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First Africa University-Wesley House Doctoral Class Takes Shape

August 26, 2019

This summer, Africa University (AU) and Wesley House Cambridge officially launched their new joint doctoral program with a class of 13 students from across the continent of Africa.

“The program helps to develop faculty for Methodist theological seminaries, colleges and universities in Africa,” said Dr. David Bishau, director of Africa University’s Institute of Theology and Religious Studies. “All the students are already involved in teaching and research in their respective seminaries, colleges and universities and this doctoral program will enhance their competencies in teaching, research and community engagement.”

The goal is to expand the teaching and research capacity for United Methodist institutions in Africa by increasing the number of educators with doctorates and a deep knowledge of local needs and contexts. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the Central Conference Theological Education Fund (CCTEF) have both provided financial support to make this possible.

Africa University
The Africa University campus in Zimbabwe.

Doctoral students were nominated for the program by The United Methodist Church’s College of African Bishops. Those who were accepted demonstrated a standing commitment to the church and the Wesleyan tradition of education, and offered plans to undertake original theological research.

“GBHEM is thrilled to be able to support the joint doctoral program with Africa University and Wesley House Cambridge. This initiative will create an important ripple effect for the church’s global education network. Every scholar that completes this program can use his or her position to teach and mentor hundreds of new principled Christian leaders,” said Rev. Greg Bergquist, GBHEM’s acting general secretary.

Students spend their first year of study completing a mandatory postgraduate certificate in Theological and Religious Research. The program is held over two course-heavy, two-week sessions in July and December taught by Africa University and Wesley House scholars on the AU campus.

“The hybrid structure of the program allows participants to stay in their posts and work on their Ph.D.s at the same time. This makes the program affordable and means that teaching in local places will be enriched immediately by the studies undertaken,” said Rev. Dr. Jane Leach, principal of Wesley House Cambridge.

When students reach the doctoral stage of the program, they will continue to meet twice a year at Africa University and will have an extended residency at Wesley House Cambridge in the middle of their studies. Students will have mentors and advisors from both institutions guiding them throughout the process.

“By working jointly, across institutions, countries and continents, we can bring the different contexts of our different experiences of faith, different cultural assumptions and different theological emphases into a rich, informative and transformative dialogue,” said Rev. Dr. Andrew Stobart, the director of research for Wesley House. “This kind of ‘intra-contextual’ work can only be done jointly. This feels very Methodist – we can only truly be ready to do the work God calls us to if we do it together, not apart.”

Bishau and Stobart are particularly excited by some of the early research proposals they have seen from the doctoral students, including: The United Methodist Church’s engagement with poverty in Liberia; African models for Christian education; and comparing the concept of sacredness in Christianity and African traditional religion.

The 13 students represent eight African countries and will tailor their research based on the needs and interests of their local areas. The inaugural joint program participants are:

  • Rev. Memory Chikosi – Lecturer at United Theological College, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • David Baraza Khalonyere – Conference Treasurer for Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference, and lecturer at Wesleyan United Methodist Training College, Kenya
  • Rev. Mwepu Dikonzo – Lecturer at Kamina Theological School, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Rev. Mansaray Basiru – Lecturer at United Methodist University, Sierra Leone
  • Rev. Allen Paye – Lecturer at United Methodist University, Liberia
  • Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah – Dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, United Methodist University, Liberia
  • Rev. Dr. James Labala – Superintendent of Gbarnga Mission Station and associate dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, United Methodist University, Liberia
  • Rev. Sophirina Sign – Adjunct lecturer at Africa University, Zimbabwe
  • Rev. Yahuda Zailani – Lecturer at Banyam Theological Seminary, Nigeria
  • Rev. Virginie Umba – Dean of Theology, Kamina Methodist University, North-Katanga Episcopal Area, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Rev. Alfred Njau – Working to develop Wesley College in Tanzania
  • Rev. Maudy Muchanyereyi – Chaplain at Africa University, Zimbabwe
  • Rev. Anastacio Chembeze – Director of the National Institute of Employment and Vocational Training for the Ministry of Labor in Mozambique

About GBHEM: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.