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A New Chapter at St Paul's University in Nairobi, Kenya

October 10, 2007

A new chapter in Christian Education in Africa opened Friday, September 14th with the installation of the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, the World Council of Churches' General Secretary,  a Kenyan Methodist clergyman to be the first President of the newly State chartered and recognized St. Paul's University in Limuru, (near Nairobi) Kenya.  Dr Kobia has been the General Secretary of the World Council of churches for the last several years.

The installation at St. Paul's is on the 104th anniversary of the founding in Freretown of the first Anglican Divinity school in East Africa. Freretown was a town created by the British Governor of India and E Africa. Gov. Frere was an active Anglican layman working for the abolition of slavery.  That work started in 1885 near the port of Mombasa, Kenya. The Divinity School to teach newly freed slaves was started in 1903.  It was probably the first Theological College in East Africa.

The Anglican Divinity School was moved and merged with other resources in 1955 to become St. Paul's United Theological College in Limuru, Kenya on the Kenya Highlands near Nairobi. It united Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches and also Quakers and other denominations in Kenya and much of Eastern Africa.  St. Paul's UT College has made an exceptional impact on the African Independent Churches by training their pastors in theology since 1955.

Dr. Kobia was himself a BD graduate of St Paul's United Theological College in 1969. He earned his MTh at McCormick Seminary (Chicago); a Masters in City Planning (MCP) at MIT; a Doctor of Divinity at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, and a PhD in Religious studies at Fairfax University, Louisiana.

St. Paul's University is an expansion of St. Paul's United Theological College. The College has worked since 1985 to be recognized as a University by the Kenyan government. The new University is also sponsored by the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Kenya, and by the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).  The University will teach humanities, business and home sciences as well as full graduate program in theology, including a graduate program on Christian-Muslim relations.

St Paul's United Theological College was created by the four denominations in 1954 and opened in 1955 at the heyday of ecumenical union movements in Africa.  In the 50's, before Kenyan independence the Anglican, Methodists and Presbyterians shared responsibility in many ways: they created the Association of Theological Institutions of Eastern Africa (ATIEA) and created syllabi, and certifying exam programs to offer the Diploma and Bachelor of Theology for students of a growing number of theological colleges in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Sudan, primarily.  These churches also worked together to create and support several outstanding protestant High Schools. 

Lay Christians of European ancestry joined with key Kenyan Protestant leaders to shape and inspire the movement for Independence.  Since independence they have held many key posts  in all governments, as well as in education, science and the secular universities.

UCC missionaries have been seconded to St Paul's United Theological College through a request of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa since 1984. Current Global Ministries missionary, Phyllis Byrd, has been teaching at St Paul's over the last decade. Other European churches of the Reformed, Methodist and Anglican traditions have provided leadership and taught since 1955 with the spirit that created the College: to teach theology in an African context and in terms of African cultural understandings and African Christian insights on our faith. To learn more about St Paul's visit their website at:

Written by Rev. Charles T. Hein, PhD formerly, UCC tutor (professor) of Christian Education and Pastoral Studies, and chair of the Pastoral Studies department of St. Paul's UT College between 1986 and 1991. During that time, Mrs Hein developed a course for students' wives to enable them to provided skilled leadership to their churches while their husbands carried out a usually highly itinerant ministry among an average of 20 scattered churches.

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