1. bookVolume 6 (2020): Issue 1 (January 2020)
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Educating for Social Holiness in Institutions of Higher Education in Africa: Toward an Innovative Afrocentric Curriculum for Methodist Theological Education

Published Online: 14 Apr 2021
Page range: 21 - 34
Journal Details
License
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Journal
First Published
20 Sep 2020
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

In 2016, South Africa saw student and staff protests calling for the decolonisation of the teaching curriculum in institutions of Higher Education. Although these protests were centred in public universities, the issue of decolonisation also affects private institutions such as seminaries that need to transform curricula from being permeated with Western idealism to being authentically African. This article explores this issue for Methodist theological education. It argues that decolonisation affects not only the content of the teaching curriculum but also matters such as staffing and curriculum development. Its focus is to develop ways of implementing an Afrocentric curriculum in African Methodist seminaries.

Keywords

Introduction

It is the mind you have to draw out, and mould, and fit for its duties to itself, to mankind [sic] and to its maker. From the child's first entrance into your school, your object is to train him to think, and to teach him how to think.

John Wesley cited in Davies, 180.

The above extract is from one of John Wesley's most quotable expressions of his view of the role of Methodism in education. As gleaned from the quoted extract, Wesley's understanding of the purpose of education was to train the mind to think independently so that it can serve itself, its community and God. It is for this reason that the learner must be taught to think, from cradle to institution of higher learning. Viewed from this perspective, education is, positively, to enable learners to be free to think, and negatively, to not limit their ability to think for themselves. It is not aimed at perpetuating contemporary hegemony by forcing people to adopt the dominant knowledge. Instead, it is to enable them to be free to think outside the confines of the dominant knowledge. From this, one can deduce that Wesley would have encouraged Methodist institutions – whether theological or secular – to mould learners into critical thinkers.

While all Higher Education in southern Africa is presently in crisis, theological education is in an even deeper crisis. This was apparent in 2016 when students from institutions of Higher Education embarked on protest action calling for the decolonisation of Higher Education in the country. Now and again these protests turned violent, buildings were torched, people were injured and some students were even imprisoned. It can therefore be deduced without reservation that the teaching curriculum of Higher Education is facing a major crisis. The theological curriculum is not exempted from this crisis, and there have been calls from seminary students, including Methodists, for the Africanisation of theological education in their church-owned and -run institutions. Aesthetics of campuses, the curriculum of teaching programmes, and the goals, content and methods of teaching and research have all been called into question. The main question concerns whose interests are being serving and whether they hold relevance in the African context. Scrutinising them closely, it is obvious that those entrusted with the task of training students of theology in Methodist institutions have an urgent responsibility and task ahead.

Although theological educators have always realised the need to contextualise their education, there is no evidence whatsoever that they saw the value of decolonising it. It is often claimed that most theological education is apolitical and universal. It is only after the protests in 2016 that the task of decolonising theological education was seen as an imperative that needs serious attention. Two intertwined questions arise:

How do we achieve this? And where do we even begin to talk of decolonising our curriculum as a church institution?

The Christian faith is understood to be universal and global, and thus relevant for Africa. As a consequence, the Africanisation of theological education has not only been marginalised by Western-aligned thinking of institutions of learning and ministerial formation, but has not even been taken seriously by those institutions that have positioned themselves behind the shadow of enculturation. Those academics in South African public institutions who are engaged in the ongoing discourse of decolonising education view it as being of crucial importance for the development of knowledge about and for the African continent and the development of its peoples. Decolonising theological education thus has value not only for the African church but also for the global church as it too benefits from the new insights and body of knowledge that will emerge from the African continent.

What then are the implications for Methodist theological education and ministerial formation in the call for the decolonisation of Higher Education in the African continent? In what follows in this article, my central aim will be to explore and suggest sinews of a decolonised curriculum of theological education that will hold relevance in the African context.

