The Theological College of Lanka (TCL) was inaugurated in 1963 by the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church in Sri Lanka. Later the Presbyterian Church (Presbytery of Lanka) joined the federation, to educate the new clergy (ministers) and laity in the environment and context of Sri Lanka and their own languages, Sinhala and Tamil. Rev. Basil Jackson, a British Methodist Missionary, became the founding Principal of the college in 1963. (Prior to the foundation of TCL, Jackson served as the founding director of the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue in Colombo). It is believed that language is the vehicle of culture and when Christians begin to think, speak, preach, pray and write in their own languages, they soon become familiar with their cultural values and begin to appreciate them in the practice of their Christian faith. This new step was foreseen by all the churches as an attempt to produce indigenous theology by people who are being educated in Sri Lanka.
Before this venture, the ministers of Sri Lankan (then Ceylon) Protestant traditions have been educated mainly in India (United Theological College, Bishop's College,Serampore College, Kolkotta etc.) or elsewhere for the pastoral ministry.
TCL is situated in Plimatalawa village, Kandy district, about 100 km away from Colombo.
The Theological College of Lanka is affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College (University) of India and accredited by the Association of the Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA). Over 90% of the active clergy in the constituent churches in Sri Lanka today have received their theological and pastoral education at the TCL.
The TCL is the only accredited Ecumenical Theological College among the Protestant churches of Sri Lanka, which not only maintains its ecumenical foundation, but also brings together the Sinhala and Tamil students who are both men and women in a fellowship both at work and at leisure. This is an integral aspect of the personal and spiritual formation of the future ministers of a country which is torn apart by ethnic divisions.
Contributing to the theological-praxical debate, College publishes a biannual journal – Sri Lanka Journal of Theological Reflection (SLJTR) which was commenced in July 2005.
Thank you for considering Theological College of Lanka, and taking the time to look at our programs of study. Students have been coming to TCL for over 57 years because they want to be transformed by the study of God's Word, to have their character shaped by Christ, and to prepare for a life of service. We would love to have you join us for the next step in your education!
After independence from Britain in 1948, the outward occurrences in Sri Lanka, especially the decreasing missionary influence and the independent parliamentary system, affected the Christian churches in many ways. Christians became aware of their self-identity and the selfhood of the church.
There was a small group of Christians who had foreseen the need to think and act as in new ways after independence. Among them was the Reverend Lakdasa de Mel whose process of indigenisation launched at Baddhegama in the 1920s was an important step. His efforts eventually created what is now called the Ceylon Liturgy, using Sinhala folk music derived from sources such as the paddy farmers, cartmen and boatmen in rural areas of Sri Lanka. Pioneering activities such as this became valuable when the British left the Island in 1948. People who had become Christians through the work of missionaries were forced to rethink their identity in the emerging post-colonial context.
Significant cultural and social changes did not begin to take place until the late 1950s, and especially after the 1956 general election. The coalition government headed by the newly formed Sri Lanka Freedom Party set out to establish a new cultural identity. The English language was displaced by the use of Sinhala and Tamil for all official business as well as in education. The Church equally accepted the importance of local languages but saw its own future looking very bleak when the government decided to take over management of the school network.
In 1963 three of the Protestant churches in Sri Lanka, namely Anglican, Methodist and Baptist decided to form a theological college for the training of future ministers. After much discussion and consideration the founders of this college opted for the use of local languages and a localised cultural emphasis. Later, the Presbyterian Church in Sri Lanka joined with the other churches to formulate the training of their ministers. When the Theological College was founded in Lanka in 1963 it was almost unthinkable that theology should be taught in local languages, namely Sinhala and Tamil.
Nationalism became very prominent in Sri Lanka after independence. This situation forced Christians to inculturise Christianity. The task of inculturising Christianity became a difficult exercise, due to the Western culture and theology which prevailed among Christians. They found it difficult to accept and think along with their Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim friends. If there had been no English influence, this process would have commenced long before, but now it came too late and was too little. The inculturisation process was not able to baptize the Sri Lankan culture and make a significant impact upon societies influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Nevertheless, many attempts were made to inculturise Christianity in a Sri Lankan context. This process proceeded parallelly, in both Sinhala and Tamil cultures. The inculturisation process emphasised by many church leaders and emerging Asian Christian theologies influenced the churches in Sri Lanka very much. The churches in Sri Lanka felt that the Western influence in architecture, music and worship forms merely imitated the West. Therefore, people desired to experience the gospel in a truly Sri Lankan context, thereby expressing their faith and worship of God by using their own language, symbols, songs, dances and other social and cultural idioms.
Doing Christian Theology in the Sri Lankan culture means, to be able to understand God in culture as expressed in life situations. God is a God of history and one should be able to understand God in the Sri Lankan history. Therefore, in order to produce an indigenous theology, it is essential to understand the meaning of Sinhala and Tamil cultures in Sri Lanka.
Contributing to the theological and praxical debates, college publishes a journal:Sri Lanka Journal of Theological Reflection.
Lectures at the Theological College are held in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Sinhala and Tamil students are required to write in their own languages. Tamil students study Practical Sinhala and Sinhala students study practical Tamil, giving all students a practical knowledge of each other's language.
Apart from classroom work, field education is taken seriously as an integral part of the students' tuition. The field education programme is divided into three main areas – weekend field education; long-vacation field placement and a research-and-an-extended essay on a subject chosen by the student.
The chapel is decorated with Sri Lankan woodcarvings. The congregation remove their footwear and sit on the floor. Indigenous musical instruments such as tabla, violin and sitar mainly accompany worship. Guitars are used where appropriate, without displacing the indigenous atmosphere of worship.
Sinhala students study Buddhism under a scholarly monk while Tamil students study Hinduism from an experienced tutor.
The Theological College of Pilimatalawa has effectively shown that Sinhala and Tamil students can study together in the same classes in their own languages. It is important to note that the importance of English is as a link language and not as the language of the elite.
When Sinhala lecturers teach in Sinhala and English, Tamil students depend on their knowledge of English and other students to understand what is being taught. Similarly, when Tamil lecturers each in Tamil and English, Tamil students depend on their knowledge of English and other students.
Sinhala and Tamil lecturers always try to give a summary in another language to make students from other ethnic groups feel comfortable. Although this way of teaching is not easy it has brought Sinhala and Tamil students together without abandoning their mother tongue.
Located in a predominately Buddhist village, the College has served Sri Lankan society for forty years, training Christian ministers who will work in the community with a sound understanding of Sri Lankan realities and make bridges between various socio-cultural and religious groups.
The theologising process has helped the students to identify the needs, aspirations and anxieties of the people in a given area and to respond theologically, to know the involvement of the churches and their relationship with one another and with other faiths, in an attempt to discern the work of God through people of other faiths, ideologies and other organisations, to learn from the experiences of different individuals and organisations, already involved in the community and to be challenged for a creative and a fruitful contextual ministry in the areas, where they will be placed in the future.