Spoken by some 240 million people in many different countries, Portuguese is seventh place among the languages most spoken in the world. Many of these do not have access to Reformed teaching, much less, to Reformed teaching at the level of higher education. The objectives of the IRTC are: 1) in the greatest possible number of places attend to the lack of Reformed teaching at the higher level, in the Portuguese language, 2) educate leaders of the churches of Christ in theology and other areas of higher learning, 3) contribute to the training of pastors and theologians.
The IRTC holds that the biblical truth is expressed correctly in the Reformed faith. All of the teaching of the College is based on this position. The members of the board, the administration, and the faculty sign a form of subscription to the Three Forms of Unity, that is, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort, or the Westminster Standards, that is, the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
In order to attain its objectives the College applies the methods of distance education which has been used with great success for many years. There are, for example, some 11 mega-universities worldwide that have graduated hundreds of thousands of students at all levels, from bachelor’s to doctor’s degrees. A good example is the University of South Africa (UNISA).
The modern means of communication are of great usefulness for distance education. The IRTC principally makes use of the Internet. This allows the teachers and students to live, teach and study any place in the world and the students can remain in their home churches and contribute to their ministry. They also have much flexibility to choose the best days and times for their studies and to choose the pace best suited to their personal work or family situation. The IRTC uses a world class teaching environment called itslearning, which allows for the use of a great variety of text, video, and audio files, including chat sessions and videoconferencing. Further, it still makes use of all the traditional tools, such as books, magazines, etc.
There are not many Portuguese speakers qualified for this teaching and these few are contributing to the edification of the Church in many different locations. It would be very difficult to bring together a good faculty in just one place, but with the blessing we have in the Internet it is possible to bring together a complete faculty that is Reformed and academically qualified. Also, for the students that can be reached through distance education, the Internet is an enormous blessing. Many of the students who look for this type of education live in places that are isolated and far from any Reformed institution for higher education. On site education would require a great number of colleges to do the work that one Internet distance education school can do. In comparison with correspondence education, one of the greatest drawbacks has been the delays in communication. With the Internet easy and rapid communication is possible between teachers and students and among the students. An Internet school is, in fact, a global village.
Local Study Centers
The IRTC encourages the development of local study centers, consisting of a group of students and a mentor, set up and administered by local churches or groups of Christians. These promote the students’ practical training and integration in their churches, as well as learning through discipleship. They also permit churches to maintain close supervision over the training of their students.
Although without official ties to any church, the College expresses affinity with the churches of the International Conference of Reformed Churches and is a defender of the Reformed doctrine promoted by these churches.
The IRTC is a non-profit corporation, located in Bristol, Virginia, USA. The Board of Directors of 6 elders and ministers of the Word has the final responsibility for the doctrinal supervision of the College. This Board has a balanced ecclesiastical and international representation in order to preserve fidelity to the Reformed confessions and to address the needs of distinct and different cultures. The Academic Board consists of the President, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs and the coordinators of the six departments of the School. It is responsible for the teaching and for the academic policies and carries out the day-to-day operation of the College.
The great needs among Portuguese speaking people can best be met by an international school. The IRTC has a contact address in Belem, Brazil. The corporation is located in Bristol, VA, USA. As a religious institution of higher education, the College is exempt from certification by the Virginia State Council of Higher Education. It offers a variety of degree programs and looks forward to its diplomas being recognized by institutions of theological training of similar character. The programs of study prepare the students to continue their studies in many other Christian schools of higher learning.
Men and Women of God
It is the objective of the College to raise up men and women of God. The teaching of the Word of God cannot just be an intellectual exercise. The growth in true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in obedience to God are much more important than the acquisition of intellectual information. A wise man has knowledge and is obedient and faithful to God in the use of this knowledge. The teaching of the IRTC aims to inculcate in the students deep respect and adoration for God. The students will strive for maximum growth in intellectual and experiential knowledge in order to produce fruit of the Spirit, to live a truly holy life of obedience to God, and to pass on this biblical wisdom to their brothers and sisters in the Church. For this the College counts on the students’ churches to supervise and disciple the students, so that they may put into practice the obedient teaching that the IRTC provides.
In distance education it can be more difficult for the student to develop practical abilities in preaching, teaching, counseling, evangelizing and in day-to-day living with brothers and sisters of their churches. Therefore, the College gives special attention to these aspects of the teaching. It makes use of video recording and similar resources and also depends much on the participation of the churches in the students’ growth. A good part of the assignments that are given is directed to pastoral practice, such that the assignments can be used in the student’s ministry. For instance, an exegesis assignment is given in such a way that the student can use this work for a Bible study in his church. For the teacher he presents both the technical work of exegesis and an exposition that can be used for his church.
Programs of Studies
The College offers the following programs of study: two-year Associate of Christian Studies (A.C.S.), four-year Bachelor of Christian Studies (B.C.S.), four-year Bachelor of Christian Education (B.C.Ed.), three-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.), two-year Master of Christian Studies (M.C.S.), two-year Master of Biblical Studies (M.B.S.), and a variety of diploma programs that each consist of 8 courses selected from the degree programs. At this point, not all of the courses for these programs are being offered. A Master of Theology (Th.M.) is planned for the future, as well.
Characteristics of the Teaching
The teaching is intensive and demands more of both the teacher and the student than does learning in a classroom. Our courses are offered according to the quarter system, in which each quarter consists of a ten-week module and the course content corresponds to that of a classroom course of 45 hours. There are chat sessions and Internet discussion lists for the students and the teacher to discuss the material.
There are six departments: 1) Humanities, 2) Biblical and Exegetical Studies, 3) Systematic Theology, 4) Practical and Professional, 5) History, and 6) Education. The courses taught in our programs are those that typically are included in such programs of study in traditional seminaries in North America, as well as a program for Christian teachers.
The initiative to found the College was taken at a meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Oct. 17, 2000. The first courses were taught informally in March, 2001 using a teaching environment on the internet made available free to the public. On June 16, 2004 we were incorporated in the state of Virginia, USA as a non-profit educational institution. We now have our own server and the teaching programs are in full swing. We are in urgent need of a stronger financial base. If you would like to support us please click here.
The members of the Board of Directors are, Daniel Zekveld Portela, a former Presbyterian elder in Canada, Pieter K. Meijer, Reformed Church in the Netherlands (Liberated), Ulisses Horta Simões, Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Julius M. VanSpronsen – pastor at the Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Túlio César Costa Leite, elder-teacher in Reformed Presbyterian Church in Brazil. The President is Ralph Boersema, Canadian Reformed Church, and the coordinators of the departments are Sebastião Guimarães Costa Filho (Humanities), Paulo Henrique Brasil e Souza (Biblical and Exegetical), Ralph F. Boersema (Systematic Theology), Frans L. Schalkwijk (History), Elias Medeiros (Practical and Professional), Andrea L. Couto, (Education).