Briefly, my aim will be to discuss the implications of the call for the decolonisation of Higher Education for Methodist institutions and their education in the post-colonial era. First, drawing from the work of Molefe Kete Asante, Professor and Chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Temple University, on Afrocentricity, I argue for the Africanisation of theological education as an urgent task. I propose that we use Afrocentricity as a theoretical tool for identifying the areas where some key aspects of African culture can be added into the teaching curriculum. My proposals are also practical, although undergirded by sound theological and philosophical foundational motivations. It is for this reason that I have also made use of the works of seminal African Methodist thinkers such as Kwesi Dickson, Bolaji Idowu and Gabriel Setiloane. These thinkers inform my assumptions and proposals throughout this article. All these – with the exception of Molefe Asante – were outstanding Methodist theological thinkers from the African continent. All of them tend to be Africanist, post-colonial, reactionary and neo-orthodox in their individual approaches, yet they each add value to the question of Africanising theological education. It is for this reason that they need to be consulted and engaged in this article. I offer ways to imagine Methodist education that takes into consideration the language and experiences of the African people as a way of decolonising the curriculum in institutions of Higher Education. I then demonstrate that African institutions of higher learning offer a site of struggle between Eurocentric and Afrocentric approaches to theological education. I go on to propose a way forward by pointing to sinews of a decolonised theological education curriculum in Africa. Finally, I draw the discussion to a conclusion, highlighting the importance of reimaging the teaching curriculum in all Methodist institutions of higher learning.

The article is my contribution to the theological educators and leaders of institutions of higher learning, who by virtue of their chosen vocation must deal with issues of how to structure a curriculum that takes into account the needs of the African church in a post-colonial era. In this sense, they are not simply educators but prophets and architects of Methodism for the coming generations. This article will therefore highlight their role as theological educators needing to respond to the critical question of Afrocentricity and the emerging vision of what a well-educated African Methodist bishop, theologian or minister should be like.

Decolonisation as a Process toward Afrocentricity

George Mukuka has observed, ‘theories are essential to making muted voices audible’.

Mukuka, 11.

Finding agreement with Mukuka's assertion, Tinyiko Maluleke argues that ‘skipping theories will be like plunging into a war-zone without arms’.

Maluleke, 41–61.

Theories are key to explaining the transactions that took place in the encounter between ‘black people and the Christian missionary enterprise, modernity, and imperial authorities’.

Maluleke, 61.

Utilising the theory of Afrocentricity, this study of the decolonisation of theological education in seminaries and schools owned and operated by churches whose origins and cultures are Eurocentric aims to understand how Africanism or Black Consciousness

See Biko, 48–53.

can be inculcated in these institutions. The central question this article seeks to answer is:

How can the curriculum of Methodist institutions be decolonised to take into account the African context?

A second question that this article will address is:

How should such a teaching curriculum promote African consciousness and pride without perpetuating African nationalism and narrow ethnicity?

In answering these two important questions, I will use the Afrocentric paradigm, which is also known as the theory of Afrocentricity as postulated by Molefi Kete Asante. Asante defines Afrocentricity as:

A mode of thought and action in which the centrality of African interests, values and perspectives predominates…the idea that blackness itself is a troupe of ethics. Thus, to be black is to be against all forms of oppression… [especially] white racial domination.

Asante 2003, 2.

For Asante, the theory of Afrocentricity places Africa at the centre of analysis involving African culture and behaviour, traditions and history. As Michael Barnett and Adwoa Onuora writing in the context of Rastafarianism suggest:

Rastafarian religions and social movements is clearly Afriocentrically based especially when compared to African indigenous religions that claim an Afrocentric orientation.

Barnett and Onuora, 159.

Accordingly, they go on to assert that religious groupings (churches included) and social movements must be African-based especially when compared to African indigenous religions that claim an Afrocentric orientation.

Barnett and Onuora, 159, 163.

Ama Mazama takes this explanation even further by asserting that this theory is based on African’ epistemological centeredness’.

Mazama, 3.

Building on Asante and Mazama's definitions, we can conclude that the notion of Afrocentricity includes perspectives that place individuals in their cultural, religious, social and political contexts so that they can relate these to complex perspectives in the world. The advantage of this theory is that, even though it emphasises the experiences of Africans, it can also be used to analyse situations of other marginalised peoples of the world. This is possible because as Asante indicates:

In contradistinction to Eurocentrism's domineering and imposing ideological stance, Afrocentricity is an anti-hegemonic and antiracist framework that seeks redress to the marginalisation of alternative knowledge(s).

