusively by Africans. It was by Africans for Africa. Whereas many “muzungu” (a.k.a. expatriate; ghostlike) expressed their forceful desires to participate, the consultation leadership doggedly limited the number to 40 with one westerner from each funding organization. Therefore, I was one of only six muzungu and the only woman. I was proud to represent Langham when Douglas Carew of NEGST challenged the participants of the female leadership void!

Langham Partnership International at Ph.D. Consultation in AfricaLangham scholars were well represented in this select group: Douglas Carew, Tewoldmedhin Habtu, Edison Kalengyo, Henry Mutua, Moussa Bongoyok, Zac Niringiye, and Jehu Hanciles. Of particular note was the plenary speaker, Dr. Andrew Walls. The discussion around his two deliveries was worth the price of the ticket alone.

Statement of Need

As the growth of African Christianity outpaces that of many other geographical areas of the world, the theological and educational needs within the African church are rising. Furthermore as the church grows, African church leaders are increasingly thrust into greater leadership roles. Leaders in African theological institutions must plan, in a concerted and collaborative manner, how to meet burgeoning educational needs. Theological institutions in Africa face significant obstacles in providing quality education and learning opportunities. One such problem is the “brain drain” as many of the best scholars and leaders in Africa are trained at great cost but attracted to service outside the continent. In addition, theological institutions have been forced to operate in relative isolation and independence due to the difficulty of communication and travel. Limited resources have also prevented adequate execution. But the development of travel and the internet have created opportunities for theological institutions and funding ministries to create networks for collaboration and consider innovative solutions.

This Consultation was convened in light of this new day for theological education and provided a forum for representatives of leading evangelical theological institutions in Africa, prominent church leaders, scholars, and key supporting agencies to collaborate by defining the needs for faculty development and evangelical training at doctoral levels in Africa. Participants strategized together on ways to meet these needs within Africa. As result, a Blueprint for Evangelical Doctoral Education in Africa was produced.

The goals were:

1) to create an ongoing collaborative network of theological institutions offering or hoping to offer doctoral level training.

2) to spearhead a plan for providing faculty development and doctoral level training in Africa.

3) to create the Blueprint for Evangelical Doctoral Training in Africa.

The discussion topics were:

1. The underlying philosophy of missiologically-based doctoral level theological education and the rationale for developing these doctoral programs in Africa.

2. The challenges and solutions found for developing distinctive programs that are sensitive to African social realities.

3. The need for collaboration, rather than competition, between African theological educational institutions.

4. Program delivery options, including modular courses and distance learning, dissertation only/course work and dissertation, etc.

5. Options for theological education in national universities in Africa (Stellenbosch, Potchefstroom, University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, UNISA, universities in Kenya or Nigeria).

6. Evaluating the value of linking with Western institutions.

7. Positions, assumptions, ethos, and outcomes in defining curriculum of relevance to the African Church.

8. Opportunities for presenting each participating institutions’ dreams, program, and plans.

Blueprint for Evangelical Doctoral Training in Africa

The Blueprint for Evangelical Doctoral Training in Africa will serve as the starting point for future meetings and collaborations ahead. This is the good news. This Consultation was not perceived as an end-game. It was heralded as a prompt to launch, even provoke, collaborative efforts. Let us pray this will be the beginning of the end for independent competitive ventures for theological education in Africa. Let us pray this will be a witness to the Church. Let us pray the western theological institutions will be willing to provide complementary service which will further inspire teamwork for the gospel. Let us also pray this venture will serve as a model for doctoral education on other continents. It was a privilege to participate in this Consultation.

Institutions represented were:
Africa Nazarene University (Nigeria)
Akrofi-Christaller (Ghana)
EGST (Ethiopia)
FATEB (Central African Republic)
FATEAC (Côte d’Ivoire)
George Whitfield College (South Africa)
JETS (Nigeria)
NEGST (Kenya)
Nigerian Baptist Seminary (Nigeria)
South Africa Theological Seminary (South Africa)
Scott Theological College (Kenya)
TCCA (Zambia)
Uganda Christian University (Uganda)