A lecturer at the Africa International University in Kenya, Professor John Jusu, has given insight into how seminaries can be relevant in society.
He gave the insight while delivering the second public lecture of the West Africa Theological Seminary in Lagos on Friday, September 9.
Jusu spoke on, Innovation and Theological Education: The challenge of governance and sustainability in Africa.
He said the curriculum is the identity of theological institutions.
This identity according to him must be guarded in the course of pursuing innovation.
He warned that “any innovation that does not consider what the institution stands for will be an exercise in futility.”
Jusu said theological institutions must bear in mind that their unique identity is to serve the church. “If a seminary has this understanding, it must realise that it cannot be governed as a church is governed or the way businesses are run,” he said
The understanding that seminaries are unique entities according to him, “should guide them in their drive for innovation.”
Innovation is a process
He noted that innovation is a process and not an end in itself
“We must ensure that our seminaries return to teaching content that helps students to ask critical and ontological questions. And to read works of individuals who have provided robust and lasting answers to those questions.
“They must be concerned with preserving and handing down our theological heritage, wisdom, and eternal truths of the past generations to the young and emerging leaders of the church.,” he said.
Seminary should be focused
Jusu is the Regional Director for Africa, Overseas Council International, and Supervising Editor of Africa Study Bible.
He stressed the need for seminaries to refocus their emphasis.
Theological education according to him “is about using theological knowledge to enable those who are poor, oppressed, or marginalised to become the subjects of their own history.”
Quoting Paulo Freire, Jusu said, “Theological education is for the transformation of society. In this case, innovation is about renewal and contextualisation of the canon of theological education towards social transformation done by people themselves.”
Contrary to what many think, Jusu stated that innovation is not about making, inventing, or producing something.
“In education, it is about new ways of doing things to develop incremental enhancements in the content, process, product, and relevance of theological education,” he said.
Seminaries must adapt to a fast-paced world
For seminaries to be relevant in the present dispensation, Jusu counseled that they must be able to adapt to the fast-paced globalised world.
He said their concern should also be to remove dead woods from their systems and adopt best practices.
Jusu counseled that seminaries should approach innovation from the point of view of learning.
“When success becomes the goal of innovation, failure brings disappointment and eventually a blame game that will destroy all chances of positive impact.
“When we fail at innovation, we acquire knowledge. And as that knowledge accumulates we will continue to know how not to do things.”
Between innovation and sustainability
Jusu also explained that seminaries must strike a balance between innovation and sustainability. He warned that they can’t afford to invest money in ventures that “eventually fails”
According to him, if institutions fail to frame their problems correctly, the chances of designing effective innovative responses will diminish.
“In innovation, governance should ensure that the solutions sought should not produce negative collateral. It must not have side effects that will damage the institution,” Jusu said.
Innovation is about simple changes
In concluding his delivery, Jusu noted that innovation is also about simple changes in the way things are done.
He said for example that the way classrooms are constructed may save an institution a lot of money.
“If classrooms are built in such a way that allows sunlight and ventilation it will save the cost of energy. The school won’t need to put on the light in their classes when there is sunray. This will usher in sustainability.,” he said.
You may not need extra funding
He also advised that seminaries should not make innovation and sustainability their core business.
“If you do, you may kill the mission on the altar of sustainability. Allow your mission to drive your sustainability and innovation initiatives. You really do not need extra funds to remain sustainable. You may only need to adjust certain aspects of your organisation to provide the optimum environment to flourish.”
Jusu noted that the environment in which the seeds were placed determined the seeds’ growth in account of the parable of the sower.
“It was the same quantity of seeds but a different environment. In practical terms, it is the environment that matters.”
The annual lecture was graced by a number of students, theology enthusiasts, and experts.
The Chairman of the governing board of WATS, Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi praised the guest lecturer for his thought-provoking lecture. He noted that the lecture was a timely one for the institution.
The founder of WATS, Professor Gary Maxey also applauded the guest lecturer’s delivery.
He expressed optimism that Africans will be able to create a theological template relevant to the African milieu.