Asante 1991, 170–80.

Relating the Decolonisation of Education Debate to Methodist Theological Education: A South African Experience

Methodist ministerial training in Southern Africa commenced in 1867 at Healdtown Methodist Institution when the church accepted four young men as the first African ministerial students.

Richardson, 93.

From the very beginning, the training was focused on imparting Wesleyan knowledge and theology to the ministers so that they could disseminate it to their future congregations. Reflecting on the attitude of the leadership of Healdtown almost 90 years later, Nelson Mandela recalled the teachings of its principal, Dr Arthur Wellington, who had influenced him as a student:

The educated Englishman was our model; what we aspired to be were ‘black Englishmen’, as we were sometimes derisively called. We were taught – and believed – that the best ideas were English ideas, the best government was English government, and the best men were Englishmen.

Mandela, 37.

Echoing the same sentiments as Mandela, John S. Pobee says: ‘To be an African was to be discriminated against and treated as inferior to the white man, Africanisation tended to be preoccupied with political rights’.

Pobee, J.S., Skenosis: Christian faith in an African context, Mambo Press: Gweru, 1992:25.

Jesse Mugambi has observed that:

Whilst the church is growing most rapidly in the South, post theological reflection remains captive to a Western model of theologising which reflects the tension between African individual and communal culture and tendencies to individualism and isolation. The diet has been pre-packed theologies, ethical systems and pastoral methods that have all been imported from the West.

Mugambi, 5.

The reason for this is that when the church was first established on African soil, it was founded with the perspectives of the missionaries who came from the West. The problem with this model is that it imposed European culture onto the African people as the only civilised way of life, while, at the same time, it obliterated indigenous customs and conventions of African society, deeming them backwards, primitive and pagan. This led to the systematic destruction of African languages and eventually culture. People were made to feel as better beings if they lived lifestyles that were European in nature and spoke better English than others. As a consequence, English language and culture were both entrenched through education.

Moyo, 61.

Since the end of apartheid, there have been several attempts to transform the teaching curriculum in institutions of higher learning in order to meet the needs of African students. However, progress at times has been painfully slow and identifiable results limited. Some institutions have introduced Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) programmes, but these have failed to contribute to the changing of the whole curriculum.

Smit and Masoga, 5.

It is therefore not surprising that in February 2016, institutions of higher learning in South Africa were marked by protests that spread throughout the country like wildfire. By the time the protests had ended, damages were said to be amounting to R800,000,000 had been caused to university property.

Langa, 2017; HR Pulse, 2015.

Students from the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS) demanded permission to join the protest action. After some consideration and the laying down of clear conditions and rules, the leadership gave their permission. Some SMMS students who had participated in the protests then accused the SMMS of having an untransformed curriculum and called for its decolonisation.

Debriefing session, Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary chapel, 23 May 2016.

They felt that the studies offered by the SMMS did not adequately consider the cultural and spiritual experiences of their congregants. Accordingly, the courses of instruction did not appeal to them nor help them in their struggle for answers and healing in a post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa. As a result, the ministers felt that the SMMS had not prepared them properly for the work at hand. Their feeling was that Methodist studies must be adapted to local needs and experiences if they were to be relevant. Linked to this was the critical importance given to the translation and interpretation of Methodist doctrinal teachings into African languages. From this experience, it also became clear to some scholars that seminary education must also be transformed.

As Louw and Mouton have observed:

Ministerial skills, spiritual formations and a wider contextual involvement must also be viewed against the background of transformation in Higher Education and the impact on curriculising.

Cited in Naidoo, 23.

