Uganda Christian University — Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology

Uganda Christian University — Some Information

The total number of students at Uganda Christian University (UCU) is currently  approaching 11,000 across 3 semesters – students are in session for two during any academic year and Theology students attend May-August (Trinity Semester) and January-April (Easter Semester) for each academic year.  At any given time, we have approximately 4,000 students on campus.  The target number of students in Mukono is 6,000.

Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology within UCU?

The Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology (BTSDT) is the only “school” among the several faculties at UCU as the University has built upon the long tradition of excellence in theological education begun in 1913.  The training of church leaders alongside students preparing for careers in education, business, social work, mass communications, law, nursing and technology, is an embodiment of the principle that clergy are to be “leaven” in the wider society.

As a university, we are able to offer and require courses of all students, including divinity students, in areas such as computer literacy, writing skills, and “health and wholeness”, which help equip the whole person for ministry and give them even more to give back in their local communities. Non-theology students benefit from the theology programme as all students from UCU must take Foundation Courses taught by the BTSDT faculty in Understanding New Testament, Understanding Old Testament, Understanding World Views, and Christian Ethics.

The growth in the overall finances of the University has brought to theological students the library, Internet and other resources, perhaps not normally available at stand-alone theological colleges in the region. While our theology collection is substantial, I must hasten to add that it needs more new and recent collections. Moreover, other fields also lack necessary resources and the need for space for students to read their books is dire.

As a Christian University, the University has strengthened the church more broadly by equipping ordained pastors in fields like Development Studies, Mass Communication, Counselling, etc. which is helping the church to remain relevant in meeting the needs of the people beyond Sunday mornings!

It is an exciting and fascinating story to note that The Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology continues to grow and expand its reach in multiple ways:

  1. In 2000, the School began offering a Master of Arts in Theology and the number of students in that programme continues to grow. Through this programme, we have been able to train many men and women who are now equipping leaders through teaching in theological colleges in all of our neighbouring countries (lately as far as Nigeria and South Africa) and in Uganda.
  2. We are strengthening our relationships with affiliated regional colleges around Uganda. Students at these colleges study for certificates, diplomas and degrees, which are awarded by the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology
  3. Bishop Barham University College in Kabale is now a full constituent campus of this University and we cooperate in the education and training of clergy. Their location on the border of Rwanda and the proximity to Congo and Burundi further expands our opportunities to reach out into training in our neighbouring countries.  Our centre in Arua reaches out into Congo and South Sudan; and our centre in Mbale reaches out into Kenya.
  4. We now offer a Master of Divinity degree for those who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than theology and who feel called to ordination. Whereas the MAT degree is an academic degree, the MDiv will provide students with ministerial training alongside theological training. 2009 saw the first ever students graduating with the MDiv.
  5. We offer a Postgraduate Diploma in Christian Ministry, known as “Tentmakers”. This is a one-year modular programme where students report to campus 4 times a year and take courses for 2 weeks. Students then have readings and coursework to do in between meetings.  This programme is designed to train the laity to be better ministers of the Gospel through theological education and ministerial training.  For some, this has led to ordination.
  6. Again in 2009, we graduated our first cohort of students in Child Development and Children’s Ministry. This programme began in 2006 as an interdisciplinary degree organized under BTSDT to include theological perspectives on children and incorporates courses from UCU’s other faculties of Development Studies, Social Work, Education, and Counselling.  The goal of this programme is to equip children’s workers in churches and NGOs to work with the “whole child” (physical, emotional, and spiritual) from a Christian perspective.  This degree programme was developed at the request of, and in coordination with, NGOs who work with children. In 2014 we have admitted the first ever cohort of 12 students in the Master of Child Development and Children’s Ministry.
  7. Through the creation of the Child Development and Children’s Ministry programme, we have now launched certificate and diploma programmes at our affiliated colleges around Uganda. This is a one-of-a-kind programme that is equipping people throughout the country and the neighbouring countries to meet the physical and spiritual needs of children.

At the same time, the provision of excellent facilities has driven up tuition costs, though they are still modest by Western standards! Churches in Uganda and other parts of East Africa find it difficult, if not impossible, to foot the whole bill for their candidates for ministry. Sometimes they resort to unhealthy short-cuts in the church where they end up ordaining people without proper residential theological education — locally called the “crash programme”.

The Olwa report to the COU house of Bishops in 2007 clearly revealed the crisis in the numbers of ordained ministers in which this was a very common method of training. From this study, it was determined that within the next decade, one-half of all the clergy in the Church of Uganda are set to retire and the present clergy shortage is set to become an emergency.  Therefore, UCU established “University Scholarships” to encourage dioceses to send students for training.

UCU has committed to covering the tuition and fees for up to 3 students per diocese each year – for a total of 9 per diocese over the 3 year course of study – and attempting to cover its costs with other sources of funding.  The other important part of these “University Scholarships” was creating a partnership with the Dioceses in the Church of Uganda.  Whereas the University would underwrite the tuition portion for Divinity students pursuing a Bachelor’s or Master’s of Divinity at UCU or a Diploma at Bishop Barham, the Dioceses are required to cover the upkeep and accommodation expenses for their students.

