Africa Reformation Theological Seminary (ARTS)
We stayed with Dave and Darlene Eby, the founders of the seminary. It was a delight to get to know them. Most encouraging of all was to see the community being shaped at the seminary. This is a really special work because:
- they are geographically strategic
- they have rich and warm theological teaching
- they are academically strategic and relevant
- they are serving the church
- they are locally overseen
- Geographically Strategic: Uganda is at the nexus of the three dominant cultures and regions of Africa. To the North is the Arabic-Muslim influenced area (Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, etc.) To the West is Francophone Catholic and Protestant Africa (Congo, Burundi, etc.). To the East and the South is English speaking Anglican and Presbyterian Africa. Students come to ARTS from each of these regions. Many of these students, especially North Africans, return to minister and teach in regions white Westerners could never reach.
- Rich and Warm Theological Teaching: When grace shapes your life together at a seminary it will shape the churches where those seminarians end up. Getting to hear one of the MTW missionaries teach Greek was a treat. He exemplified what I love about the PCA and others: a hearty love for rigorous deep theology colored and driven God's love. This is exactly the kind of gospel-shaped culture which is hard to find in Africa.
- Academically Strategic: University education is highly valued in Uganda; they are seeing roughly 400,000 Ugandas earn their bachelor's degree every year now. This also means that most of the students at ARTS have already found jobs, or begun their ministry in churches, and are ready to pursue theological education at a Master's level as a professional degree. They are more stable financially, and better students all around. These credentialed leaders will become great assets for the Church (see below).
- Serving the Church: Each ARTS grad will be able to return to their won country and minster the grace of God effectively to their own churches (which can often be quite large; 1000-5000). On top of that, with a Master's degree they can start their own Bible Colleges to train their fellow pastors, elders and lay people, the very people who would otherwise never receive the riches of theological formation. (Two South Sudanese Pastors pictured above are making plans with Dave Eby along these lines). As well, though they are a Reformed Presbyterian school, they have church partnerships across many denominational lines.
The teaching at ARTS is teaching is churchly and practical. Thankfully they are well complimented by the Mission to the World team on the ground. We met another MTW missionary, Steven Edging, who is walks with alumni after graduation to help them practically work out their education in the nitty gritty details of ministry.
- Locally Overseen: Paternalism is a constant danger when Americans and American money is involved in the church overseas. ARTS exemplifies many of the virtues we long to see in Missions organizations: local oversight, trusting partnership with and submission to Africans, African leadership and ownership of the organization, in the service of the Church on African terms (not Western agendas). They began the work at the request and invitation of the Presbyterian Church in Uganda (PCU), and though now no longer directly under the PCU, their board of directors is composed of a number of local Ugandas from the PCU and other denominations, all of whom must subscribe to the Westminster Standards.
A Very Compelling Work
All in all ARTS was a very compelling work. They are doing so many things right, and so much of their organized and institutional life bears the marks of grace and love for God that we would love to be a part of the work. Now..... How to get there? See the next Post.
Meet Dave Eby, the Principal