Enriching Theological Education at Cambine Theological Seminary
by Julio Andre Vilanculos
The Cambine Mission in Mozambique, located northwest of Maxixe in Inhambane Province, is more than 100 years old. Methodist missionaries seeking a place to build a hospital, church, and school were given Cambine as a gift from a tribal king in 1890. He asked the missionaries, “Do you come for peace?” That king, who is buried on the Cambine grounds, was the great-great-grandfather of João Somane Machado, who served as bishop for the UMC in Mozambique from 1988 to 2008.
Colonized by Portugal beginning in the 16th century, Mozambique gained its independence in 1975. But a year later, a civil war erupted that lasted for 16 years. The capital, Maputo, situated in the south of the country on the shores of the Indian Ocean, was badly damaged during the war.
Cambine experienced heavy fighting during the civil war and sometimes endured daily bombings. Many families lost their land and livestock during the conflict. After the Peace Accord was signed in 1992, people returned to their villages, but many had to start from scratch. Much of the forest was cut down to rebuild houses and make room for upland agriculture (hill cultivation). The poorest residents could not produce enough food for their families. In response to the needs of the people, The United Methodist Church in Mozambique initiated a program that focused on the needs of the poor.
The aim of the program is to assist local farmers in raising crops and animals. Through the program, families are taught basic agriculture and new farming techniques, but the church cannot meet all the needs of the people. John Nday from the DR Congo was commissioned during General Conference in May 2016 and will take over for the missionary who had been coordinating the agricultural work at Cambine. Nday’s wife, Florence Kaying, a nurse practitioner, was also commissioned in May and will work in the Cambine clinic.
In addition to the agricultural program in Cambine, the mission station includes the country’s only United Methodist seminary as well as primary, secondary, and vocational schools. In 1979, an orphanage was opened, which today is called the Carolyn Belshe Orphanage, a ministry of the Women’s Society (UMW) in Mozambique. Cambine is about a 45-minute drive from another United Methodist mission station, Chicuque, in Maxixe on Inhambane Bay.
Cambine Theological Seminary trains many United Methodist pastors. It hires professors at all levels—some with Bachelor of Divinity degrees, some with Masters, others with Ph.Ds. Training pastors is the seminary’s main purpose, and once they graduate they are sent to the bishop’s cabinet for ordination and appointment to work in the local churches.
Some of the money for teaching salaries comes from Global Ministries, through Nationals in Mission (NIM) grants. But those funds are not sufficient to cover all the professors and students. So some funds come from the UMC headquarters in Maputo, from Bishop Joaquina F. Nhanala. In 2016, 21 theological students are enrolled, 20 Methodists and one from the Church of Christ.
When I was appointed to the seminary as its director, I suggested to my colleagues that we need to make the seminary an ecumenical institution. While we would continue to train Methodist students, they could be joined by ecumenical students from other denominations. The student from the Church of Christ is our first ecumenical student. He is now in his third year, and he will graduate next year.
Within the Mozambique context, one who has earned a theological degree is expected to become a pastor. But we are helping people understand that a theological degree may open the door for other possibilities as well.
A new idea, which is still in the formation stage, is for Cambine Theological Seminary to hold classes in Maxixe, which is the closest town to Cambine. Cambine is in a remote rural area, while Maxixe has a much larger population. If we can get this off the ground, we will not limit the classes to United Methodist students. We will open up enrollment to anyone interested in studying theology. That is our future plan. We will submit this proposal to our annual conference, which meets at the end of this year. With the church’s approval, we might start as early as next year, if we can achieve a core enrollment.
Accepting students outside The United Methodist Church also brings in grants and money from outside the United Methodist connection. That money can pay for transportation and a number of other things we need to run the seminary.
In addition to being the director of Cambine Theological Seminary, I am also the president of the African Association of United Methodist-related Theological Institutions (AAUMTI). One of our projects in this association is to create an exchange program between seminaries. We have started that project in Mozambique. Besides our United Methodist seminary in Mozambique, there is another seminary called Ricatla United Theological Seminary in Maputo.
The Ricatla seminary is an ecumenical theological institution founded in 1958 by a group of Protestant churches committed to creating a school for pastors in a cross-denominational setting. The United Seminary of Ricatla has since graduated hundreds of ministers, both male and female, who have gone on to work in a variety of churches throughout the country. The seminary also offers exchange programs and accepts students from outside Mozambique.
The United Methodist Church in Mozambique may send pastors to the Ricatla seminary for training, and, through the Sol Africa project of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, to the Universidade Metodista de São Paulo (Methodist University of São Paulo, UMESP) in Brazil. Students chosen for the Sol Africa program have already earned their theological degrees and receive additional mentoring from professors there as well as practical experience in teaching. (See story on p. 30.)
Cambine seminary has developed an exchange program with Ricatla to send one of its professors to teach classes in Methodism for a few weeks in any given semester. Because Ricatla is an ecumenical seminary, it doesn’t teach Methodist curriculum. We have agreed to send a professor to provide coursework on the Methodist tradition when needed. Non-Methodist students can join the course, if they want to, but for Methodist students, the classes are compulsory.
In 2013, Cambine sent a female student to Ricatla for a semester. In June 2016, the academic director at Cambine seminary traveled to Maputo to engage the Ricatla administration. We are trying to enhance and enrich this exchange program so that Ricatla seminary will send students to Cambine. If things go well, the two-way exchange with Ricatla will start next semester.
If we had the funding, we would send students to seminaries in Brazil or Angola for further studies. Our central conference meeting this year (Africa Central Conference, which includes both Angola and Mozambique) will be taking place in Angola. For the few days I will be there, I’ve agreed to teach a seminar at one of the seminaries in the West Angola Conference.
Our pastoral students must work as interns, placed in churches with ordained clergy. They learn how to become a pastor with the help and coaching of a more experienced pastor in a practical setting.
The Rev. Dr. Julio Andre Vilanculos serves as director of the Cambine Theological Seminary in Mozambique and as the president of the African Association of United Methodist-related Theological Institutions (AAUMTI). He received degrees from Africa University in Zimbabwe (B.A. in Divinity and M.A. in Religious Studies) and Ricatla United Theological Seminary in Maputo, Mozambique. He also received a Ph.D. in Contemporary Church History from the University of Pretoria in South Africa and studied at the Methodist University of São Paulo, in Brazil, through the Sol Africa project.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, July-August 2016 issue. Used by permission.
First class for the seminary students at the Cambine seminary in February 2016—they have a few visiting mission volunteers from Missouri. PHOTO: CRAIG STEVENSON
Map art: Christopher G. Coleman
The Carolyn Belshe Orphanage is on the grounds of the Cambine mission. Missouri Conference volunteers paid the children a visit in February 2016. PHOTO: CRAIG STEVENSON
Dave and Julie Walker, from the Missouri Annual Conference, with a Cambine seminary student that their church has been supporting for a number of years. PHOTO: CRAIG STEVENSON
The Cambine Theological Seminary in Cambine, Mozambique. PHOTO: CRAIG STEVENSON