‘Not to prioritize theological education is a betrayal of the reformation tradition’

Rev Akuila Yabaki, Executive member of the World Association for Christian Communication-Pacific region and WACC Global Board member shares his impressions on the Twin Consultation, Reformation—Education—Transformation that took place in Halle, Germany, 18-22 May 2016.

In sharing my impressions of my participation in the second part of the Twin Consultation on Reformation-Education-Transformation which took place on 18-22 May 2016 in Halle, Germany, I was assigned the role of listener in one of the workshops focusing on Looking at Innovative Models –within Traditional Structures: What space for Transformative Education Can the Churches Offer?

Halle itself is at the centre of a region with a rich reformation tradition. Not far from Wittenberg, the town where on 31st October 1517 Luther is reputed to have posted his 95 theses denouncing church abuses. Even closer is Eisleben, where Luther was born in 1483 and where he died in 1546. Yet the region is now one of the world’s most non-religious territories.

According to a 2012 study, 52 percent of people in eastern Germany said they did not believe in God – compared to 10 percent in western Germany. However, we participants coming from as far away as Cuba, Chile, Greece, Haiti, Myanmar, Botswana. Fiji, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Korea, South Africa, United States, Zimbabwe, re-affirmed the commitment to theological education and highlighted it as a key priority and essential component in ecumenical partnership. Not to do so would be a betrayal of theological education tradition of the Reformation.

Clergy are to be educated not only in theology but broadly educated and where possible to be keeping abreast with intellectual current issues and questions. This calls for prioritizing and strategic financial planning for scholarship programmes towards capacity building for Christian prophetic leadership development both at the regional and international levels.

In order for education to be transformative, it needs to struggle against inequalities and religious intolerance, promote respect and embrace religious diversity and dialogue. Therefore a common denominator which is to be seriously taken into account is consideration of the hermeneutical and contextual factors.

It is important for churches to develop a National Master Plan taking into account the national context. In India, for instance, the banking approach is still rife as pupils go to study in order to pass exams to get jobs. We also heard about extremist groups in India and a trend that religious education was being pushed out of the public space.

Similarly in Myanmar churches have a significant role in education but the militarised government introduced restrictions so that children missed out on not having the benefit of religious education; now with return to some form of democracy free space is offered but rulers are nervous about proselytization.

The Content is to be transformative. Examples of this:

  • In Korea, Biblical stories are being used for transformative political context and this has led to faith flourishing amongst lay people during military dictatorship.
  • In South Africa, seven churches came to an arrangement where each contributes to funding theological education for pastors.
  • In Indonesia, instead of fund raising there was a process of ''friend raising'' to support undergraduate studies for training pastors to serve immediate needs.

The McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago Study programme insists for students to go out to see and interact and reflect back on their outings. Learning about love of neighbour of other faiths by visiting Jewish synagogues and joining in public demonstration in support of immigrants and sometimes face detention by the police. In the context of the gun culture in Chicago, at college worship, the names of those killed in the streets are read out and candles are lit in memory of the named victims.

Students are not to be passive recipients of knowledge. Instilling in them a commitment to diversity that the gospel is understood better when they cross barriers; when they act to cultivate the gift of grace and respect for differences.



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