The fourth seminar of the OCRPL/Stellenbosch University Ph D programme met at the Theology Faculty of Stellenbosch University from September 2.

They are photographed here with the Dean, Research Director and Members of the Theology Faculty of Stellenbosch University on the steps of the faculty building.

The Co-Dean, Canon Dr Joshua John writes of the programme here.

Addressing the challenges of the African Church through research.

Joshva John

Anglican Bishops and Anglican Theologians (along with other leaders from other churches), are receiving given research training at the University of Stellenbosch with the collaboration of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. Co-Deans of the OCRPL Programme Revd. Canon Dr Chris Sugden, and Revd Canon Dr Joshva Raja (also an associate Vicar in the Church of England Salisbury Diocese) lead the team in this research initiative.  Participants are working towards a PhD relating to their leadership skills, contexts and experience.  

An Anglican Bishop Rt Rev Zecharius Manyok Biaros from South Sudan is doing research relating to the mediation between different tribal groups in South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Church’s Mediation Team, representing the Greater Upper Nile region. In 2018, he was involved in facilitating South-South Dialogues during the revitalized peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He chaired the Security Committee in those negotiations. After the Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan was signed, his church leaders are dealing with the peace and reconciliation process to ensure that there is no return to war. His research helps him to study the issues and problems deeply from Christian and other perspectives and engage in a way that can help all strategically envision a better future world for all communities living together in peace in South Sudan.

Another Anglican colleague from Nigeria Bishop Zakka Lalleh is  researching the issues that divide the Anglican Communion. He is researching whether African Anglicans can contribute something unique that might keep the communion together.  Two other archbishops tThe Most Revd Moses Deng from South Sudan and The Most Revd Albert Chama from Zambia have been doing research with the centre. Revd Rose Ekirunga and, Revd Lydia Kitayimbwa (from Uganda) are female theologians and clergy who are doing research in the areas where women’s leadership can contribute to the church and society in and through the Anglican churches in their contexts.

Revd Stephen Arulampalam is an Anglican theologian from Sri Lanka who himself is blind. He is doing research on how the idea of Karma affects the attitude towards differently abled persons in Sri Lanka and how Christian theological thinking can transform and reconstruct such an attitude in his context. A few others who are laypeople, including Miss Prita Samantaroy from India and nearly 40 others (fifteen of them are Anglicans besides Methodists, Pentecostals and other traditions) are doing research in the area of Christian mission and community development.

The research training is taking place at the University of Stellenbosch from 2nd to 27th of September 2019. We return to our countries to continue our research and submit our final thesis after three or four years of vigorous research work to get our PhD degrees from the University of Stellenbosch. Barnabas Fund is supporting many students in the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life (OCRPL). Others are supported by other funding agencies.

The Professors of the University of Stellenbosch, scholars from around the world ( by live video) and the International Director of Barnabas Fund – Revd Canon Dr Patrick Sookhdeo gave input to the research students during the residential research seminars at Stellenbosch. The purpose of OCRPL is to develop Christian Leadership among vulnerable and persecuted Christian communities around the world through this PhD programme.

The programme through the Network for African Congregational Theology (NetACT)  is in collaboration with a number of universities in South Africa (Stellenbosch, Pretoria and North West Universities) and other institutions and universities around the world.  The next stage is to develop many African Anglican and other church leaders in the coming years to do research on Religion, Culture and Society with a particular emphasis on Islam at M Th and M Phil level through these universities.  Dr. Patrick believes that such postgraduate researches will enhance a better creative and critical understanding of Islam at the leadership level that might enable leaders to think and respond to their situations strategically and intellectually. We are privileged to be part of this research training this year at Stellenbosch.