Converging paths: BUILD and the Anglican Church of Tanzania connect

BUILD has enjoyed links with the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) for a number of years. Tanzanians were involved in BUILD’s curriculum development process; they have been and are being trained as trainers in Uganda and Kenya; and there has been BUILD training in-country. Importantly, BUILD has a special relationship with ACT’s Provincial Theological Education Coordinator, John Sembuyagi, and in principle BUILD has been accepted as a provincial programme. However, only now, through a timely meeting, does it seem clear that BUILD and ACT’s paths are converging.

This month, John Sembuyagi invited BUILD representatives from Kenya and Tanzania to Tanga (on Tanzania’s coast) for their Principals of Theological Colleges meeting, to discuss many of the key issues that BUILD has addressed in its curriculum development: namely curriculum design that is relevant to the local context, drives training and is both biblical and practical. As the Bishop of Tanga, Rt Revd Dr Maimbo, emphasised in his opening remarks at the meeting, there is a clear need for “a relevant, contextual and dynamic curriculum, developed by those who understand the situation of church and society in Tanzania.” He also observed that the current curriculum, “borrowed from the western world,” is outdated.

Participants at the meeting agreed with him. For instance, Rev Joseph Bea, from Mungu Ishi Bible College in Arusha, noted a lack of clarity and structure to the curriculum, which means “that colleges teach in a shallow way.” In addition, participants pointed to a failure to connect ministry training with ministry practice. Rev Canon Philip Munguti, the diocesan coordinator for Christian Education and Theology in the Diocese of Zanzibar, shared how the few leaders in his region who have theological education do not know how to apply it to their ministry. Rev Peter Akester, the Principal of Kondoa Bible College (and a mission partner in Tanzania for over twenty years), talked of the lack of relevant training, which helps students to apply what they are learning to their ministry context. Rev Samuel Maduma, Principal of Morogoro Bible College, put this down to the fact that the provincial curriculum has not been reviewed for twenty years; those who go through it are not able to tackle the current issues facing them in their ministerial contexts today.

Miss Schola Ochieng, from the diocese of Rorya and the head of Kowak Theological College, pointed out a related issue. She noted that Bishops seem to force students who have no capacity for formal theological training to go for studies. This, too, means graduates are unable to connect their training in the college with ministry in the field. But it is not only students who lack the capacity. One of the biggest needs is for “properly trained theological teachers in the colleges,” Rev Canon Jackson Mwidowe, Principal of Amani Christian Training Centre, Ruaha Diocese, explained. BUILD aims to address this need too: growing its own grassroots theological educators is integral to the programme.

Set against these needs that were being described, a BUILD trainer in Tanga Diocese, Rev David Peter, was instrumental in helping people to see the potential of BUILD. David, one of the current students at a BUILD regional class in Kenya, explained that when he started the BUILD course, “he wondered whether he would learn anything new.” But now, having experienced five modules, he admits that the course should be done “by everyone in ministry whether they have PhD or just a certificate.” David has gained confidence in his preaching and can now structure sermons well. He has also been able to use the BUILD method of theological reflection to tackle issues in his own ministry. He feels his leadership has changed tremendously as he has sought to become a godly leader who is strategic and missional in outlook. He has also benefitted from the fact that BUILD builds learning incrementally, developing people’s capacity as they progress, including their capacity to connect their training with ministry.

David’s shared his plans for a BUILD group in Tanga Diocese.  That class will signal a fresh start, but plans are being laid to create a platform for a much wider work within Tanzania as BUILD and ACT journey together in upgrading training in this part of the world.

Jem Hovil with Ben Kibara