Bethany Theological Seminary and EkklesiyarYan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have entered into an historic relationship, the first of its kind between the Seminary and a Church of the Brethren group outside the United States. At the 2016 Annual Conference, Bethany president Jeff Carter and EYN president Joel Billi signed a Memorandum of Understanding which outlined a new intercontinental online education program. Conceived as a way to facilitate theological study at Bethany for EYN members, the program is a joint effort between the Seminary and EYN.
The first graduate academic program at Bethany made available to EYN students through the partnership will be the Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies (CATS), requiring one course each in biblical, historical, theological, ministry, and peace studies and one elective. To be eligible for study at Bethany, international students must pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). To help students prepare for the TOEFL, Bethany is arranging the offering of an initial English language course in the fall of 2017. Students who demonstrate proficiency in English will be able to enroll in their first Bethany course, Global Perspectives on Scripture: 1 Corinthians, currently scheduled for January 2018.*
Reflecting the importance of collaboration in this new partnership, this first course will be taught by both Dan Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies at Bethany, and Pandang Yamsat, chief executive director of the Center for Value and Attitudinal Reawakening. A New Testament scholar, Yamsat recently retired from the faculty of the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. The two met at Bethany early in May to begin planning the course.
“I am especially delighted that Dr. Yamsat took time to visit Bethany during a brief personal visit to the United States and to begin planning for our January course,” says Ulrich. “Our planning sessions were very productive: we were able to finalize the course objectives, outline the work needed to meet those objectives, and develop a rough schedule for each class session. We have developed a strong working relationship, and I am confident that we can model the kind of intercultural interpretation we hope our students will learn.”
Key to the program’s success will be the completion of a new technology center in Jos, Nigeria, where EYN students will take all their classes online. Plans for the facility call for two large flat-panel screens and multiple cameras and microphones, similar to the technology now available in one of Bethany’s classrooms. Students on campus at Bethany, students in Jos, and faculty in both locations will share the classroom, able to see and hear each other in real time. Course content may also be offered through recorded class sessions, and faculty and students will communicate by e-mail and texts.
While the center will belong to EYN, Bethany is assuming responsibility for raising funds to cover the construction cost of $150,000. Mark Lancaster, executive director of institutional advancement, and Musa Mambula, Bethany’s international scholar in residence, have taken the lead in this effort, meeting with Church of the Brethren members across the denomination to make them aware of this opportunity for involvement in an empowering mission with EYN. To date, more than 50 percent of the goal has been raised.** Bethany has also been in communication with the BEST organization in Nigeria—a group of professionals who are members of EYN—regarding funding a portion of the facility. They have expressed enthusiasm and plan to send Bethany a proposal of support.
Originally from Borno State, Nigeria, Musa Mambula is Bethany’s first international scholar in residence and earned a master of arts in theology from Bethany in 1983. From the beginning of the partnership, he has helped to make connections between the Bethany administration and EYN leadership and will assist in determining EYN student eligibility for the program. Mambula spent sixteen years as dean at Kashim Ibrahim College of Education in Maiduguri, where he was also promoted to professor, and was provost at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. He has served as spiritual director for EYN and has provided leadership for professional associations and national institutions in Nigeria.
As the program develops, Bethany plans to offer accessible courses in theological and historical studies, ministry studies, and peace studies. Developed or adapted in conversation with Nigerian church leaders, these courses will be designed to encourage mutual learning on topics of interest to students in Nigeria as well as America. Courses will be offered in intensive formats so that students can complete them during a short stay in Jos.
It is hoped that this innovative program will create a pathway for more EYN students to enroll as degree students and study on campus at Bethany. Courses taken for the CATS can be transferred directly into the master of divinity or master of arts program at Bethany. As EYN moves from a state of crisis to one of greater independence after enduring widespread violence and destruction at the hands of Boko Haram, this educational partnership can help strengthen the leadership, mission, and ministry of a resilient and growing denomination.
* The intensive course Global Perspectives on Scripture: 1 Corinthians is open to interested persons who would like to enroll or audit. The dates of the course are January 2-12, 2018. For information, please contact Lori Current, executive director of admissions and student services, at email@example.com or 800-287-8822.
**For more information about supporting the building project and naming opportunities, please contact Mark Lancaster at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-983-1805.