On behalf of Truett McConnell University (TMU), President Emir Caner was presented a $10,000 donation from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church (PRBC) in Baker, Florida, to begin the expansion process of the Master of Arts in Theology (MATh) program to be able to offer it in West Africa.
“For more than two years, Truett McConnell University has dreamed of offering our MA in Theology in French,” said TMU President, Dr. Emir Caner. “The need to prepare ministers in the francophone world is so great and the laborers are so few, we prayed the Lord would raise the funds to meet this eternal need.”
“Now, in God’s perfect timing,” he said, “Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, led by pastor and TMU trustee Dr. Geoff Prows, has generously and sacrificially given the lead gift that allows the University to make this dream a reality. Only heaven will be able to demonstrate the fruit of such kindness.”
“TMU’s MA in Theology prepares students for Christian ministry,” said Dr. Brad Reynolds, Vice President for Academic Services. “This preparation is desirable in all cultures. However, language barriers have historically limited such preparation. But these barriers are coming down at TMU, under the leadership of Dr. Maël Disseau.”
The MATh in the French language is a simple translation of TMU’s current online MATh. “The translated program will be offered, at first, to francophone students in West Africa, but then could eventually be offered to any francophone student,” said TMU’s Dean of the Balthasar Hubmaier School of Theology and Missions, Dr. Maël Disseau.
With the program being a translation of an existing program, Hubmaier School faculty will still be providing the content of the classes, while credentialed francophone adjunct faculty members will provide the regular interaction with and mentoring of students.
Disseau explained, “Currently, students in West Africa who graduate from a school like ESBTAO (West African Baptist Advanced School of Theology) in Lomé, Togo, (with which TMU has had a partnership for several years now) and want to pursue a master’s degree have to make some hard choices.”
According to the dean, these graduates would either have to study in a non-Baptist school, have to pursue a degree in English, or have to leave Africa all together.
“If they leave,” Disseau said, “they incur great expenses and often are being tempted not to return to Africa–resulting in the paucity of credential West African Faculty members and forcing schools like ESBTAO to be dependent on westerners for their faculty needs.”
Graduates of this expansion degree will provide a new pool of faculty members for schools like ESBTAO, giving the Hubmaier School at TMU the opportunity to impact the training of current and future generations of pastors in francophone West Africa. The degree will also be a steppingstone for future West African theologians in preparing them for their doctorate work.
Dr. Geoff Prows, Pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and TMU Board of Trustee member, said, “Our church has a heart not only for TMU, but missions and more specifically Africa. When I was told about the goal and the need, it only made sense for us to get on board with this exciting endeavor.”
“We are excited to partner with Truett McConnell in helping to train and equip men and women for the ministry, but also in taking the gospel to the nations,” said Prows.
Dr. Sylvain Allaboe, the director of ESBTAO, said on the impact of this new program in francophone Africa, “L’Afrique francophone est aujourd’hui la région la plus pauvre en cadres théologiques en Afrique. Et cela est particulièrement prononcé au sein des églises Baptistes de la région si bien que parfois on cherche en vain des personnes pour enseigner dans les institutions de formation théologique. Le programme de MA en théologie va combler ce vide et favorisera le développement d’un leadership bien équiper, capable de conduire l’église dans sa mission en Afrique et de réfléchir avec résultat sur les défis qui se posent devant l’église dans cette région. Ce sera un grand soulagement, pour nous dans la gestion de nos différents centres décentralisés de Licence en théologie (Bénin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoirre, Togo, etc.) [Francophone Africa is poorest African region when it comes to a theological framework. This is especially the case within the Baptist church in the region, so much so that it is often impossible to find faculty members to teach in our theological institutions. The MA in Theology will fill this void and enable the formation of well-trained leadership, capable of leading the church in its mission in Africa and of finding solutions to the challenges that await the church in this region. This will be of great help in the staffing of our bachelor level extension centers (in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, etc.)]
As Allaboe and Hubmaier faculty begin translating the 2.5 years cohort program to French, the plan is to start offering classes January 2022. In the future, Caner said Truett McConnell is prayerfully considering the possibility of expanding the MATh degree into Spanish and Korean. “Central to our mission,” Caner explained, “is fulfilling The Great Commission through raising up a new generation of church leaders fully equipped to shepherd the flock and share Christ.”
Jenny Gregory is the Digital Marketing Specialist for TMU’s Marketing and Communications.
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