by Lon Fendall
A major part of my ministry is to support the Friends theological colleges in Kenya and Rwanda. I just returned from another visit to Friends Theological College (FTC) in Kaimosi, Kenya where I have been an academic consultant for them in their accreditation process. The process is not fun’ it is a lot of work, especially when it is the first time around. My work is to clarify what needs to be done and when those tasks need to be completed. Then I will help with the final editing.
During this last stay, I began thinking about the parallels between accreditation in colleges and universities and the accountability each of us needs to take seriously in our personal spiritual development. Although there are 30 standards established by the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA), I was drawn to the five under “administration.”
Imagine that we were being evaluated by a group of visiting angels and their only question was, “Are you meeting each of these five standards?”
- Mission and Objectives— For a college, the question is whether these are clearly stated and fit with the purposes of a theological institution. For FTC, the stated mission and objectives are to prepare men and women for many kinds of ministries. Some are already pastors when they come to FTC and know they have much more to learn to be effective. So, what’s the counterpart in our own personal spiritual life? Of the many Scripture passages that speak about our objectives as believers, I like the one in Philippians 3:13-14: “But one things I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
- Organization— By this standard, ACTEA means that applicants for accreditation should understand the way that the governing board, the administrative staff, and the faculty work together on the governance of the institution. Students shouldn’t have to wonder what is expected of them while they are a part of the college community. Our own accountability as believers who function in various Christian communities may seem to be less strict than for a student in a theological college, but as the Apostle Paul put it, “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13).
- Finances—ACTEA expects the colleges they accredit to be handling finances carefully, but also to meet a particular standard called the “fifty per cent rule.” Realizing that for many years theological colleges counted on most of their financial support coming from their sponsoring bodies in other countries, ACTEA now insists that at least 50% of their operational funding come from Africa. The counterpart of this standard for us as believers is that we should be careful in managing and spending our funds and should be reasonably self-reliant, or actually God-reliant. As the Apostle Peter puts it, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” (I Peter 5:2).
- Stability—By this ACTEA means continuity among those who serve as board members, administrators, faculty, and staff, as well as steadiness in enrollment and finances. The application of this standard in our personal spiritual lives can be found in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9).
- Review—ACTEA expects that the colleges and seminaries in Africa that they accredit have a “periodic and systematic” process of reviewing their objectives, their curricula, and the effectiveness of their graduates. Recently I joined three others from our church in participating in the Men’s Retreat held at Twin Rocks Friends Camp. Even though it was a rainy weekend, the four of us from our church gathered around campfires after the evening messages and “critically reviewed” how we measure up against the themes presented by our speaker, Brad Lau. We were honest with one another in these discussions, mindful of such Scriptures as Hebrews 4:13: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Part of me will be greatly relieved when FTC’s efforts to be accredited are successful. And if no one else at FTC thinks of it first, I’m going to propose having a great party to celebrate! And perhaps you might consider having a personal celebration for those spiritual milestones in your own life!