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The Department of Religion and Theology at UWC offers modules in three subject areas, namely Theological Studies, Ethics, and Religious Studies.

Collaborative research activities in the Department take place within six research frameworks, namely Religion; Ethics and Social Transformation; Religion and Gender; Religion and Development; Ecumenical Theology and Spirituality in Africa; Christian Ecotheology and Biblical Hermeneutics, and Rhetoric.

The programmes in (Christian) Theological Studies continue a long and proud history of theological training at UWC since the inception of the Faculty of Theology in 1972. The approach that is followed is thoroughly ecumenical and deeply rooted in the South African and broader African contexts.

Ethics is offered as a subject at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The focus here is on the moral and religious foundations of society and more specifically on the task of moral education and formation towards a human rights culture in the South African context.

Religious Studies is fully integrated into the study of Ethics, given how religious traditions typically shape moral judgements.

Additionally, the Department also offers, subject to student interest, modules in Islamic Studies at the honours level.

The Department came into being as a department in the Faculty of Arts in 2000. At first, the Faculty of Theology focused only on the training of ministers in the former Dutch Reformed Mission Church. A Department of Biblical Studies (later renamed as Biblical and Religious Studies) was also formed in the Faculty of Arts in 1971 to provide training, especially for prospective teachers.

Since the late 1980s, the doors of theological training were opened to students from a wide variety of denominations. In 1995, the Faculty of Religion and Theology was started to integrate all the programmes in theology and religion. The formation of this Department in 2000 coincided with the following visions:
  • The restructuring of programmes in theology to equip students to fulfil positions of leadership in religious and moral communities in civil society and for a variety of ministries in the broadest possible spectrum of churches;
  • The introduction of a visionary programme in Ethics, with a focus on the Moral and Religious Foundations of Society;
  • The introduction of first-year modules in Hermeneutics to contribute to the development of basic academic skills of students within a broader context; and
  • The Department’s integration within the Faculty of Arts to ensure the interdisciplinary nature of the programmes offered by the Department.
The unique context and ethos of UWC with its history of struggle, its commitment to disadvantaged students, and its vision as “A place of quality, a place to grow” continues to provide a challenging and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of religion and theology. The programmes offered in the Department seek to be relevant within Africa and South Africa.

The study of religion and theology takes place in close cooperation with related? institutions in the region and with various faith-based organisations and other interest groups in civil society in the region. Since 2000, the Department has maintained formal relations with the United Church of Zambia Theological College (UCZTC), now the United Church of Zambia University.

The Department introduced eight continuous education courses through the Programme for Lay Theological Education (PLATE). This can be done for academic credits or attendance only. Since 2006, many students have come through this programme, some of whom continued with the Bachelor of Theology programme.

After several years of preparation, the Desmond Tutu Chair of Ecumenical Theology and Social Transformation in Africa was finally established in 2013, with Professor Christo Lombard as the first incumbent. In 2016, Prof Sarojini Nadar was appointed as the Desmond Tutu Chair and subsequently also became the Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. This Chair was awarded DST/NRF SARChI status under the name of the Desmond Tutu Chair in Religion and Social Justice, effective from 2019. Prof Nadar has effectively been seconded to that Chair that reports directly to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation.

Since 2000, the Department has firmly re-established itself and has grown significantly in many areas. We are particularly proud of the following:
  • Our large number of postgraduate students; 
  • Many pastors in the Western Cape region register for the honours programme to further their theological education;
  • The student growth in Ethics has been dramatic; and
  • The more than 600 registered students from various faculties at UWC find the various modules particularly helpful as a supplement for their studies in other disciplines.

The Department, in cooperation with the Ecumenical Foundation of Southern Africa (EFSA), has hosted annual conferences on a variety of themes.

Click here for more information

The research activities of the members of staff and postgraduate students in the Department are concentrated in six large frameworks for collaborative research projects.

See the section on Research for detail in this regard.

This innovative programme provides theological training at a tertiary level for lay people in leadership positions in churches in the Western Cape region. It is aimed at people who are already serving as leaders in local congregations, for example as preachers, counsellors, Sunday School leaders, Bible study group leaders, youth leaders, women’s group leaders, and leaders of Christian community organisations.

In 2001, the Department formed an agreement with the UCZTC, based in Kitwe, Zambia. This agreement enables students at UCZTC to register for the BTh degree at UWC. In terms of this agreement, tuition is offered by UCZTC staff on their campus while the UWC staff moderates the curricula, module outlines, examination papers, and examination scripts. This agreement has been mutually beneficial and is particularly valuable in the Department’s contact with other theological institutions in the Southern African region.

The development of this series of study guides is an initiative of the Department. Its main purpose is to help produce affordable, readily available, and contextually relevant textbooks which can be used for teaching purposes in the Southern African context. Additionally, the series aims to develop research tools which may be employed for postgraduate research projects in the region.

For more information, see the Department’s list of book of publications.