These transformations in Higher Education compelled universities to plan strategically for ‘recurriculising’ existing teaching programmes. It is a fact that there are major differences between public schools and schools run by faith communities especially for the training of their ministers. For example, while public schools or universities educate for ‘the development of cognitive skills and conveying information and knowledge’,

Harkness, 33–48.

seminaries go far beyond that. Over and above the development of cognitive skills and inculcation of academic knowledge, seminaries offer an education that is aimed at the transformation of the learner's life, their change in belief and growth in Christian discipleship. A divinity school or seminary therefore differs from other types of academic institutions dealing with religious questions, not necessarily in the range of subject studied, but in the fact that it has a specific focus on the Christian faith and is committed to the study of it from within. It cannot be neutral.

Beck, 181.

James Aggrey assets that ‘you should be doing religion and living education’.

James Aggrey cited in Smith, 87.

Religion is done in real contexts. That means religious education must be contextually relevant. As all education is done in context, this ultimately calls upon all seminaries in the African context to decolonise their education. It means that seminarians must be afforded opportunities to engage with grassroots communities and organisations so that they can learn emerging theologies from those who are practising theology or being church at the local level. Wolfram Kistner refers to these as the ‘epistemologically excluded’.

Cited in Frochtling and Kistner, 127.

They need to be included in the training and formation of their ministers. This means that theological education should be done from the context, grassroots and African experiences instead of relying on theology that is imported from the West or North and transplanted into the African soil. African students need a theology that draws from the experiences of oppression, poverty, global exclusion and economic exploitation. Albert Nolan, a South African Roman Catholic priest, member of the Dominican order and noted scholar of liberation theology, could assert that ‘the gospel is, and has always been, contextual’.

Nolan 8.

The advantage of using a contextual approach to theological education is that it enables educators and learners alike to learn from contextual events so that their learning is not only through unpacking concepts but also through developing the capacity to recognise God revealing God-self through real-life events. Learning from and through the context also means that they are free from the ‘banking approach to education’

Freire, 44.

against which the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire clearly warned. When the curriculum is contextualised, then a pre-packaged, depositing type of education from a different context to that of the learners can be circumvented. Furthermore, it allows prospective ministers and students of religion to reflect on teaching and learning events performed in context and thereby allow the emergence of new knowledge.

Freire 45.

In these terms, Brian Barnwell has observed that if theological education is to be contextual and meaningful for the students in the African church, ‘there needs to be far more experiential learning, involvement with people and their needs, with the right kind of supervised reflection’.

Banwell, 129–38.

Decolonisation of Theological Education in Africa

The critical question to be asked in the context of the decolonisation of Methodist theological education is as follows:

What kind of curriculum is suitable for the training of Methodist leaders?

This is a very important question considering the widespread calls for the decolonisation of Higher Education in South Africa in recent years. This call comes from the observation that there has been very little contribution from Africans in the curricula content of theology. As Gabriel Setiloane has observed:

Content-wise I believe we have now established the legitimacy of the African claim to a unique and different theological point of view within the Ecumenical Christian community because of their cultural, geographical, spiritual, social and temperamental background. We have contributed a little to the modern acceptance in World theological circles to the view that theology can only be, and is done in context. Because theology is a verbalisation of experiences of the divinity at work, difference in environment means different experiences of this all-pervasive divinity at work, and therefore different verbalisations of these experiences.

Setiloane 1979, 18.

From what Setiloane is saying, we can deduce that in South Africa, the education curriculum lacks ‘an indigenous cultural ingredient, namely the cultural capital of the African masses.’

Garutsa and Nekhwevha, 30.

There is also a need to draw resources from the field of IKS if we are to adapt Methodist studies into an Afrocentric curriculum. Such a curriculum, as suggested by Molefe Asante, can go a long way to contextualising Methodist studies in such a way that they embody the contextual experience of African ministers and their congregations. I am therefore proposing that the curriculum of Methodist studies must be adapted through the theory of Afrocentricity because this theory privileges the experiences of the African people. As Bolaji Idowu has succinctly observed, ‘we can only be truly Christian as we are truly and fully African’.

Cited in Setiloane 1979, 18.

Decolonisation can be simply understood as a process where a nation frees itself from domination by another, in culture, language, norms and values. According to Poka Laenui,

Laenui, 1.

decolonisation has five phases, namely, rediscovery and recovery, mourning, dreaming, commitment and action.

Nabudere, 12.

