The National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. May 12, 2014
On behalf of the College of Bishops, members of the West Africa Central Conference, and the Liberia Conference of the United Methodist Church, we bring you greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are overwhelmed with joy as we celebrate with all of you the 132nd graduation ceremony of Wesley Theological Seminary. Today also marks a great celebration for the Church in West Africa as you graduate the first group of premier leaders from the Central Conference of the United Methodist Church through your Doctor of Ministry program. These students are: from Nigeria, John Pena Auta, from the Liberian Conference: Anna Labala, James Labala, Muriel Nelson and Julius Williams.
In the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus announces that the time of the Lord’s favor had come as he was appointed to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. As leaders of the Church on the continent of Africa, we, too, are called and appointed for a time such as this. Over the past few decades, Africa has experienced unprecedented growth in Christianity. According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity has grown from 9% to 63% of the population of Africa over the past one hundred years in comparison to the United States who has seen a decline from 95% to 76% during this same period. In the midst of this phenomenal growth, the Church plays an increasingly critical role in shaping the present and future of Africa in ways such as providing education, health care, and a prophetic voice in the cause of social justice for our people. As the Church in Africa continues to grow, we must develop leaders and a network of structures that will empower the Church to be both a prophetic voice and an active agent of transformation and liberation throughout our continent. But to do this faithfully, our leaders, both clergy and laity, must be grounded in a theological education that is both relevant to the problems of the African people and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are so very grateful that Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry program does exactly that. Through the program’s “Theological Education in a West African Wesleyan Context” track our ministers have been equipped with a broad knowledge of the theological disciplines and with best practices in theological pedagogy. They have not only learned theology, they know how to teach theology. These ministers will enhance both the ministries of the Church in Africa and will equip a new generation of church leaders by providing a theological education to others that is contextually relevant, well-rounded, and theologically grounded. Through Wesley’s program, you are ensuring the growth of the Church in Africa is being built on a solid foundation and not on shifting sands.
Words are inadequate to express how grateful we are to the president, faculty, staff and the entire community of the Wesley Theological Seminary. We are particularly grateful to Dr. McAllister Wilson for making this dream come true; the Admissions office for working with our ministers to enroll; the Doctor of Ministry administrators for working relentlessly with our students, and those professors who guided our students through their studies and the processes of their projects. Please receive our heart-felt thanks and congratulations for this monumental accomplishment in the history of the Church – not only in Africa, but the impact we believe this will have for the Church around the globe. Together, we are taking a giant step forward today in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of our world.
May the risen and exalted Lord continue to bless our efforts together!