Congo Partner Backgrounds
From the American Presbyterian Mission in the Congo two autonomous Congolese Presbyterian Churches emerged by the time Congo gained independence from Belgium. The PC(USA), through its varied constituencies, established partnerships with these Presbyterian communities, with other Protestant churches in the Congo and with some of the theological and medical institutions of these partner churches. Some presbyteries within the PC(USA) have established international partnerships in the Congo.
Presbyterian Partner Churches
The Presbyterian Partner Churches of the PC(USA) in the Congo are the autonomous Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC), which serves predominantly in the Kasai and Shaba provinces, and the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK), with ministries in Kinshasa and the provinces of Bandundu and Lower-Congo.
Independent in their own ministries and partnerships, the CPC and CPK maintain close relations and engage in common work with each other, particularly in the area of theological education. Joined in the Presbyterian Committee of Ministries (CPM), the two sister churches cooperate in the responsibilities involved in the operation of several institutions for theological training. They also coordinate scholarships for selected students. Some of these scholarships are provided by the Congolese partner churches and others are grants, channeled through the PC(USA). The CPM’s main focus is the Faculty of Reformed Theology of Kananga (FTRK), where a graduate-level theological education can be obtained. Most of the Presbyterian pastors, however, are being trained in the Booth Presbyterian Pastoral Institute (IPPB) in Kinshasa and in the Munkamba, Bulape, Kankinda, Moma, Mutoto and Lubumbashi Pastoral Training Institutes. These institutes offer three- and four-year programs for the training of pastors at a secondary school level. IPPB receives funds through the PC(USA) from the Booth Family Africa Fund (BFAF). Officially inaugurated in 1997, the Booth Theological College (ISTB) provides a college-level theological education and is located in the facilities of the IPPB.
Operated as part of the CPC Health Ministries and financially supported through the Medical Benevolence Foundation (MBF), the Lubondai, Bibanga, Bulape, Luebo, Mutoto Hospitals and the Mbuji Mayi Presbyterian Hospital Center (CHPM) are considered partner institutions of the PC(USA). Co-sponsored by the PC(USA) and the Presbyterian and Mennonite Communities of the Church of Christ in the Congo (ECC), the Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK), with Good Shepherd Hospital, constitutes an interdenominational effort, which receives PC(USA) mission personnel.
Ecumenical Partner Churches
Both Presbyterian Communities of Congo (CPC and CPK) are members of the Protestant umbrella organization, the Church of Christ in the Congo (ECC).
Church of Christ in Congo
In 1902 missionaries of the different denominations active in the Congo organized the first conference of Protestant missions of the Congo. Its objectives were to encourage national communication and cooperation between the missions and to minimize competition among them. In 1924 the Congo Protestant Council (CPC) was formed and its constitution adopted. It received official recognition by the state in 1942. The year 1970 marked the birth of the spiritual and organic unity of the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) and the end of institutional missions. The ECC is composed of the various Protestant churches called “Communities.” Its purpose is to manifest the unity of the body of Christ. This unity is visible at the top in the National Secretariat, whereas at the grassroot level the different communities with their respective parishes show the diversity of the body. Sixty-two communities belong to the ECC, representing about 8 million Christians in the Congo. Each one is free to have its own bilateral relations. Roughly speaking, the member communities represent the two broad streams of ecumenically and evangelically oriented churches. For this reason the ECC is neither a member of the World Council of Churches nor of the World Evangelical Fellowship, but it is available to its member communities to facilitate relationships with these two world bodies. On a political level the ECC has contributed significantly to the democratization process in the last decade.
The National Synod of the ECC is composed of four delegates from each member community. The executive staff of the National Secretariat is responsible for the Cabinet and Departments (i.e., Evangelism and Church Life, Christian Education, Women and Family, Health Services, etc.). The departments have offices in the regional synods and work with their counterparts in the member communities.
Theological and Higher Education Institutions
UPRECO (formerly the Reformed Theological Faculty of Kasai, FTRK)
The Reformed Theological Faculty in the Kasai (FTRK) originates from the Bible school in Luebo, which was started in 1913 under the American Presbyterian Congo Mission (APCM). This Bible school has since been moved to different locations and undergone several name changes. It evolved into a university-level theological seminary, which was founded in 1976 and is currently established as FTRK on a campus at Ndesha, five miles from Kananga in West-Kasai.
