n Missionalia : Southern African Journal of Mission Studies - Unfinished business : the painful closure of the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-9507



Established in 1963, the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa, also known as Fedsem, occupies a unique place in South African history. For three decades, it was one of the main places of training for the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (Anglican), the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa and a cluster of Presbyterian churches. Despite the controversy surrounding its closure in 1993, it is regarded by many as one of the most remarkable achievements of the Christian church in South Africa. A symbol of ecumenism, it also exemplified the churches' resistance to apartheid. This is why, more than fifteen years after its demise, it continues to evoke powerful emotions. On the basis of interviews with former staff and students, the paper tries to understand the reasons for the closure. On the surface of things, the decision to close the seminary was made on financial grounds. The dwindling number of students made it increasingly unsustainable. But it could have survived if various funding opportunities had been seized and if the study programme had been restructured. Unfortunately, power struggles within the seminary and lack of support on the side of the constituent churches resulted in these opportunities being missed.

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