Contextualising Theology: Towards a Heritage-Based Theology Curriculum

Contextualising Theology: Towards a Heritage-Based Theology Curriculum

Menard Musendekwa (University of South Africa, South Africa) and Ester Rutoro (Reformed Church University, Zimbabwe)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3636-0.ch006

Abstract

While theology is an international discipline, there is a need to contextualize theology so that it can address the local expectations. This theme is critical for contemporary theological curriculum. Reformed Church University is providing an Honours Degree in Theology. Towards improving the curriculum, there is a need for contextualisation as an ongoing exercise as the context continues to change from time to time. Theology should therefore aim at addressing contemporary issues and increase the program viability. The author explores all the potential areas that need to be considered to achieve a heritage-based curriculum. While theology sometimes can be regarded as an exclusive discipline, there is potential for improvement when it incorporates national heritage.
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Introduction

In recent years, there has been an unprecedented increase in social ills in Africa. These social ills include but are not limited to the following: drug abuse, homosexuality, immorality, street children, marriages breaking down, corruption and environmental deterioration. The church has not been spared as these practices have infiltrated church circles and even the clergy. Questions may be asked about the reason for the upsurge of such social ills even in contexts where the majority of the population are Christians. It is the purpose of this paper to explore the role of theological education in the promotion of a heritage based education which might realign people with their past, their cultural ethos and also their environment to make sense of their present and craft their future in a sustainable way. Higher education institutions have an obligation to come up with an Afro-centric type of theological, heritage based curriculum which addresses local needs. This will ensure a shift towards the decolonisation of the theological curriculum to make it more responsive to local issues and needs. The curriculum development process should seize to be just an importation of content from other universities but in as much as it must fulfil the requirement of the minimum body of knowledge (MBK), should reflect a research base informed by local heritage. There is need to move away from foreign inspired curriculum towards a heritage inspired curriculum – incorporating local content into existing frameworks.

Rationalising the Need for Culture and Heritage Infusion Into Theology Curriculum

The theology programme review could have come at a better time to inculcate heritage-based philosophy. African nation states south of the Sahara have embarked on a trajectory of the valorisation of culture and heritage couched in the discourse of African Renaissance popularised by Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa. Though a controversial concept, Mbeki employed it to envisage the potential of the rebirth or renewal of Africa. Africa is reclaiming the centre position in determining her identity and destiny. This is possible because the tangible and intangible elements of the African territories have an immense contribution to the quality of life of African communities. Intangible cultural heritage includes human creativity. Culture and heritage bequeath knowledge necessary for the implementation of certain activities that include craftwork, food production and preparation, preventive health and curative methods, clothes making, forms of entertainment and indigenous ecological conservation methods (Barillet, et al, 2006: 15, Maposa and Mhaka 2013). It is no accident that Mbeki’s vision of the renewal of Africa included culture and heritage as one of the potential resources to unlock Africa’s potential for social and economic growth (Louw 2000:3).

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Curriculum Development In Theological Education In Zimbabwe

Curriculum development in every discipline is an ongoing exercise which considers paradigm changes in academic disciplines. In Zimbabwe’s Higher Education, there has been a paradigm realignment of curriculum philosophy where Higher Education institutions have adopted the Education 5.0 philosophy. This philosophy emphasizes five pillars namely: teach, research, community serve, innovate and industrialise. These five pillars should be anchored on heritage based philosophy which emphasizes using the heritage bestowed to a country in any development that is envisioned. Theology curriculum thus needs to be reviewed to become contextually relevant. Theology should be situated in time and space that makes it a discipline that is relevant in addressing the needs of the community or society. The researchers of this study interrogated curriculum from one theological seminary and two universities and concluded that theology has been mainly the discipline of the church preparing those who want to be ministers of the word, evangelists or lay preachers. It seems very little has been achieved to establish a heritage-based theological curriculum.

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