Western influences on theological education in the developing world with case studies in Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka

Stuart M Brooking

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

There are several thousand Christian theological institutions in the developing world with enrolments of up to a million students. These denominational and inter-denominational institutions educate Christian pastors and leaders in academic programs from diploma to doctoral level. These institutions have relationships with organisations from their own nation or region but also many have multiple relationships with Western organisations. These Western institutions have roles that may include: founding, owning, accrediting, and funding the theological institutions in the developing world. Major changes have occurred in institutional understanding in both the West and the developing world in the post-colonial era and so the nature of these relationships warrants investigation.

The researcher explored three questions about the way organisations relate within theological education. The study aimed to determine what Western influences, if any, exist and the possible nature of those influences. These questions were used to examine the theological colleges in the two case study countries of Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. In the first chapter the researcher’s concern for international institutional relationships within the field of theological education were considered from a theological perspective. A number of theological ideals underpin the first question relating to mutuality in international relationships. The second chapter considers the socio-political influences upon these international relationships. These influences are derived from an historical and literary review. Two stages of field research were undertaken. The first stage was a questionnaire with a follow up focus group at an international meeting of theological institution leaders. The results from the first stage of field research provided the elements for the third question which focussed on the practical issues that impact the international institutional relationships of the theological colleges studied. In the second stage of the field research interviews were conducted with leaders from various theological college leaders in Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka to explore their college’s relationships with Western organisations.

The results indicate a range of ongoing Western influences on theological education in the developing world including the role of a theological college’s founding body, the need for pathways to educate faculty in higher degrees, and whether the college is part of an hierarchical international system such as the Roman Catholic theological system.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Nigel Bagnall