Opportunities and challenges faced in training Ministers of Religion through Open and Distance Learning: The case for Zimbabwe Theological Education by extension
In recent years some evangelical churches in Zimbabwe, such as the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the Anglican dioceses of Harare, Manicaland, Masvingo and Central Zimbabwe, have resorted to training ministers of religion through Open and Distance Learning (ODL). This is done through Zimbabwe Theological Education by Extension College (TEE) which started as an affiliate college of the Joint Board of Theological Education by Extension of South Africa. Presently Zimbabwe Theological Education by Extension is an associate college of Zimbabwe Open University. ODL has never been a norm for evangelical churches in Zimbabwe. From the time of their inception in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, evangelical churches introduced denominational theological institutions, like United Theological College, which was started by the Methodist Church as Epworth Theological College and changed the name when other denominations which included the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church and United Church of Christ joined the theological college as well as Gaul House, an Anglican initiative for local ministerial training. These colleges use the conventional teaching method. From 1980 most of the evangelical churches in Zimbabwe experienced phenomenal growth which could not be matched to the numbers of church ministers. As a result they looked for ways through which they could address the challenge of ministerial shortages and ODL was adopted. The purpose of this paper is twofold, to interrogate the role of ODL in the context of training ministers of religion and to explore the opportunities and challenges experienced in using ODL as a method of ministerial formation. In this paper the researcher proffers two major arguments. The first is that ODL promotes the initial professional education of ministers of religion. Secondly the researcher submits that ODL provides space for continuing professional development for ministers of religion.
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