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Failure of Ecumenism: The Rise of Church Related Universities in Zimbabwe

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Discourses on ethnicity, politics and religion have a propensity to concentrate on their divisive implications and violent aspects. At another level, scholarship on ecumenism has been preoccupied with forms of ecumenism such as interdenominational bodies and grassroots co-operation exhibited in joint worship services and discussion forums. It is noted that in spite of its shortcomings Christianity has registered notable progress in ecumenical co-operation. However, one dimension where the churches have not done well is closer co-operation culminating in cross-denominational pooling of resources leading to the establishment of institutions. This paper seeks to highlight the failure of ecumenism in the emergence of church-related universities in Zimbabwe. It notes that particularly in the early stages of the evolution of church related universities there was consideration of ecumenical ventures but the ideas did not take root for a variety of reasons. This paper isolates ethnicity, regionalism and historical backgrounds among the major reasons for the failure of ecumenism in higher education in Zimbabwe. It argues that over time Christian churches participated through their mission stations in fostering ethnic and regional identities. The emergence of church related universities saw an increase in competition and rivalry rather than co-operation as each church in spite of the absence of an adequate resource base sought to take advantage of the liberalisation of the higher education sector by the state.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Religious Studies and African Christianity, United Theological College, Harare, Zimbabwe


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