Because of the “University Scholarships” scheme, the number of students studying theology and preparing for ordination has increased markedly.  We have seen an increase in each intake of 30-40 over the numbers attending prior to the offer of these scholarships.  Many dioceses have responded positively to this partnership arrangement for training their clergy.  This is where UCU is having a positive impact on the development of the church.

Teaching Staff at BTSDT

BTSDT uses a combination of full-time and part-time teaching staff to cover all of its courses. Two part-time are Emeritus, and teach one class each semester.  The number of part-time staff can vary depending on the semester. Among the teaching faculty, we have three full-time faculty with PhDs in theology, including the Dean of the School.

The desire of the School has been never to be reliant on expatriate staff to provide for teaching.  However, we need more staff with PhDs to teach as we expand the MAT and offer PhDs in theology. One challenge we face is that those who have PhDs in theology have been trained abroad and are often selected for other posts outside of teaching. Furthermore, in 2003 we also had another Divinity staff member who was about to complete his PhD when he was elected Bishop and had to leave the University.  This leaves us with a need to train more theologians at PhD level so we can continue to improve our offerings here.

Constituent Colleges and Regional Campuses

UCU and the BTSDT have worked to develop relationships with regional colleges. These colleges offer Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates in Theology (and some of

them offer other programmes) but all of the awards are conferred by UCU in Mukono.  The desire is to have a regional college in each area of Uganda so that the needs of the church in theological training can be met.  We have a campus in Arua (Northern Uganda); Namugongo (near UCU but offering certificate and diploma); Janani Luwum (Gulu, N. Uganda); Buwalasi (Mbale, Eastern Uganda); Kyogyera (Bushenyi, W. Uganda); and Bishop Barham University College (BBUC) in Kabale.

 Other Theological Training in Uganda

The Schools listed above are those dedicated to training clergy within the context of the Church of Uganda (Anglican).  However, there are many other theological training grounds for people of other denominations here in Uganda.  There are Bible colleges and seminaries for Catholics; Seventh Day Adventist and various Pentecostal churches have their own affiliated Bible colleges, and many others. But many from the vast array of churches and denominations located in Uganda still choose to study at UCU because of the sound, theological training.

The staff members of BTSDT are actively involved in developing theological education around Uganda.  We have members of staff who serve on the boards of other, younger, theological colleges to help ensure quality and adherence to Scriptural authority in the teaching at those institutions.

Challenges to the Church in Uganda

The churches in Uganda, like in the rest of Africa, are challenged by the Pentecostal movements. The number of Pentecostal churches continues to grow and attract many young people with their messages of health and wealth.  The Anglican Church of Uganda is trying to equip the leaders in the church and the parishioners to discern truth. The government dedicates a week every year to “Cult Awareness” and the University focuses on equipping people to discern false teaching.  This week has usually coincided with the annual anniversary of the mass suicide/killing of 780 people in Western Uganda in the “Ten Commandments of God” Cult.  This cult had grown out of the Catholic Church with teachings corrupted by the leaders.  Mass graves were found and “churches” were burnt with followers inside.  The Church of Uganda and UCU are staunchly trying to prevent another such occurrence through teaching and equipping the people.

Another major challenge to the church is “Witchcraft” or African Traditional Religions.  This has become especially noteworthy in recent months as there has been a significant increase in the number of child abductions and ritual killings throughout the country.   The Christian churches have recognized that this indicates a failure on their part to address the issue and have called for people to dedicate this Lenten season to a period of prayer and fasting to release Ugandans from this stranglehold.  Moreover, the churches are tasked with teaching and developing programmes around this issue.  In a country that professes to be more than 85% Christian, this should not be such a difficult problem if people were truly living their faith.

As is the case throughout the world, Biblical Christianity in Uganda is also challenged by Islam.  The number of Muslims in Uganda is growing and there is an Islamic University in Uganda located in Mbale as well as a growing number of Muslim primary and secondary schools.  Immigration is leading to the growth in numbers as well as conversions and marriages. This is something the church is now increasingly recognizing the need to address.  This is further exemplified by the fact that the Kampala skyline is now dominated by a new mosque, paid for by the President of Libya, and the increased number of investments in this country held by Libyans.

The influences of Pentecostalism, Islam, and witchcraft in Uganda point to the need to train leaders in strong, biblical theology. That is the goal of UCU and the BTSDT. This is one of the reasons why BTSDT introduced the “Tentmakers” course. BTSDT is also seeking ways to expand its course offerings to allow lay people to get strong theological education and helping the ordinary evangelist and pastor improve their preaching skills.

The Charismatic movement has created some divisions within the Church of Uganda and other mainline churches as young people are seeking the more experience-based worship of Pentecostal and charismatic churches. The churches are trying to accommodate more of that while at the same time retaining their heritage.  It is a difficult balance.  Many churches in urban settings have multiple worship services so that one is more charismatic to attract those people and another service is more traditional.  This is the same model many churches in the West have used to meet the needs of all.

The Revd. Canon Dr. Alfred Olwa is Dean of the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology at UCU