9-10 April 2021
The Africa University College of Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education (CSSTHE) through its Institute of Theology and Religious Studies hosted the the AAUMTI (African Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions) Virtual International Conference from the 9th to the 10th of April 2021. The conference held under the theme, “United Methodist Church Theological Education in Africa in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic : Reflections on challenges, opportunities and lessons” ,provided a platform for intensive and honest dialogue of the church , its role during the Pandemic in the society beyond theological circles and the hindrances that the Pandemic has caused within the ministry.
Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mageto in his welcoming remarks emphasized the importance for increased reflection and discussion in theological education more so during the Pandemic. He said,
“We find ourselves as Africa University playing a critical role in coordinating and facilitating conferences like these that provide a platform for dialogue into how we can ensure the continuation of education despite the pandemic. We have an opportune moment to brainstorm on theology that is informed and founded on critical and radical thinking shaped by revelation. While our focus for this conference is COVID- 19 and theological discourse, quality theological education that shapes lives should be our chief aspiration. Almost all the UMC Theological institutions in Africa are still in their infancy and yet to acquire their own spaces to operate from and these realities have provided restrictions in the ability to deliver the quality theological education that we so desire. COVID 19 has only served to exacerbate these challenges most especially access to e- learning technologies.
Proceeding to highlight the importance of e-learning and the opportunities it brings to solve issues in access to quality education among African theological schools, Prof Mageto went on to say,
“Virtual learning is here to stay for some time to come . We will continue to provide as much support to the church as possible. We have managed to train clergy in online technology and how to use it to bridge the education access gap in communities through generous funding from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry which we greatly appreciate. Africa University is committed to this journey and we look forward to doing so much more for communities, industry and beyond”
The AAUMTI has membership in at least 10 African countries comprising theological schools across the continent. The core objective of the Association is to be a conduit through which resources, knowledge and perspectives on African theological education can be shared and disseminated.
Dean of the CSSTHE Professor Grima Menelik and Director of the Office of Research and Innovation Professor Pamela Machakanja highlighted the importance and the need for increased research output from theological schools that is impactful and relevant.
Professor Machakanja said,
“Research should be embedded in all our interventions that benefit our societies. Unless research responds to clear and present challenges, then it has no value. It should uplift the lives of the people and be informed by the theories of change and transformation. We value research that is multidisciplinary and uses a multiplicity of methodologies and perspectives so that we see problems through different eyes. We urge theologians as visionaries of theological education to reimagine education in Africa and to consider how these fit into the global context.”
A range of dynamic keynote speakers that included Prof. Isabel Apawo Phiri, World Council of Churches Associate General Secretary, Prof. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, President of the University of Liberia ,Prof. Ezra Chitando, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Zimbabwe and Africa University’s Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mageto , kept conference attendees engaged with critical and thought provoking topics.
Presentations delivered tackled a range of critical issues that included embedding resilience of knowledge into theological education that can transcend pandemics, ministering to the faithful from a distance , inclusive religion that transcends denominations and nurtures spiritual wellbeing and mental care and phasing out out of touch teaching methods in favor of those that create life- long learners and problem solvers for the continent.