Rediscovery and recovery refer to the process whereby colonised people recover their history and language, culture and identity. Mourning refers to the processes of lamenting the continued assault on the world's oppressed people's identities and social realities. Dreaming is when the oppressed people evoke their histories, worldviews and indigenous knowledge systems theories and imagine alternative possibilities. Commitment is when the oppressed become political activists who demonstrate that such commitment is meant to include the voices of the colonised. Finally, action is the phase when dreams and commitment translate into strategies for social transformation. Most African countries still have to undergo this process. Education becomes a tool that can be used by a nation to decolonise itself.

Towards the Decolonisation of Methodist Theological Education

It is imperative that theological education prioritises African culture and African experiences during recurriculisation. As Neville Richardson has observed, there must be a clear realisation of the position of the church and its ministry in Africa. He thus argues:

As followers of John Wesley, Methodist ministers in training should embrace a balanced and practical form of Christianity which is at once individual and communal, deeply personal and socio-political.

Richardson, 91.

I would like to suggest that every Methodist institution must commit to offering a module on the indigenous people among which it finds itself located. It must teach the peoples’ language, culture and religion. This will serve a twofold purpose:

It will build a base for the teaching of Methodism and other subjects;

It will restore the dignity and knowledge of the indigenous people, which was decimated during the colonisation and Western mission era.

Wesleyan studies must be taught alongside indigenous subjects. The basis for this approach should be Afrikology. Afrikology is defined as ‘the study of the origins of human beings, and the epistemologies that emerged from the Cradle of Humankind’.

Rev. Ross Olivier, the first president of the SMMS, has asserted that ‘the Wesleyan heritage must be planted in the African soil.’ Cited in Bailie, 112.

This comes from the understanding that these are communal cultures, in contrast to the culture which came with the missionaries, which James Amanze has rightfully asserted is deficient:

The traditional theologies that have dominated the church since the colonial period has proven to be inadequate to address the political, cultural, social, religious and economic issues facing African people today.

Amanze, 122.

This means that there is a need to re-appropriate African experiences for the teaching curriculum. There is also a need to retrieve and appropriate African culture, values and aspirations to the curriculum of theological education. Ministerial students charged with the responsibility of leading churches and communities to freedom and development must embody these essentials and carry them into their pulpits and leadership practice in order to be of value to the African church.

The transformation of the teaching curriculum is critical because even though Africans have been affected by globalisation, modernity, technology and science, they still practice their cultures. These cultures consist of ‘art forms such as dance, rituals, healing and worship, and still employ survival strategies of traditional technology, medicine and health’.

Govender, 358–84.

It is for this reason that most Methodist Christians in the continent lead double lives. While they genuinely love and believe in Methodism, they also hold aspects of African traditional culture and religion, even if these seemingly contradict one another. They find ways of living with the contradictions as long as they bring peace to their lives or even heal ailments and diseases. One example is that of ancestor veneration or worship through the slaughtering of animals as sacrifices and performing of some rituals that give honour and prayers to the ancestors. While Methodism discourages such traditional practices without giving adequate doctrinal reasons, people continue to hold on to them. When they are confronted with problems in life, they believe that they need to consult, pray and even offer sacrifices to ancestors. If the church does not approve, they just do it privately and sometimes secretly. If they notify the minister and the church as they sometimes do, they name the ceremony as something else. Usually they call it ‘tea itiye’ so as not to upset the church and to invite other Methodists to participate in the meal and offer their prayers when actually it is ancestor veneration.

A dialogical approach to theological training

It is a fact that cultural heritages and languages are being lost and this is something about which scholars and cultural activists are concerned. Therefore, it makes sense that the church should also be concerned about it, instead of being responsible for the denigration and obliteration of these indigenous resources in the name of Christian mission. It is advisable that IKS and cultural heritage resources are retrieved and used to educate the young so that they can become model citizens for the future of their nations. Theological education needs to include the worldviews held by the learners, while at the same time teaching them the skills of critical thinking. This requires that the curriculum must encourage dialogue between the teacher and the learner. Paulo Freire observed that dialogue is where two or more people ‘make and remake meaning’ during the process of teaching and learning.

