The Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL) has concluded its 19th Biennial Convention and 162nd Anniversary and Bishopric election, with Reverend Victor Padmore, who contested among four other aspirants, having emerged bishop-elect. Upon consecration and enthronement, he will lead the LCL for the next five years.
The convention, which took place in Gbarnga, Bong County, from April 21- 25, brought together parishioners from Lutheran parishes across Liberia and people from Guinea and Ghana.
Reverend Padmore received 234 votes, 43% of the total votes cast. Having run for bishop in three previous elections and lost, he will take over the mantle of authority from his predecessor, Rev. Dr. Jensen Seyekolo, who has served for two 5-year terms, per the LCL constitution.
Speaking on April 24, the day after his election, Reverend Padmore called for unity for the growth and development of the Lutheran Church. According to him, without unity the church will find it very difficult to experience growth.
“With unity, this Lutheran church will continue to grow. No one ever thought that this election could end up like this,” he said.
The LCL bishopric election was initially fraught with contentions. The eligibility of one of the five candidates was challenged, while the candidacy of another was annulled as a result of a suspension issued against her by the outgoing bishop.
Bishop-elect Rev. Padmore said despite the contentions associated with the process, he and his fellow aspirants were confident that the election could end well.
“The number of participants in the election mainly worried the laity, thinking that it couldn’t end peacefully. Our members were afraid that the church could split because of the election. But we knew no one would become a Bishop with a divided church,” he said.
In the first round, Padmore took the lead, but did not have an absolute majority as was required, suggesting that a run-off was imminent. However, Rev. Mulbah Zayzay, the contender with the second highest votes in the race, decided to waive his right to the run-off.
The magnanimous act by Rev. Zayzay was greeted with much joy and celebration. Lutheran Bishop-elect Padmore thanked his main contender for the courage to let go of his chances for a run-off.
“This is something that many of us could not understand. You are truly an example of a leader who wants a unified church. It was your right to have us continue the election in order to find a winner. But you let go of this ambition,” Rev. Padmore stated.
He assured his fellow Lutherans that he will work tirelessly to ensure that the Lutheran church remains united.
“I want all of my fellow pastors to work with my administration to move the church [forward]”, he stated.
He said that gone should be the days that Lutherans of Liberia continue to depend largely on partners for support.
According to him, his administration intends to prioritize agriculture and other business ventures to sustain the church.
“To do this we must think about revising our constitution that will make us become business-minded.
Rev. Mulbah Zayzay, who came second in the race, told members of the church it was important that they preserved the unity of the Lutheran Church.
“This is the first time in the history of our church we have gone to an election and had the invalid vote of three. I’m confident that this might be the working of the Lord. We have decided to concede … so as to work with the winner,” he informed his supporters.
Speaking on Sunday, Bishop Seyenkolo said he was pleased with the outcome of the election.
“It is a hard circumstance to understand the happenings of this election. I appreciate the high level of maturity and spirituality all of you have demonstrated in this electoral process. What our church has demonstrated perhaps can be a lesson for the political leaders of our country,” he happily expressed.
He called for all members of the church to remain unified to move the church forward.
The Lutheran Church in Liberia is still faced with sustainability problems though it has achieved numerical growth through the planting of many parishes across Liberia and neighboring countries.
Established in 1860 by Morris Officer, a missionary from the United States of America, the church was originally called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia.
Since its establishment until now, it has had five bishops including the first, Rev. Ezra Dahn Keller, who was then considered as ‘president’. Keller was succeeded by Rev. Dr. Roland J. Payne, who was succeeded by Rev. Dr. Ronald J. Diggs, who later served as vice interim leader of Liberia; Diggs was succeed by Rev. Dr. Sumoward E. Harris, who was succeeded by Rev. Dr. Jensen Seyekolo, the outgoing bishop.