GC gives $5 million for training central conference clergy

By Vicki Brown, Special Contributor…

Lay people with no theological training lead more than 800 churches in Mozambique, and that is one example of the need for the $5 million Central Conference Theological Education Fund, said Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, episcopal leader of Mozambique.

General Conference 2012 approved the creation of the fund this week and a commission to oversee it. On Friday, a budget that included $5 million from World Service funds for the next four years was approved.

“The church is growing in Africa and we have a great need to educate pastors,” Nhanala said. “Some of the pastors have never been in theological schools, so it is necessary to train them, and some who have training need more education.”

Bishop Patrick Streiff, chair of the Standing Committee on Central Conferences Matters and episcopal leader of Central and Southern Europe, said the first thing the new Commission on Central Conference Theological Education will have to do is assess the needs and determine which take priority.

“The needs are almost without end. We have to decide what helps most to develop new leadership potential,” Streiff said. For instance, he said, with an online networking structure, a New Testament scholar at one seminary might be able to teach an online class at another and then go for a week of intensive work with the students.

The Rev. Sergei Nikolaev, president of the Moscow Theological Seminary and E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, said the creation of the fund reaffirmed General Conference’s commitment to raising competent leadership for making disciples of Jesus Christ and transforming the world in the Central Conferences. 

“The Central Conference theological seminaries are in their formative stage. At the Moscow Theological Seminary of the UMC in Russia we have recently developed a new modular theological education model. This model would work well for organizing quality, inexpensive theological education outside of the U.S. in the context of large geographical areas and visiting faculty teaching in a foreign language,” Nikolaev said.

“This fund will provide a very welcome support for our efforts in preparing dynamic leaders for the UMC in the unfriendly environment for the UM church in Russia and former Soviet Union,” Nikolaev said.

The Rev. Guy Mande Muyombo, president of the Kamina Methodist University in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the money will help keep up with church growth in Africa, which now has 4.2 million United Methodists.


Ms. Brown is with the UMC’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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