Dayton, Ohio (PRWEB) February 23, 2013
At the invitation of United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone, representatives from United Theological Seminary, of Dayton, OH, will be visiting the country from March 2 to 11.
United’s President Wendy Deichmann will be traveling to this West African nation during the first week of March along with Dr. Peter Bellini, his wife Maria, both of Dayton, and Rev. Stephen Crowell from New York. They will be guests at the meeting of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference in Kenema and participants in the ordination service at the conclusion of the Conference. The group will also visit the University in Freetown.
“The United Methodist Church is growing rapidly on the continent of Africa,” President Deichmann said. “One of the difficulties facing United Methodists in Sierra Leone is that there are limited resources for formal theological education for pastors," President Deichmann said. "Those called to ministry must decide whether to stay in their local communities and do the best they can in ministry with limited formal higher education, or leave the country for several years in order to obtain it. Usually this means leaving family and community behind for several years, which is very costly. Many who leave do not return, which adds to the problem of ‘brain drain’ in areas deeply in need of ministry and church leadership.”
Bishop Yambasu is working with United staff to arrange for four Sierra Leonean pastors to enroll in United's UM FLEX hybrid program this fall. The FLEX program meets UM requirements for ordination, but also allows students to continue living and working in their home communities, commuting to Dayton, OH, three times per year for intensive, face-to-face classes. With generous support from the UM General Board of Global Ministries and from churches in Ohio and Indiana, the seminary is raising funds to cover the educational and travel costs for these students. Additionally, the Bishop has invited the group to explore with him how they might work together in the future in theological education.
“United and Sierra Leone have worked together long before this, and now we have an opportunity to rekindle a great, mutually beneficial connection,” President Deichmann said.
United has a historic relationship with the Sierra Leonean people. Numerous United Brethren and Evangelical United Brethren missionaries, most of them graduates of United Theological Seminary, served in Sierra Leone in the 19th and 20th centuries. Working with Sierra Leonean Christians and missionaries from other denominations, together, they built many schools, orphanages, hospitals and churches. Some of the oldest existing churches in Sierra Leone were founded by Joseph and Mary Gomer, United Brethren missionaries from Dayton, OH.
This nation, which was known as "the Athens of West Africa" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been struggling to recover from devastation caused primarily by tribal and civil war in the second half of the 20th century. Economically it is one of the poorest nations in the world, without adequate infrastructure for jobs, health care or education. Although the nation has been at peace for more than a decade, it is still struggling to rebuild and get back on its feet in nearly every respect.
United Theological Seminary, now in its 142nd year, is one of the fastest growing theological schools in the United States. It was founded in 1871 by Milton Wright, a Bishop in The United Brethren Church and father of Wilbur, Orville and Katherine Wright. United offers accredited, innovative graduate and non-degree education programs for both clergy and laity. See http://www.united.edu for more information.