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African Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions launched at Africa University

The first ever African Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions was officially launched at the Africa University campus on Tuesday 6 September 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 which was hosted at the Africa University campus from 5-9 September 2011.

The launch was preceded by a two day working session from September 5-6 2011, which was attended by representatives of the African Episcopal areas of the United Methodist Church who serve in United Methodist-related theological institutions. The working session saw the representatives mapping modalities for the set up of the Association.

“The formation of this Association will enable us to retain our identity as the United Methodist Church in Africa,” said Reverend 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 and 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. Resident Bishop of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa 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 Owan Kasap highlighted that the objectives of the Association were to create common programmes, 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 programmes 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,” said Professor Owan.

Assistant General Secretary for  Clergy Formation and Theological Education, Dr Rena Yocom was confident about the launch and said it would be an association set up to 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 towards 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.

The meeting saw the election of the leadership of the Association who were derived from the three central conferences of the church which are the Africa Central Conference, Congo Central Conference and West Africa Central Conference. They would be given a four year mandate. Dr Kasap Owan, President of the Katanga Methodist University, DRC was elected as President. Reverend Yatta Young, from the Liberia Annual Conference and Dean of the Gbarnga School of Theology in Liberia was elected Vice President, with Julio Vilanculo, an Africa University alumnus and Director of Mission and Theology at the Cambine Mission Centre, 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  Africa University’s Faculty of Theology.

In addition to those named above, representatives from theological institutions of the respective United Methodist Annual Conferences in Africa attended the historic meet convened at the Africa University campus in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Reverend Dr Beauty Maenzanise, Dean in the Faculty of Theology and lecturer, Reverend Sanda Sanganza. Reverend Guy Mande Muyombo, an Africa University alumnus and President of the Kamina Methodist University in North Katanga, DRC, Reverend Kimba Evariste, also an AU alumnus and President of the Kabongo Methodist University in North Katanga, DRC, and Dr Rena Yocom served as the resource person for the meet.

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 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 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 re-emphasized in both the Kampala and Atlanta consultations on global United Methodist Theological Education This was affirmed by the United Methodist African Bishops, at St Simons, Epworth, by the Sea. Implementation of the event was organized through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and made possible through the quadrennial fund on Africa Theological Education Initiative.

Article produced by Sharai Nondo, Acting Director of Information and Public Affairs, Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe with contributions from Dr Rena Yocom, GBHEM.