The Dean of the John G. Innis Graduate School of Theology of the United Methodist University, Dr. Jerry Kulah, may have hit the nail on the head when he drew a connection between lack of financial capacity to adequately support theological education in Liberia and the gravitation toward a superficial state of affairs in the Liberian ecumenical community.
According to him, the lack of finance and failure on the part of many African bishops and pastors to write books in the context of Africa as situations confronting and hindering Liberian churches and Africa at large, causes a setback in the quality of education that should come out of African seminaries. He added that this ultimately results in a scarcity of Christ-centered leadership in the propagation of the Gospel in many African churches.
In his keynote address during the installation of the eighth President of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary recently, Dr. Kulah said: “The scarcity of financial resources to support theological education in Liberia is a major challenge that Churches face.”
“Our continued dependence upon textbooks from overseas written by non-Africans to train African pastors for service in the African context is a serious challenge,” he added.
“While we continue to appreciate the contributions of our partners from overseas, we acknowledge that many of the textbooks from overseas are often void of pertinent issues being faced by African churches. It is, therefore, our challenge to engage the intellectual exercise to writing textbooks for our seminaries that are culturally relevant and contextually appropriate.”
According to him, the scarcity of quality Christ-centered leadership in many African churches, denominations and other ecclesial institutions has caused the gospel to go backward.
“The spiritually unhealthy gravitation toward the pursuits of powers, titles, and positions by so-called church leaders at the expense of pursuing quality theological training for ministry is a serious challenge facing the Liberian church today,” Dr. Kulah stressed.
“This was not the experience in Liberia about three decades ago,” Dr. Kulah recalled. “Evangelism, missions, and church planting were the passion and top priorities of many church leaders but, today, some are bearing the title, ‘bishop’ when they are presiding over a single local church, with little or no knowledge of Episcopal governance, while some are bearing the title, ‘Rev. Dr.’, when they have not written a bachelor’s thesis in theology; neither have they contributed significantly to the ministries of the church to warrant the conferral of such a distinguished title upon them.
“That is why the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, and students of this Seminary, acting on behalf of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Education Convention, have deemed it expedient and right at this crucial moment in its history, to entrust the baton of leadership to Dr. Massaquoi, to lead this noble institution toward contributing to the eradication of these challenges.”
Dr. Kulah told the newly inducted president of the LBTS to remember the visionary that gave birth to the institution in 1976 when President William R. Tolbert realized that the country needed a seminary to train pastors who will qualify to pastor congregations.
He urged Rev. Massaquoi to lead with a humble and committed spirit that will help him leave legacies for others to build on for the improvement of the seminary.
The newly installed President, Reverend Momolu Massaquoi, also disclosed in his inaugural address that it is on his agenda to introduce a Master’s program at the seminary having offered Bachelor degrees for years.
Rev. Massaquoi said with the core value of LBTS, his administration will train students to balance academic excellence with spiritual development so that clear and pure hearts will inform the intents of their minds.
As Massaquoi takes the helm of the LBTS for the next five years, he has ample time to create the environment for introduction of a Graduate Program, as he promised to maintain quality academic standard which, he says, will help the institution get external validation from an academic body to introduce the intended program.
Rev. Massaquoi said Liberia’s problem is the failure of educational institutions to teach students how to organize and use knowledge after acquiring it, but LBTS’s intent is to help students to understand the real meaning of the word “educate.”
He said educated people have developed the faculties of their minds so that they may acquire anything they want without violating the rights of others, adding that his administration has a plan to create critical thinking as a core subject for all students.
Rev. Massaquoi thanked the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Education Convention, headed by Rev. Olu Q. Menjay, the board of trustees and the immediate past President, Dr. Aaron G. Marshall, for affording him the opportunity to serve, promising that he would take the institution to another level.