Integrating proliferation and proliferating integration

In isolation, traditional, campus-based forms of theological education cannot cope with the scale of need for leadership training within the local church on the African continent – or in any other context for that matter. Formal models, for all their strengths, are rooted in an arithmetic of addition when the need is to couple them with strategies for multiplication. And those strategies need to enhance and embed training: there needs to not only be an integration of proliferation but also a proliferation of integration.

BUILD certainly does not have all the answers, but it is piloting new models in which formal, non-formal and informal aspects of education and training are deliberately linked together. The new Diploma in Biblical Studies, Practical Theology and Leadership Development (BSPTLD), hosted by Uganda Martyrs Seminary and accredited through the Uganda Christian University network, may have a long title but is a simple concept and a step in that direction. The BSPTLD course selects leaders who not only have some prior theological training, and have therefore benefitted from more “traditional” efforts, but who are also well placed to train others at the grassroots. It then equips them to use the BUILD curriculum to train others. The course is delivered through four residential blocks of a fortnight each over a two-year period, with the main assignments and fieldwork component taking the form of the incremental, guided development of a local training initiative. Trainees are equipped to systematically grow the numbers of local church leaders in their areas, and as they do so they rehearse and own their learning.

Therefore, it was encouraging to receive pictures of trainees training others from the Church of Uganda’s BUILD coordinator, Stephen Kewaza, and one picture had the caption, “Daniel Ntumwa training the local leaders in his Bukyulo church and surrounding churches in Kijjabwemi”. Daniel is a young lay-reader in West Buganda Diocese, which places him rather low down the ecclesiastical food chain in terms of age and recognition. However, this status has advantages when reaching out to those who are needed most in a church facing a leadership crisis with its aging clergy. And Daniel wrote separately to share that he is not only training around 25 leaders near his home, but is also travelling and training further afield to a neighbouring district in Uganda, Rakai. Rakai is not only even more isolated when it comes to access to training and resources, but is rebuilding the communities that took the initial brunt of the HIV and AIDS epidemic; it was infamous for recording the first case of HIV infection in the early 1980s.

Daniel is only one of the group who was trained, however, and others have very different backgrounds and positions – for instance, the Diocesan Secretary of a South-Sudanese diocese, and a Mission Secretary from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, Stephen reported that David Kiryankusa has started training 30 participants in Makonzi Archdeaconry in Mityana Diocese (an archdeaconry with 12 parishes and 156 churches within it); and another individual has started to equip 26 participants in Masindi-Kitara diocese. Other reports are trickling in from neighbouring countries, with a staggering 180 signing up for training in Butere in Kenya, where two of the fledgling trainers are based.

This blog will share developments, but the initial signs are encouraging as trainers take training into local areas, multiply up the leadership and in doing so develop locally owned approaches to training: integrating proliferation and proliferating integration.