“So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”Acts 19:9-10
Talua Theological Training Institute is Vanuatu’s largest provider of theological education and the only Bible college that offers a degree. It is the official training provider for the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, Churches of Christ Vanuatu, and the French Protestant Church (Église Réformée de France), and attracts students from other denominations, including the Church of Melanesia (Anglican). Talua has four campuses, offering seven courses from Certificate I to degree level, and it is still expanding.
In 2014 the Government of Vanuatu established the Vanuatu Qualifications Authority (VQA) as the regulator of all Post School Education and Training. Since then, the VQA has set high standards for provider registration and course accreditation, such that Talua must write new policies and redesign and accredit all its courses. This work is arduous and beyond Talua’s operational capacity.
Tom is developing a new contextually relevant curriculum for six courses and writing curriculum-related policies. This will include creating course and subject outlines accreditation documents, organising or conducting benchmarking and validation of courses, and reporting on the development process. Once the courses are accredited, Tom will train staff in their use.
Curriculum can have an immense impact on teaching, and therefore on the quality of ministry done by graduating students. The VQA requires detailed outlines including outcomes, teaching and assessment methods, and resources to be used. Lecturers across Talua’s campuses value the curriculum documents and tend to teach as the subjects are outlined. This means that the curriculum is able to drive the theological character of the college.
To see more detail on exactly what Tom does, please read his Employment Contract.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.Col 1:6-8
Talua has also asked Tom to continue teaching systematic theology using Zoom and visiting for intensives.
Systematic theology is where we deduce what the whole Bible has to say on a topic and form a summary that helps us know God and live as his people. It is a dynamic process because, although God’s truth never changes, we need to explain that truth in ways our culture can grasp and use it to answer the questions thrown at us by society. For example, in ‘western’ cultures, gender is topical, and the church must respond to new challenges. We must do extra work in topics like creation, humanity, and family to guide Christians in navigating their relationships, workplaces, schools, etc. It is not enough to rely only on past theologies because they do not address the relevant questions fully.
When we do systematics in other cultures, it must be relevant to that context. Just as the west currently has questions relating to gender and sexuality, different cultures will have their own agendas that need addressing. Therefore, we cannot teach overseas in the same way we would in our home country. We need to listen and learn and ‘do life’ within a culture before we can teach effectively.
Teaching via Zoom in another country is fraught with dangers, as is flying in and out of countries to deliver intensives or using foreign curriculums. However, in Tom’s case, he has eleven years of experience in Vanuatu – and not just experience of seeing the country from the bounds of a Bible college, but living in villages, planting gardens, helping the sick, attending funerals and ceremonies, resolving conflicts, and visiting unreached people and learning about their religious worldview. These are the experiences that make systematics relevant to hands-on ministry.
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