The theme of the conference was “United Methodist Church Theological Education in Africa in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic: Reflections on Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons.”
Phiri challenged theological institutions to respond to COVID-19 courageously and prophetically. It is critical, she added, for them to address challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. She drew attention to the extent to which the pandemic brought out pre-existing gender justice issues such as gender-based violence.
Presenting another keynote address, Prof. Peter Mageto, acting vice chancellor of Africa University, made a passionate call to participants to invest in keeping abreast of developments in diverse sectors. Competent theological educators will need to be well-informed in order to contribute to effective ministerial formation, he said.
According to Mageto, “African theological education must scratch where it itches.”
Prof. Ezra Chitando, WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy Southern Africa regional coordinator, reiterated the message of the urgent need for contextual relevance in his keynote address. He utilized the proverb, “A leopard is chasing us and you are asking me, ‘is it female?” to underscore the importance of remaining focused.
In his keynote address, Rev. Dr Julius Nelson, Jr., president, University of Liberia, maintained that the Africa Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions had the onerous responsibility of generating relevant theology for Africa.
The conference deliberated on many issues relating to the disruption and opportunities wrought by COVID-19. These included the importance of adjusting to the reality of online teaching, the quest for new models of pastoral care and counselling and revisiting the old question of where God is in the time of suffering.