Extending theological education in the Anglican Church of Kenya

Since its beginnings in Guatemala over 50 years ago Theological Education by Extension (TEE) has had an extraordinary impact in doing just that: extending the reach of theological education. Walter Omudokolo is the Provincial TEE Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). BUILD’s Benjamin Kibara caught up with him at Carlile College, Nairobi to talk about TEE and BUILD.

Walter, on reflection, what do you see as some of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach and the movement?

The books are one big strength of TEE, as is its suitability for the structures of the Anglican Church. Plus there is a long history of TEE courses in Kenya, which makes it easy to introduce to any diocese. However, our books’ content is dated and has served its purpose, and they are expensive for students to acquire.

How have those insights played into the story of TEE in the ACK, and how do you assess its impact?

TEE has impacted many leaders at the parish level. Many evangelists and lay readers have gone through the programme including some of the clergy. But due to lack of proper funding and coordination at the top, and lack of people who are willing and trained to teach TEE materials, the uptake has been going down over time.

Can you explain where TEE is now heading in the ACK and why?

The provincial department that was formerly known as TEE has been renamed to Lay Christian Training by Extension (LCTE). TEE and Certificate in Christian and Religious Studies (CCRS) are some of the programmes under LCTE; both are hosted by Carlile College. LCTE is a broader name that makes it possible to introduce other courses aimed at equipping lay leaders to serve the church.

TEE has a huge potential if the materials used for training can be availed easily to those willing to take it. It remains as a parish programme, especially for church leaders who desire to do personal study and acquire some basic theological knowledge. It is very informal, rather than rigorous and academic. There are very few formal requirements from the students compared to CCRS.

However, we have introduced CCRS as an additional course to equip the licensed lay readers and commissioned evangelists. Some clergy who had not been trained properly are also enrolling in this course. This is an academic course with an entry requirement, fee payment, exams etc. CCRS is a one year provincial course that is domiciled at Carlile College and validated by St Paul’s University.

Can you indicate the focus of the content: would you describe it primarily as training in discipleship or leadership or would you use another category altogether?

The focus of LCTE is more or less a traditional theological course. There is nothing new apart from the mode of delivery. In fact, the curriculum mirrors a very high percentage of what is offered in the other theological colleges.

Are you changing any of the ways in which LCTE is delivered on the ground?

The certificate curriculum has 12 units that are covered in three semesters. Currently we have 16 centres across the country. Each centre is operated independently. The diocese helps in recruiting students, they purchase the books which are sold centrally, the centre coordinator collects fees from students and a percentage of those fees is remitted to Carlile. The diocese is responsible to look for competent trainers who will teach the students.

What do you see as some of the greatest challenges that lie ahead for LCTE?

The content of the CCRS doesn’t help in spiritual formation. It is an academic exercise that focuses on head knowledge but very little on the heart. These challenge can only be met if we can have a current, contextual and relevant curriculum that is focused not only on academics but combines both academics and spiritual formation. Emphasis on discipleship and personal spiritual growth is lacking.

Tied to the above relates to the instructional materials that need a lot of revision to address aspects that speaks to the heart.

BUILD’s focus is leadership: strengthening those who lead, care for and teach local churches, as well as those in related ministries. It is not divorced from discipleship and encourages that, nor is it divorced from biblical and theological knowledge, but the content is designed to serve those who lead. How might LCTE and BUILD best encourage one another?

I wish you shared the information about BUILD last year, I could have launched the course as a diploma course in our latest centre doing a diploma. Looking at the content of BUILD, I can see a lot of emphasis on the Bible. This is something that is missing on many curriculum. Also I have noted that every module you have emphasis on leadership. The preaching emphasis and sermon preparation will be highly welcomed by our current target group of lay readers and evangelists.

Thank you for sharing, Walter.