Laenui, 1.

Of significance in this method is that it is not only the teacher who contributes knowledge, but the student who also contributes knowledge in the process of learning while they learn from their teacher.

See, Shor and Freire, 1987.

The teacher also learns from the student in return. In so doing, they will contribute to the development of African-based knowledge as they draw from their own cultural experiences and heritage. This will free seminary graduates from feeling that they were inadequately trained for ministering to African people.

Amin and Campbell, 170.

Training more African academics and researchers

One of the important steps required if we are to decolonise theological education is the need for us to produce more African academics who will take the responsibility of developing research and disseminating it to African students in African seminaries. This is not a new proposal, but was first postulated by Manila Agbebi, also referred to as David Brown Vincent, as far back as the nineteenth century. He stated that:

To render Christianity indigenous to Africa, it must be stored by native hands, turned by native hatchet, and tended with native earth; ie, it is a curse if we intend forever to hold at the apron strings of foreign teachers.

Cited in King, 20.

It is with this in mind that collaborative programmes should be initiated to facilitate student-staff exchanges, co-supervision of PhD students, sharing of library resources, joint moderation of papers and academic conferences. In spite of the obstacles mentioned above, it is imperative that African academics see it as their vocation to challenge the cultural hegemony of the West in African institutions of higher learning and to produce knowledge from an African perspective. Theology ‘must be cooked in an African pot’

Fiedler, 2.

and aimed at benefitting the African continent and all its peoples. This dream can only become reality if Africans begin producing their own organic intellectuals who are going to follow on in the footsteps of great African thinkers such as Bolaji Idowu, Kwesi Dickson, James Aggrey of Ghana and Gabriel Setiloane.

The work that is being done in the collaboration between GBHEM, Africa University and Wesley House in University of Cambridge of creating educational opportunities for continental African academics with the aim of producing the next generation of African Methodist Scholars must be commended and supported because it is responding directly to the need for a cadre of African Methodist scholars.

Sinews of a Decolonised Curriculum of Theological Education for the African Church
The communitarisation of the curriculum

At the heart of African culture or even African religion is community.

Setiloane 1986, 3.

Educational institutions which reflect an African character will limit the dominance of colonial knowledge which privileges individualism and instead will emphasise the perspectives of the community. Africans possess communitarian epistemologies characterised by elements of African culture. We learn from one another, with one another and for one another, rather than against one another as in (Western) individualistic cultures. The community you come from teaches you as one of their own, and you learn for the benefit of the community and you learn in community with others. This brings our attention to the fact that theological education must be for the faith and benefit of the entire community. Here, theology is for the entire community and emanates from the faith experience of the whole community. This means that in the process of drawing up the curriculum, we must create opportunities for drawing upon the knowledge and experiences of the community of faith. Seminaries and universities will do well to offer greater emphasis and space to this communitarian perspective to learning.

Learning together with others

John Westerhoff called this ‘the community of faith-enculturation paradigm’

Westerhoff, 3.

and preferred it to the schooling paradigm. A communitarian participatory approach to teaching and learning challenges the Western paradigm of a scholar as being a ‘distant, objective, autonomous, participant observer which is an outgrowth of individualism, enlightenment and rationalism.’

Lutheran World Federation, 17.

Doing theology in community with others retrieves lost stories and traditions and breaks cultural stereotypes wide open. It also offers new ways of sharing and experiencing theological knowledge, which pushes the frontiers of dominant knowledge and paradigms. It privileges the narratives, testimonies, events, sacred texts and traditions of the African learner. Elsewhere, I have observed that:

Education in the church includes the importance of community within it. It is therefore not surprising that theological education has to emphasise the importance of and learning together from one another. The method and process of theological education must be consistent with the purpose for which we educate which is to build a community of faith.

Kumalo, 139–56.

