Participants at a recent consultation on theological education have called for comprehensive Christian leadership development of both lay and ordained men and women in the church. The gathering took place in the United Kingdom last week.
Theological education is an organic part of Christian life and action, and thus presents a common challenge to all churches, according to the group of 25 representatives from international and local institutions involved in theological education, mission and scholarship agencies and regional ecumenical organisations.
The consultation, held from 6 to 9 April 2011 in Birmingham, England, was hosted jointly by the World Council of Churches (WCC), through its Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) programme, and the Queens Foundation for Theological Education, based in the UK.
The group issued a call to churches stating that there is an increasing need for theologically well-trained pastors, catechists and church leaders in many newly emerging churches within Evangelical, Charismatic or Pentecostal communities as well as historical churches from Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant backgrounds.
The participants also recommended a reconsideration of the relationships between religion and development, theology and socio-political transformation, theological education and development agencies.
The call, which is entitled “Agenda 21 for Common Collaboration in Theological Education – Findings of the Birmingham process,” declared that theological education is not confined to issues related to the inner maintenance of churches but addresses the whole range of issues relevant for the socio-political context in which churches are operating.
“Thus theological education contributes to social transformation, leadership capacity building and poverty reduction,” the message said.
The message called on development agencies to review funding policies that have sidelined the work of the churches and their institutions for theological education. It recommended a "more explicit cooperation between development agencies and theological education".
The 'Birmingham process in theological education', of which this consultation was a part, is open to additional participants from interested agencies, churches and networks. The process will be continued, as the consultation appointed a continuation group, according to the Rev Dr Dietrich Werner, programme executive for the Ecumenical Theological Education work of the WCC.
The continuation group will look into appropriate next steps for providing appropriate international tools for networking and common platforms, particularly in the area of theological scholarship, e-learning, digital theological library resources and other issues of quality in theological education.
* More on the WCC Ecumenical Theological Education programme: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/education-and-ecumenical-formatio...