The Aizawl Theological College (ATC) began life in 1907 as a humble theological school in order to train Mizo Christians for various ministries of the church.
Rev. D.E. Jones, popularly known as Pu Zosaphluia among the Mizos, the pioneer missionary from the Presbyterian Church of Wales (formerly Calvinistic Methodist Church), took up the task of establishing a theological school in Aizawl [It should be remembered that the first Mizo Christians were baptised only in 1899]. This small school continued to operate through the difficult period of the First World War. Theologically trained Mizo pastors including Revs. Chhuahkhama, Liangkhaia and Saiaithanga were instrumental in running the school during its early stage.
In 1924, the theological school was relocated from Aizawl to Durtlang on the present site of the Presbyterian Hospital. One of the Welsh missionaries, Rev. F.J. Sandy, looked after the school with the help of other Mizo teachers. But due to his sudden demise, the school moved back to Aizawl in 1927 and was entrusted to the care of Rev. E.L. Mendus.
During those days primary school education in the state was managed by the Presbyterian Church. Interestingly, the Mizos received their present day language script from the missionaries and the entire system of primary school education remained under their supervision. The Church then opened a Teachers’ Training School. Both schools shared the same instructors and many of their subjects were similar.
Due to several factors, the theological school was closed in 1937. Soon after World War II and India’s political independence, the issue of re-opening the theological school arose on the agenda of the Assembly of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church in 1951. In accordance with that decision, the present Theological College came into being. Rev. J.M. Lloyd was appointed Principal of the College.
Having acquired a site at Mission Vengthlang, Aizawl, the College was established in 1964. The Senate of Serampore College granted affiliation to the College at the level of Licentiate in Theology (L.Th.) the following year (1965). The medium of instruction was Mizo.
When Rev. J.M. Lloyd returned to Wales he was succeeded by Rev. C. Pazawna who became the first Mizo Principal of the College. During the seventeen years of his principalship, there were many significant developments in the College. In 1971, the College was upgraded to the B.Th. level by the Senate of Serampore College, replacing the L.Th. diploma course programme. The medium of instruction for the B.Th. programme was English. However, the College diploma course (G.Th.) continued to be offered for the benefit of neighbouring Churches, some of whose candidates were not eligible to undertake B.Th. studies. When Rev. C. Pazawna went to the U.K. for post-graduate theological studies, Rev. Lalsawma acted as Principal (1971-1974). Political developments were also taking place during this period. Consequently Mizoram, formerly known as Lushai Hills District of the then Assam State, came into existence as a Union Territory of India in 1972.
The B.Th. programme, along with the Lay Theological Education programme continued to be consolidated during the seventies and the eighties in ATC. A missionary training programme was also started in the late seventies. In 1981, Rev. Lalchhuanliana succeeded Rev. C. Pazawna as Principal. The fast changing context of Mizoram and its challenges to ministry led the Mizoram Presbyterian Church Synod in 1983 to institute efforts to upgrade the College to a B.D. Degree Status. Meanwhile, the strength of the College increased and the old campus did not allow further expansion. The Theological Education Board sought a suitable site to establish a new campus. With a grant from the State Government, an area of 21.6 acres on a mountain top to the north of Aizawl at Durtlang Leitan was acquired.
After Rev. Lalchhuanliana, Rev. C. Biakmawia served as a Principal from 1986 to 1990, followed by Rev. H. Remthanga from 1990 to 1993 and Rev. C. Rosiama from 1993 to 1994. It was during their time – a period of political peace and stability which led to the conferment of statehood on Mizoram in 1987 – that construction work began at the new campus. With the contribution of the Church, and the support of partner churches, friends and well-wishers, the Gospel Centenary Building was constructed to serve as the main College Building. It was inaugurated by the former Principal Rev. J.M. Lloyd on January 11, 1994 (the Gospel Centenary Year in Mizoram).
It was in 1994 that the Senate of Serampore College allowed ATC to start the B.D. programme on a provisional affiliation basis. Rev. Dr. Zaihmingthanga was made Principal and the College began to run two degree programmes (B.Th. and B.D). The G.Th. diploma programme was discontinued while the lay theological education programme was further consolidated. The missionary training programme was moved to the old College campus in Mission Vengthlang. A new programme, the Calvin Study Centre was started in the College.
In June 1998 the Council for Academic Affairs of the Senate of Serampore College granted ATC the status of a fullfledged B.D. College. After Rev. Dr. Zaihmingthanga’s term, the Principalship was passed on to Rev. Dr. H. Vanlalauva (1999-2007), Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad (2008-2010), Rev. Dr. Vanlalchhuanawma (2011-2014) and Rev. Dr. C. Lalhlira (from 2015). Structural and academic development continue to be the present major concerns of the College. A Chapel-Library block was completed and occupied in April 2004. Construction of an eight-flat block for faculty quarters was completed in 2009. A new three-flat block for students’ quarters has been completed in 2016. Further constructions of eight-flat block for faculty quarters and Intercultural Centre complex are expected to be completed in 2017.
The B.Th. programme was phased out in 2003. The Master of Theology (M.Th) programme in Christian Theology was introduced in 2002, New Testament and Missiology from 2007, History of Christianity in 2009, Old Testament and Religions from 2011-2012. The Doctor of Theology (D.Th) programme was started in Christian Theology from 2013-2014; in New Testament and Missiology from 2014-2015.
The College has become a local centre for Bachelor of Christian Studies (B.C.S), Diploma in Christian Studies (Dip.C.S), and Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) programmes of the Senate of Serampore College. The B.C.S and Dip.C.S courses are offered in both Mizo and English. From June 2016 the College is starting a Diploma in Clinical Pastoral Counselling (D.C.P.C) course.
The ATC is an ecumenical institution. It has students (men and women) hailing from various Protestant Churches in North East India and neighbouring places. It is wholly financed by the Mizoram Presbyterian Church with an annual budget of a little over 3 crore rupees. The Synod Theological Education Board acts as the Governing Board of the college; its members are appointed for a term of three years. Most of the policy matters, appointments and building projects are in the hands of the Board. The faculty of the College is primarily responsible for overseeing the academic programme and other ministries.2. Location:
The College is located at the top of a mountain, north of Aizawl, the state capital of Mizoram. Aizawl is accessible by road and air. There are several road transportation services from Guwahati, Shillong, Churachandpur and Silchar to Aizawl and vice versa. It is presently connected by air-flights via New Delhi and Kolkata.3. Climate:
The climate of Mizoram is moderate throughout the year. In Aizawl, the winter months – November to February are just pleasantly cold; the temperature does not go below 5° C. In summer, it is not too hot either; the temperature moves between 20°C and 35°C. The average rainfall is about 200 cm. The College is situated at an altitude of about 1,383 metres (4,500 feet) above sea level. Green vegetation, a wide variety of birds and the scenic beauty of the hills of Mizoram contribute greatly to the health and friendly temperament of its inhabitants.