FTRK provides academic and professional instruction, and introduces students to scientific theological research. The faculty offers three different levels of study: an undergraduate cycle of three years, a Master of Divinity cycle of two years and continuing education courses for pastors. The main focus of the school is the training of pastors for evangelism, with 90 percent of the students being Presbyterians from the CPC and the CPK. The Women’s School associated with FTRK prepares students’ wives for their role as a pastor’s companion and spouse, as a mother and as a homemaker. The faculty is in the process of training its teaching staff. Occasionally symposia are organized and the findings are published in the Congolese Review of Protestant Theology, a publication of the Protestant University of Congo. Issues addressed in these symposia have included Protestantism and contextualization in the Congo and the crisis in social tensions in the Congo.
FTRK publishes an annual student journal and a scholarly journal for professors and researchers. The faculty enrolls about 100 students. The facilities, which are simple but adequate, include nine houses for faculty staff, a dispensary and more than 21 student houses. For the children living with their parents on the FTRK campus and for those from neighboring villages, a primary and a secondary school have been built.
FTRK is operated under the auspices of the Presbyterian Communities of Congo and Kinshasa (CPC and CPK) in the Presbyterian Committee of Ministries (CPM). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) assigns mission personnel to teach at the seminary, designates scholarships for students and offers logistical support for FTRK’s programs.
Protestant University of the Congo
The Protestant University of the Congo (UPC) is an associated organization of the Church of Christ in the Congo (ECC). With Presbyterians, Methodists and Disciples of Christ involved at its origin, UPC was founded in 1959 as the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Belgian Congo and Rwanda-Urundi in Lubumbashi. In 1963 it was incorporated into the Free University of Congo in Kisangani. When the Free University was nationalized in 1971, the Theological Faculty was briefly a part of the National University of Zaire. In 1974, however, it was excluded from this state institution and once more became an independent entity under the auspices of the ECC. Later it assumed again its university status when the Board of Trustees decided to add a second college, that of economics and business administration. In 1994 the Board voted to adopt the name the Protestant University of Congo.
The objective of UPC is to equip the Congo’s future leaders with a university education steeped in the Christian faith. It has a Faculty of Theology, a College of Business Administration and Economics and a College of Law. Besides a computer lab and a library, the university also has an interdisciplinary research and publication center, which publishes a series of theological manuals and the Congolese Review of Protestant Theology. A special training for ministers’ spouses is provided through the Women’s School associated with the Faculty. UPC maintains high academic standards while the Faculty of Theology has awarded six doctorate degrees since 1985. The university has facilities on two campuses and enrollment of 4,401.
Medical Partner Institutions
Bibanga Presbyterian Hospital
Begun in 1917 with treatments under a large tree, Bibanga Hospital built its first buildings in 1924. It grew into a hospital that now has 150 beds and serves a population of 280,000 people. It is the only functioning hospital in an area of more than 30,000 square kilometers. Each year more than 2,000 patients are admitted and about 1,000 surgeries are performed.
The community health program has established 12 health centers, has developed an immunization program and holds study courses on community health for villagers.
Bibanga Hospital serves as a referral hospital and provides supervision for a sanatorium and a leprosy camp. It has established a Nursing School (1980) and a Christian Medical Technology School.
Work in the small village of Bulape was begun in 1915, but the first permanent hospital buildings were constructed in the late 1930s. Facilities currently include an operating suite, a maternity ward, a women’s ward with obstetrical facilities, a pediatric ward, two other wards, a pharmacy, an outpatient dispensary and a clinical laboratory. Bulape Hospital has 131 beds and serves a population of more than 100,000. It provides general medicine, surgical, pediatric and maternity services and serves as a reference hospital. Public health work is extensive with 13 health centers, a mobile vaccination unit and a nutrition center.
Since 1984, the hospital has a nursing school, which enrolls about 70 students for two-year and four-year programs.
The Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK) and Good Shepherd Hospital
The Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK) was founded in Lubondai by the American Presbyterian Congo Mission in 1954. Its objectives were to train qualified medical and dental personnel, to provide a higher level of medical care and to witness to the healing ministry of the Church. IMCK was newly inaugurated in 1964 at Tshikaji near Kananga, where it is currently located and serves a population of 500,000 people. It is sponsored by Presbyterian and Mennonite Communities of the ECC and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and receives mission personnel.
IMCK is a health-promoting and teaching complex. It consists of the Good Shepherd Hospital and clinics, rural primary health care centers, schools for nurse practitioners and for medical laboratory technicians, a large urban ambulatory health center and a dental clinic. Health programs include child preventive medicine outreach, nutritional rehabilitation and family planning.
Good Shepherd Hospital serves as a teaching hospital for IMCK. Constructed with funds from the 1969 Presbyterian Women’s Birthday Offering, the American Leprosy Mission and the Medical Benevolence Fund, the facilities were opened in 1975. Good Shepherd Hospital has a capacity of 140 beds and provides active programs in ophthalmology, internal medicine, OB/Gyn and dentistry. It also has the only histopathology service in central Congo. These specialty services enable the hospital to receive referrals from government and industrial hospitals and those of Catholic and Protestant missions. The hospital sees 18-25 percent charity cases, for which no payment is received.
IMCK offers a medical internship program in cooperation with the University of Kinshasa Medical School and medical and dental residency training in collaboration with the ECC.
The Community Health Program at IMCK runs 17 satellite centers and sends mobile units to 43 villages to run "Under 5's Clinics." It has a nutrition center in Tshikaji, where mothers can bring their malnourished children and stay for several weeks, learning how to properly feed their families with locally available foods.
Luebo Hospital, the very first hospital in the Kasai, was built in 1916, and is still in use. The resident physician sees approximately 50 patients in the outpatient department daily and averages 150 operations each year. The hospital has electricity but no running water.
Lubondai Hospital was constructed in 1933 and originally had a surgical suite, two large wards for patients, an outpatient dispensary, a laboratory and a pharmacy. A leprosy camp with a treatment building and chapel was built five miles from the station and eventually accommodated some 300 patients. A maternity ward was added during World War II and a pediatric ward in the late 1950s. Lubondai Hospital has 80 beds and is a reference hospital under the government’s rural health program. The maternity department is quite active, averaging around 30 deliveries each month.
The Christian Medical Institute of the Kasai (IMCK) was originally established in Lubondai (1954) but was inaugurated in 1964 at Tshikaji, near Kananga.
Mbuji-Mayi Presbyterian Hospital Center (CHPM)
Originally the Mbuji Mayi Presbyterian Hospital Center was designed in 1977 as an integral urban health and nutrition center, which was opened in 1980 as the Mbuji Mayi Christian Health Center (CCS). In 1986 CCS was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a model for community health development in Africa. The center acquired a widespread reputation as a caring, high-quality Christian health care institution where individuals are treated properly, efficiently and for a reasonable fee. In 1997 CCS merged with the Mbiya Mulumba Maternity Hospital and since then has been known as the Mbuji Mayi Presbyterian Hospital Center (CHPM).
CHPM consists of a Public Health Department, a Curative Department, and a Department for Community Development. The center operates a consultation outpatient clinic, which treats around 30,000 patients yearly, and an under-5 clinic, which sees moren then 40,000 children a year. CHPM manages also a Tuberculosis Clinic (since 1981), an Eye Clinic, a Family Health Clinic, a Nutritional Rehabilitation Clinic and a Preschool Health Clinic. Since there are no state hospitals in the region, through CHPM the Presbyterian Community provides an essential service in East-Kasai.
The program of the Department for Community Development focuses on personal and collective preventive measures against diseases. The department encourages initiatives to improve the living conditions for the benefit of individuals as well as the entire community.
Through the International Partnership Program of the PC(USA) New Hope Presbytery is financially supporting CHPM and has representatives on its Board of Directors.
Mutoto Hospital was established in 1913, 45 miles northeast of Kananga. Due to local and political conflicts it was closed entirely in 1965. Later, for several years, the facilities served as a medical dispensary. Now the local population has grown again, Congolese doctors have become available and the hospital has reopened with an all-African staff.