Learning and teaching in community with others and for one another is consistent with the proposal of Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of Zambia, to deal with the question of decolonising Africa. He proposed the philosophy of Zambian Christian Humanism. As early as 1966 he defined this philosophy as follows:

By Christian humanism, I mean that we discover all that is worth knowing about God through our fellow men (sic) and unconditional service of our fellow men is the purest form of service of God. I believe that Man must be the servant of a vision which is bigger than himself; that his path is illuminated by God's revelation and that when he shows love towards his fellow men, he is sharing the very life of God, who is Love (Kaunda 1966:39).

For Kaunda, Zambian Christian humanism was the way to decolonise African Christian education.

Methodism in local languages

The appreciation and restoration of the languages of the indigenous people is the first step towards the decolonisation of their education. This is because language usually is the first casualty of the colonisation process. Indeed, Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o has observed that:

The biggest weapon wielded and actually daily unleashed by imperialism against that collective defiance is the cultural bomb. The effects of a cultural bomb is to annihilate a people's belief in their own names, in their language, in their heritage of a struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. It makes them see their past as one wasteland. It makes them want to identify with that which is furthest removed from themselves, for instance, with other people's language rather than their own.

Wa Thiong’o, 3.

One of the key challenges of teaching or tutoring Methodism in Africa is the absence of African terms or concepts that translate or interpret key Methodist terms and concepts. More challenging is the contextualisation of Methodist doctrine and language into African languages, which is key to enabling this doctrine to be understood by the African people. In the South African context, there has hardly been any attempt made to develop Methodist terminology in African languages. Two reasons account for this failure. First, theological studies are conducted in English and rarely in African languages. As a result of this, theology, including that of Methodism, is learned through a second language for most Africans and even for some English is the third, if not fourth language. Second, African languages themselves are gradually diminishing as they compete with English, French and Mandarin for survival.

For example, the Discipleship Office of the United Methodist Church (UMC) has been working with African Methodist leaders and academics to write the stories of Methodism in the African continent. As a result, a number of publications have emerged out of this commendable process. However, such works tend to be historical, recording the historical developmental stories of Methodism in the continent.

The major difference between European languages and African languages is that the latter are under-resourced and face extinction as indigenous communities are becoming more educated in European languages and finding it difficult to develop and maintain their own languages. In spite of the fact that more and more Africans are now educated, it is still a fact that there are many others who still depend on their indigenous languages to learn, preach and worship. Unfortunately, these people still depend upon a Methodist theology that is written and taught in English even though their pastors try to teach in their indigenous language. Methodist theology is also silent on African traditional religions and cultures and how these can be informed by and in turn inform Methodist theology. One key to decolonising Methodist studies in Africa will be identifying the key concepts of Methodist doctrine, translating them into indigenous languages and, where necessary, inventing new terminology. This will call for the engagement of African language experts be they ordained or lay so that they can assist with the process. To do this work will take many resources, including time and money, the latter being particularly scarce in Africa.

A theology written in peoples’ bodies: rituals and symbols

There is a need to make theology appreciated through black bodies. This is not simply to juxtapose blackness against whiteness. While we may have gone beyond that era, we still need a theology that affirms blackness, so that people may be able to see God's image in themselves and those who look like them. Steve Biko taught the relevance of Black theology for people's understanding and appreciation of themselves–their colour and culture–and ultimately of God. Black Consciousness as taught by Biko takes cognisance of the deliberateness of God's plan in creating people black.

Woods, 145–47.

It seeks to infuse the black community with newfound pride in themselves, their efforts, their value system, their cultures and their religion and outlook on life.

Ndaba et al., 1.

Jesse Mugambi noted the importance of Black theology as public theology that has to be done by communities undergoing a process of reconstruction. Mugambi argued that theological education must contribute to the rebuilding of ‘African broken walls.’ One of the key distinctions of Methodism from other denominations in Africa and from its own mother church in the United Kingdom and the United States of America is its emphasis on uniforms. There are uniforms for the men's guild, women, young women, Sunday school, circuit preachers and evangelists. Uniforms are significant because they are an expression of theological teachings and beliefs of the church. Through them, Methodists know what their convictions are and their commitment to the faith. As such, they not only serve as a catechetical instrument, but also provide a source of belonging and identity. Instead of uniforms losing their value in the modern age, they continue to gain momentum and appreciation among the people by creating a sense of community. I therefore propose that the wearing of such uniforms be encouraged as a source of meaning and education for the people called Methodists, where such items of attire are appreciated, instead of being frowned upon.

