When I say I teach the Moore Preliminary Theological Certificate (PTC) material in Madagascar, people normally make a joke about talking zebras or something else from the animated movie. Actually, no one on my first visit to Madagascar had even heard of the film. But they did want me to name Australian stars and were deeply impressed when I said Hugh Jackman/Wolverine is one of ours!
About 15 years ago the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean was chatting with Bishop Peter Tasker from Sydney, who thought the PTC sounded like a perfect fit for their needs. It was introduced into Mauritius and the Seychelles, where it has become a basis for lay pastoral licensing, and then made its way to Madagascar.
The most influential Anglican missionaries to Madagascar were High Church, and the church remains orthodox Anglo-Catholic. Liturgy is prioritised over the exposition of Scripture. What’s more, the national Anglican training college has closed, and Anglicans now study theology alongside Catholic priests-in-training at the Catholic University.
As a result, clergy are conversant with philosophical and sacramental theology, and yet our PTC intensives are the most rigorous biblical studies courses they have ever taken. The clergy have a high doctrine of Scripture, so the PTC material provides exhilarating learning experiences filled with ‘light bulb’ moments. On one occasion, I was illustrating how one might construct a biblical theology of God’s presence. I moved from the Garden of Eden and expulsion from God’s presence to Sinai, to the tabernacle and temple, to ‘God with us’ in Christ, and ultimately to seeing God face-to-face in Revelation 22. One excited student said, ‘This is wonderful! How does it relate to the Real Presence in the eucharist?’.
An excellent question, which underscores the importance of utilising the PTC material as the missing biblical studies strand in pastoral training. The church is experiencing rapid conversion growth. Evangelism and church planting are in full swing using the Jesus Film, the Alpha Course, and more. We must equip clergy and lay leaders so that those who hear the lectionary readings each Sunday are taught and discipled in God’s word. The PTC course material, used to train clergy and lay people alike, is a Godsend.
The PTC material is transforming church leadership in the Indian Ocean. A new Anglican training centre in southern Madagascar is planning to adopt this material as its biblical studies syllabus. Our plan was to run three annual intensives of 25 participants each from 2020. Covid put a stop to that, but Plan B is for a couple of excellent locals to become trainers using the PTC material, whom we will resource and coach remotely.
Join me in thanksgiving for all the Lord is accomplishing by his word in this wonderful part of his vineyard. It is a great privilege to be partnering with churches in this region, through the Centre for Global Mission (CGM), and seeing how theological education is bearing such fruit.