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Historical Survey of the Theological College of Lanka

A Consultation committee appointed by the Protestant churches in Sri Lanka to submit a report for discussion. The committee reported back on 17 September 1952 that it was time to re-study the problems and progress of Sri Lankan theological education. The first notice about 'a conversation of the Theological Training in Ceylon’ was sent out by Rev. Basil Jackson on 1 June 1956. The first, one day consultation on theological training was held on 12 July 1956 at the Study Centre. Two speakers, Rev Cyril Abenayake from the Anglican Church and Rev Tom Garret from the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary presented the issues and guided the church representatives to look at the theological education seriously in Sri Lanka for the churches in Sri Lanka. This consultation appointed a constitution committee Committee members: Ven C. H. W. de Soysa, Ven. James Amerasekara, Rev. C. L. Abenayake, Rev. R. C. cooling, Rev. S. J. De S. Weerasinghe, Rev. S. G. Mendis, and the Study Secretary of NCC Rev. R. W. Pile. to draft a possible cooperation document between participating churches. The consultation committee submitted their report to the participating churches on 17 September 1958. Another four member committee appointed by the churches, chaired by Rev. R. C. Cooling was presented to the participating churches in February 1957. This report appealed to the churches to collaborate among themselves, and suggested for the sake of presenting the gospel for the people of Ceylon in the language and idiom of the Swabasha speaking people of the country.

This report and all the discussions on this topic took place previously made the Churches in Sri Lanka felt that the present Western influence in architecture, music and forms of worship merely imitates the West. Therefore, people should 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 patterns.

In response to the need for an ‘educated clergy,’ and the social status, theological educational institution in Sri Lanka became the need of the day. The first meeting of the Board of Governors of the Theological College of Lanka was held on 15 December 1961 at the Methodist Headquarters in Colombo to look at a suitable venue. The ‘Ference’, was identified. The second meeting held on 3 January 1962 decided to request the Methodist Church in Ceylon to release the property on lease.

On 12 September 1962, it was decided to represent the Board of the Theological College of Lanka at the next Senate meeting of the Senate of Serampore College.

On 28 November 1962 it was decided to nominate Canon de Mel to represent the College.

On 9 February 1963, Cannon de Mel reported back, "Senate passed a resolution that the Principal of TCL should apply for affiliation."

26 June 1964 BOG minutes say that a team from the Senate of Serampore College visited the College on 9 and 10 April 1964. On 25 June 1964, the College received a telegram informing "affiliation granted letter following." From this point onwards several decisions were made based on suggestions and papers to make the theological education in Sri Lanka contextually routed to the country.

The Ceylon Daily Mirror, 13 January 1962 reported that a ‘Swabasha Theological College’ will be inaugurated in July 1963. The Ceylon Daily Mirror, 11 July 1963 reported about the inauguration of the Theological College of Lanka on 10 July 1964.

The Serampore granted permission for the first batch of students enrolled in 1963 to register for the Licentiate in Theology (L.Th) certificate. The L.Th programme continued until the Senate delegation visited the College from 3 and 4 March 1970 and upgraded the College to B.Th.

A working paper presented by the Rev. C. D. E. Premawardhana, titled ‘The Future Structure and Scope of the Theological College of Lanka" initiated a single integrated training for Sinhala and Tamil students at the College. This move was made with the hope that the Jaffna Diocese of the CSI would join the federation of the College. However, Dr D. T. Niles officially informed that the "Bishop of the CSI did not seem interested in the Tamil stream at the TCL."

Based on a paper presented by the Rev C. D. E. Premawardena dated 31 October 1968, the BOG decided to initiate three units at the College. 1) The Department of Lay Training 2) The Department of Christian education to train teachers of Christianity 3) The Institute of Buddhist Studies. Study of Theravada Buddhism in order to find meaningful Asian Theology.

The Department of Lay Training launched a correspondence course, ‘The Christian Faith’ in January 1972 initiated by the Rev Georg E. Good.

The Year 1976 has been a mile stone in the life of the College. Mr. D. S. A. Hapuarchchige, the English-Sinhala translator of the College translated six English books in Sinhala in the fields of the Old Testament, New Testament and Christian education and were published.

The Department of Lay Training became the Lay Institute and function under the directorship of Rev Yohan Devananda. "How do we Live in the Gospel Today" has been the general theme of the Lay Institute.

It was felt that the whole of the Theological College of Lanka experience needs to be an intentional learning opportunity, not just the classroom hours. Students should be discouraged from being consumers, picking and choosing what they believe they will need and ignoring elements that are more demanding or less appealing. Looking back many former students have confessed that they wished they had taken more notice of this or that subject because they were unaware at the time of how valuable it would subsequently prove. This has made the College to seriously look at the library of the College and a permanent librarian Mrs Rose Sinnathamby was appointed on 1 December 1978.

The College joined the Association of the Theological Colleges in South East Asia (ATESEA) in 1978.

Serampore College commenced ‘Diploma in Christian Studies’ and ‘Bachelor of Christian Studies’ programmes.

Church History Documentation Centre to preserve the historical stories of the churches in Sri Lanka, initiated by Dr Klaus Koschorke was launched in 1993 and later moved to a spacious room at the newly built library at the College.

The first TCL journal ‘Voice of the Street’ was launched in 2003.

Sri Lanka Journal of Theological Reflection (SLJTR) was launched in 2005 as a biannual publication of the Theological College of Lanka (TCL). "The journal is to enfold the thoughts, ideas and theology kindled by the people living in, migrated from or closely connected with the island called Sri Lanka. It was an attempt to provide a forum to foster theological thinking in Sri Lanka. SLJTR is the story of a people’s dynamic corporative response to the challenge of the Gospel of Christ and of life in the environment of Sri Lanka. We have discovered that Sri Lankan theology and Church have a history of their own."

The intentionality of the learning contract we have with students should relate to much more than the acquisition of academic knowledge of an individual. The whole learning process should go with the discipleship and character of the family as well. Spouses of the married students who are brilliant in vocational skills requested a systematic training programme during their stay as a family in the College. They wanted to be assets in future church leadership. As a response a two-year the Spouses Class Certificate programme launched in 2005.

Academic instruction needs to go along with skill development and personal growth. Any one dimension without the others is a distorted education that leads to malformed graduates ill-equipped to cope with the demands that will be placed on them. Theological education inevitably is trying to satisfy a number of different audiences – the academy, the church, the world, the laity and the student him or herself. As a response to the tsunami disaster in December 2004, the College launched two programmes for the internal students and laity in 2006. 1) Diploma in Counselling and Group Work Skills (Dip CGWS) 2) Diploma in Special Education on Disability (Dip SED).

After the civil war ended in 2009, TCL launched a programme in 2010 the "making safe spaces to share our stories" programme for the purpose of national reconciliation and healing in the country and promoting multi-multiculturalism and interfaith and inter ethnic relationships.

The Theological college of Lanka entered partnership with the Queen’s Foundation, UK in 2011

In July 2013 The Theological College of Lanka celebrated her Golden Jubilee. Reverend Dr. Dietrich Werner was the Chief Guest and came as the official representative of the World Council of Churches at this solemn and significant moment.