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BICTE Baptist International Conference on Theological Education Theological Educators Confront Change By Tony Cartledge B

aptist educators involved in the training of future pastors and ministers face a

variety of challenges as their institutions struggle to remain faithful, relevant and solvent.

Representatives from each of the six regions making up the Baptist World Alliance addressed the topic of “Emerging Issues in Theological Formation of Minis- terial Students” during the eighth Baptist International Conference on Theological Education held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Contextualization was a common theme, as educators have sought to help students integrate theory and praxis. Presenters Charlemagne Nditemeh of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, Miyon Chung of the Asia Pacifi c Baptist Fellowship, Richard Serrano of the Union of Baptists of Latin America and Glenroy Lalor of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship all emphasized the diversity of students and ministerial contexts in their regions, requiring educators to help future ministers learn to “do theology” and practice within their various settings. Nditemeh, from Cameroon, said this has been diffi cult in Africa, where most

Salmon noted as he pointed to Sharpe surrendering instead of being captured, being “convicted before he was tried,” offering last words of grace, being martyred, lacking a proper burial place, and experiencing a resurrection of his legacy. “He lives today through the continuity of the work we are doing, the memorials erected in his honor, and the ways we are

celebrating his life,” Reid-Salmon

commented. All three presenters placed Sharpe’s

Baptist faith at the heart of his revolutionary effort and his view that slavery was inherently sinful. “The genius of Sharpe is that he rooted his rejection

of enslavement and

seminaries were established by Western missionaries and based on European or North American models, which aren’t always appropriate for the diverse African contexts. Chung, from South Korea, illustrated ways in which Western models aren’t always appropriate for Asian cultures. The Western approach is philosophical, theoretical, and analytical, she said, done within clearly defi ned nations that have experienced a common evolvement from premodernity to modernity and postmodernity. In contrast, Asians are pragmatic and

concrete, she said, and live in areas where national borders are not as important as tribal identity, and where premodernity, modernity, and postmodernity exist side by side.


Serrano noted the complexity of issues educators,

including religious

pluralism, distance, environmental issues, hostility and violence, poverty, and immigration, asking “How do we do theology in that context?”

Funding has also been a widespread

problem. The global economic downturn has led to a drying up of overseas funding in Africa, said Nditemeh, requiring seminaries to fi nd alternative support or to adapt their programs. Latin American Baptists have faced a similar issue since the 1990s, Serrano said, when the Southern Baptist

insisting that an enslaved person could therefore not also serve a slave master. Fiddes argued that such a theological understanding of Christ as sole master brought signifi cant political implications regarding slavery and freedom. Fiddes explained how Sharpe inter-


resistance against slavery in the nature of God,” Roper explained.

Roper and Fiddes both noted that Sharpe centered his anti-slavery position on the admonition of Jesus that “no man can serve two masters.” Shape argued that only Christ could be one’s master, further

preted the Bible with an active voice that drove him to take charge to “work out his own salvation” from enslavement instead of reading scriptures with a passive voice that offered no resistance. “Christians need to be courageous in speaking the truth to society,” Fiddes added as he urged Baptists to learn from what we know about Sharpe’s use of scripture in the revolution. Roper offered a similar challenge. After

explaining how scripture raised Sharpe’s consciousness to see the injustice of slavery, Roper suggested that churches today need to use Bible study in similar ways. “There is a need for the church to develop within the life of the congregation

Richard Serrano

Convention walked away from theological institutions they had established and funded for years. Lina Andronoviene, who represented European Baptists, said many seminaries are struggling because the number of Christians and potential students in Europe has been in steady decline, and schools cannot afford to maintain residential campuses that were built in an earlier period when Christianity was more popular. “Owning a building can feel like a grinding stone around one’s neck,” she said, but “God’s Spirit can show us different ways to go about things.” Andronoviene said congregational-based ministerial training became popular in the 1990s, especially in the United Kingdom.

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tools for moral development, to


positioning, and moral engagement in relation

the broader society,” Roper

stated. “There is a need for Bible study to be used as an instrument of catechism to the church, but more importantly as a tool of consciousness-raising. Bible study must awaken and sharpen God’s people in relation to things as they are.” Baptists at the Annual Gathering who spent a day touring Jamaican


historical sites visited a few sites related to Sharpe and other Baptists. The Sharpe sites included the Burchell Baptist Church in Montego Bay where Sharpe served as a deacon and where it is believed his remains are interred under the pulpit, and Sam Sharpe Square that includes a memorial in his honor.

communication studies at James Madison University in Virginia in the United States

and a member of the BWA Communications Advisory Committee.

OCTOBER/DECEMBER 2013 15 Brian Kaylor is an assistant professor of

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