What follows is an 'open letter' to our friend The Rev'd. Emmanuel Bwatta MA, Principal of the Bible College of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika in Kusulu, Tanzania encouraging the development of an indigenous African theological tradition that is widely accessible through written transmission.
I enjoyed reading your MA thesis on Prophets and the Social-Po0litical Welfare of Israel: Today’s Challenge to the Churches of Tanzania. You helped me understand some of what I have witnessed in my visits to you. I have noticed and commented on the reality that your Bishops live at a very different material level than the vast majority of their clergy. I had not seen this through the lens of ‘social class’ but am persuaded by your thesis that class is a useful lens for thinking about the challenges of your country.
We have talked frequently about the need to develop an indigenous theological tradition throughout Africa and the challenge that is posed to that project when so many of your people who are privileged to enjoy a Western Education end up becoming Bishops or otherwise enjoying the benefits of the class system that you have identified. It seems to me that an authentic tradition will do the kind of work that you have done in looking at the prophetic tradition, looking at your own country and looking at the insights of liberation theologies as they have developed elsewhere. This kind of work can become that ‘tradition’ that we long for if people like you will keep teaching, but also keep writing so that your work can be shared and disseminated more widely than strictly oral tradition allows.
I hope that we can continue our personal friendship and institutional partnership between this parish and The Bible College of which you are principal in ways that allow the flowering of this tradition for DWT, for Tanzania, for East Africa and for the Continent as a whole. Let’s keep talking about how we can help make that happen even as you return to your growing family and the day to day challenges of funding and managing your school.