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UK: Launch of the Shepherd's Academy

UK: Launch of the Shepherd's Academy

By Chris Sugden
February 11, 2021

Over 100 church leaders and theological educators took part on February 10th in an international zoom conference across eighteen time zones for the launch of The Shepherds' Academy (TSA) of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life in partnership with Barnabas Fund (www. shepherds.academy).

Two facts stimulated Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, the Executive Director of OCRPL, in 2018 to plan to set up TSA. The first is that over 2 million pastors and Christian workers in Global South congregations have no formal theological training. The second is that recently in a Middle East country and in Rwanda, Government regulations now require all pastors to have a theological qualification. This requirement will spread to other countries.

Such training has in the past required people to leave their ministry and family, and if lay people their jobs, in order to undertake often expensive training at a college. But the digital revolution and the internet now makes it possible for people to remain in their jobs and ministry while undertaking courses for a certificate, diploma and degree in theology and ministry over a five to seven year period.

The programme will start on St Barnabas Day June 11 2021. It will focus on Bible knowledge, character development, spiritual and social formation, and reflection on ministry experience. It will be cost effective and retain people in their ministry and work situations, Dr Sookhdeo told the conference.

TSA will welcome pastors, lay people, missionaries, new converts, ordinands and those who have little access to education, said Dr Prasad Phillips, the director of TSA. It is designed to complement the work of other training bodies,and may in some cases provide single stand alone modules to add to their curricula. To combat the brain drain to urban centres and the west, study centres will be established in local areas.

This was welcomed by the President of the Southern Africa Region of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Africa (PAOA), Bishop Joshua Banda, as including the contribution of a team of tutors on the ground in each area. Dr Santanu Patro, the Registrar of the Senate of Serampore University India where over 40,000 students have graduated in over 200 years of its establishment spoke of plans to provide validation of the programme at Bachelor of Theology level. Dr Marvin Oxenham of the European Council for Theological Education and Director of the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE) Academy, where OCRPL is a partner institution welcomed the TSA as helping bridge the gap between the church and the academy. He also noted that many theological educators were well trained in theology but not so well trained in education. As part of its partnership with OCRPL the ICETE Academy was providing a short educational course in character formation and education leadership for theological educators.

OCRPL faculty and post-graduate students from Pakistan and Namibia also reviewed its Masters and Doctoral Programmes with the Universities of Stellenbosch and Pretoria in South Africa with over 100 post-graduates enrolled (www.ocrpl.org).

Bishop Zechariah Manyok, Suffragan Bishop in the Wanglei Area of the Diocese of Twic East, Episcopal Church of South Sudan, a doctoral researcher with OCRPL closed the meeting with his blessing.


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