Photo Credit: Diocese of Wau
South Sudan embarks on ambitious clergy training programme
Bellah Zulu, ACNS
A bishop in South Sudan has attributed some of the tribal conflicts in the country to the lack of proper and sufficient training for clergy in the young nation.
Bishop of Wau Diocese, the Right Revd Moses Deng Bol said in an interview with ACNS, “The major challenges with untrained clergy is that they are not able to sufficiently teach Christians to have a good understanding of the Word of God. Many Christians lack the spiritual and social transformation that comes with the Gospel.
“A good example is the issue of tribal conflicts in South Sudan which are driven mainly by cattle rustling done by Christians themselves,” said Bishop Deng. “If these Christians were really taught to understand the great commandment of loving your neighbour as yourself, that alone could reduce these conflicts.”
He added, “There has been a cycle of revenge attacks by one community against the other and vice versa with none of them willing to forgive the other, which is not Christian at all.”
During the war, bishops were forced to resort to what became known as 'mass ordinations' where hundreds of young people were ordained without any theological training in order to pastor hundreds of thousands of new believers who had just been baptised.
At the time, the only theological college for the whole of the Episcopal Church of Sudan was Bishop Gwynne College based in Juba, which most pastors who were operating in the villages under rebel control could not access.
“We recently established St John's Theological College to train most of the clergy who were ordained without any theological training during the war as well as lay leaders and evangelists who will take care of the many new churches which are being established as a result of the growing Church,” revealed the Bishop.
“In 2011 we had a one-year Intensive English training for the first group as they did not have [sufficient] educational background to allow them to pass Special Entrance Examinations to St Paul's University in Kenya,” said Bishop Deng.
However, the new college is still in need of a lot of financial and material support in order to fully mature, stabilise and become self-sustaining. The Bishop has since asked well-wishers around the world to help sponsor some of the students in need of financial assistance. Each student is required to pay a little over £1,000 a year for tuition and other costs.
“Last year we had seven students from Wau Diocese alone," said Bishop Deng. "This year we are expecting to have at least 20 students from the 19 Archdeaconries of Wau Diocese and one from the Cathedral and we are expecting more students from the other seven dioceses of Bahr El Ghazal Region,”
The shortage of clergy in the region is so high that about a month ago, Bishop Deng set out to confirm about 2000 Christians in his diocese all within eight days.
St John's Theological College is going to serve not only the Diocese of Wau but the whole region of Bhar El Ghazal which is divided into four States of Western Bhar El Ghazal, Warrap, Northern Bhar El Ghazal and Lakes, and seven Dioceses of Wau: Aweil, Rumbek, Cueibet, Yirol, Pacong, Akot, Awerial and Abyei area.