Liberia: “You Are Called to Build”

Reverend Dr. James Bombo Sellee as Bishop Coadjutor of Liberia.

The Rev. Dr. James B. Sellee, Provost and Priest-in-Charge of Trinity Cathedral, the lead parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia, was on April 24 consecrated as the church’s new Diocesan Archbishop.  He officially takes over on June 5, from the Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan B.B. Hart, Archbishop of the Province of West Africa and head of the Liberian Diocese, who will on that date officially retire.

For a Lofa youth, who did not start school until he was 15 years old, young James Bombo Selle has done extremely well with his life.

Father Selle, as he has for many years been popularly called, hails from Upper Lofa County, where the Episcopal Church was planted in the early part of the last century by Holy Cross missionaries from the United States of America.  The leading Paramount Chief in Upper Lofa, the eminent Tamba Taylor of Foya District, was touched by the Episcopal Church and became a lifelong Episcopalian. 

James Bombo Selle was born in Lofa’s Kolahun District and did not start school until he was 15 years old, when his parents sent him to Gbarnga, capital of Bong County.

As can be reckoned, he took his education seriously and went on to complete elementary and high school, before entering Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University), in Suacoco, Bong County, founded in 1889 by Robert Cutting of the Episcopal Church of USA.  It was in the Protestant Episcopal Church in Gbarnga, Bong County that Fr. Selle was baptized in 1980 and started school. 

Upon completion of high school in Gbarnga he entered Cuttington University College (now Cuttington University), graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology.  He later traveled to England, where he took the PhD degree in Theology in 2003. 

“Theology is the only thing I have done all my life,” he told the Daily Observer yesterday.  That is what is called FOCUS.  We pray that all of our young people in Liberia, yea Africa, will learn to be FOCUSED, for that is the key to success.  Here is this poor boy from Lofa County who, because he has been focused all his life, particularly in Theology, has now succeeded in obtaining the highest position in his church, Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia.

We pray that Archbishop Selle will remember and take seriously the words preached by Sunday’s preacher, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel Sylvanus Mensah Torto, Bishop of the Province of Accra, who preached Sunday’s sermon.  Our reporter, David Yates, who covered Sunday’s consecration celebration, said Dr. Torto prayed that Almighty God would grant the new Bishop Coadjutor the grace, wisdom, strength and support he would always need in the discharge of his ecclesiastical responsibilities. 

The mission of Archbishop Sellee is threefold, Bishop Torto said: “to teach the word of God, sanctify the church and govern it.  “It is the season for restorative leadership in the Episcopal Church — a time to build and preach the word of the Lord to His servants.”

“The people will come from afar and bless you because you are a servant of the Lord.  In the glory of the gentiles you shall boast.”

“You shall eat the fruits of the gentiles and never labor in vain.  Remember, it is God who has qualified you because He has called you.  Twelve bishops have come before you and you are the 13th.”

Archbishop Sellee is faced with the tough and challenging task of revitalizing the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia.  First and foremost, he has to embark on a dynamic evangelization program that will bring Episcopalians and Liberians in general closer to God and widen its episcopacy; secondly, Archbishop Sellee must rebuild and revitalize the church’s educational institutions, beginning with his alma maters in Bolahun and Gbarnga and, of course, Cuttington University, where he took his first Theology degree.  All of these and other Episcopal educational institutions need to be improved, expanded and strengthened in order to continue the great work they have been doing for decades in educating Liberians, other Africans and people from other parts of the world. 

We recall that in the 1960s Cuttington, the church’s highest institution of learning, attracted students from all over Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa.  There was even an exchange of teachers and students from many institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Archbishop Selle’s challenge is to restore Cuttington’s greatness as one of Africa’s leading institutions of higher learning, indeed one of the world’s.