American Professor Named President of Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary

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Dr. Richard Francis Wilson, President LBTS.png

The Board of Trustees of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary (LBTS) has approved the nomination of Dr. Richard Francis Wilson, an American professor, as the sixth president of the Seminary.

According to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Aaron Marshall, the decision was reached at a well attended meeting at the Board’s fourth quarterly meeting this past November 22, in Monrovia.

Mr. Marshall told the Daily Observer that Dr. Wilson came to the Liberian Seminary from an evolving relationship with Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in the United States of America.

He explained that prior to the Board’s approval of the nomination of Dr. Wilson , the post was filled by Dr. Arnold Hill. Dr. Hill, a Liberian, has served as President of the Seminary but he resigned in May of 2013 to concentrate on his own business.

Dr. Wilson currently serves as Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and also Chairman of the Roberts Department of Christianity, in the College of Liberal Arts in the USA.

Speaking to this paper, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Aaron Marshall, said Dr. Wilson’s mandate will primarily focus on four decisive areas, which include: the overhauling of the institution curriculum to ensure regional and international certification; the expansion of the base of the school that would include other liberal arts subject matter; putting in place the mechanism for external financial support for theological education in post war Liberia and to establish proper modalities for the election of a Liberian president within the period of one calendar year.

“Dr. Wilson will try to help the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary get back to its previous status after struggling with a series of crises” Mr. Marshall declared.

At the same time, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, on behalf of the Board, has extended gratitude to Dr. Wilson for accepting what he termed as a “challenging position; and the Mercer University family for the evolving partnership with Ricks, the Seminary and the people of Liberia.

In a dispatch from Dr. Wilson from the United States of America, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, said his first priority would be to rebrand the Seminary and give it  a sense of community. This would be done by making it more attractive to prospective students and faculty, and by concentrating on the development of the faculty.

“My responsibility will be to clear the debris and secure the foundation of the institution, while helping the seminary overcome some serious issues, many of which are the result of the country’s post war struggles. I will also bring renewed urgency to our task to offer sound theological education to pastors and church leaders in Liberia,” Dr. Wilson declared.

The American Professor will head the seminary for the period of one year and will return to Mercer University, Macon full time by 2015.

Dr. Wilson intoned that his attraction to Liberia began with a former Liberian student, Olu Menjay, a 1995 graduate of the Mercer University who immigrated to the United States of America after surviving the civil war in Liberia.

He furthered that on several occasions, Menjay has persistently asked him (Dr. Wilson) to visit Liberia and finally agreed and instantly bonded with Liberia.  

“Since then I have traveled to Liberia nine times,” Dr. Wilson disclosed.

“Mercer’s connection to Liberia was further strengthened when Menjay was elected president of the Liberian Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention in 2012, he (Menjay) approached the President of Mercer University, William Underwood, about the need for an interim president at the seminary,” Dr. Wilson explained.

“Following Menjay’s return, he became principal of Ricks Institute, one of the boarding schools in the country,” the dispatch maintained.

The seminary is in poor financial shape due to decisions made by the past two presidents— whose names were not disclosed— that were not transparent and seemed to have further divided the faculty. These are some of the challenges Dr. Wilson will try to tackle. 

He will also travel across the country with the seminary’s Board of Trustees helping to detect future leaders that would take over the seminary.

‘The seminary is in decent shape compared with other Liberian buildings, its roofs are still intact and the library still stands and it is the largest library in the country,’ the Board of Trustees Chairman indicated.

Dr. Wilson holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, USA, from 1982, served as an assistant professor in 1983-88, and assistant dean of academic affairs from 1987-88. He obtained a Masters of Divinity in Historical Theological Studies, from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1978, and has worked as Chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity, at the Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology in 1999.

He is also a member of several global organizations including the Lilly Fellows in Humanities and Arts, Baptist World Alliance Ethics Commission; Chair of the Commission 2010-2015, Paul Tillich Society; International Dietrich Society; Council of the Societies for Study of Religion; Baptist World Alliance Theological Education workgroup; Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion just to name a few.

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