Balancing Methodism and ecumenism

One of the adverse legacies of colonialism was that it divided families, clans and tribes into different members of competing and sometimes conflicting Christian denominations. Hence African people who were once one and united found themselves divided into Methodists, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and African Independent Churches (AICs). When people became loyal to their denominations, this led to deep divisions and loss of relations among them as they sought to be faithful to their denominational cultures and practices. An essential part of decolonising theological education is to be found in the breaking down of denominational barriers. It may be important here to emphasise Wesley's relationship with the Anglicans, Moravians and other Puritan groups, instead of emphasising his uniqueness and difference from other Christian groups at his time. It is for this reason that ministerial training in the MCSA has always been done in collaboration with other denominations, although there are moments when this has failed dismally with lasting pain and hurt being the result.

An example of this dismal failure is the case of the Federal Theology for Southern Africa (FEDSEM), which collapsed in 1992. For further analysis see Denis and Duncan, 2011.

It is for this reason that at the SMMS we established partnerships with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and the United Methodist Church (UMC) so that we can embrace one another across denominational lines and train our students together. The SMMS is also part of the Cluster of Theological Institutions, which includes Evangelicals, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Methodists and Roman Catholics. These ecumenical partners meet as Africans forming African ministers for the African church together, thus breaking down the denominational barriers emanating from the West. Mugambi has called for theological education in Africa to move beyond the ‘denominational rivalry and competition inherited from the mission agencies’.

Mugambi, J.N.K., ‘The future of theological education in Africa and the challenges it faces’, in I.A. Phiri & D. Werner (eds.), Handbook of theological education in Africa, 118–25, World Council of Churches Publications, Oxford, 2013, 118.

All ministerial formation programmes need to begin with this end in mind. The crucial question that thus needs to be asked is:

What type of minister do we want for the African church?

The answer to this question is that we want ordinands who will be fit for ministry in the African church for the benefit of the African continent and its people. Seminaries need to train ministers for contextually rooted churches who can minister effectively by responding to the needs of their context, not perpetuating the church of the colonial period. The main aim of ministerial formation is that it must ‘produce ministers who are able to make a positive difference both in society and the church’.

Richardson, 93.

Conclusion

By way of conclusion, let me reiterate that the call for the decolonisation of Higher Education in African institutions of learning needs to be heeded by Methodist seminaries and even public and private universities. This call requires African scholars and intellectuals to embark on a project of reviewing theological education programmes which have solely relied on ideologies based on Western cultures, ideas, models and even content. As part of decolonising the curriculum, African intellectuals need to call for the inclusion of IKS and methods in the Africanisation of theological curriculum. This may require that African scholars and intellectuals abandon the comfort of their ‘ivory towers’, offices and libraries, in order to ‘drink from their own wells’,

Gutiérrez, 25–32.

as well as consult the cultural, religious and language experts who are the ‘epistemologically excluded’. To achieve this mammoth goal, African academics and intellectuals will need to work in collaboration with other interested partners both from within the continent and even those from outside the continent, for the work will require the mobilisation of resources. I have also suggested that theological education in African Methodist institutions ‘must be cooked in an African pot’.

Fiedler, 2.

This is so that Wesley's teaching may be relevant, appropriated and transformed by the African people for their church. The 2016 student protests for the decolonisation of curriculum in South African universities brought awareness to all of us across the African continent and, I believe, to the rest of the world for the revision of the curriculum in all Methodist institutions. Our response to this demand must be guided by our quest for the indigenisation of Methodism and its key tenets to the language, culture and even religious orientations of the peoples of Africa. The commitment to and adoption of an Afrocentric approach to theological education will begin to remove a Eurocentric curriculum which has kept Western ideological domination camouflaged as theological education. In place of a colonised theological education which is purportedly universal and appropriate for all contexts, an Afrocentric, liberating and socially just theological education will take its rightful position in the African academy and especially in institutions of theological and ministerial formation.

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