Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2008
Luther Alums Put Their Training to Work Leading Seminaries in Africa
by Andy Behrendt, M.Div. middler
"All that means is that there are more people who want to come to Trinity than we can even train," says Fayose, who in 2001 earned his Ph.D. in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Luther Seminary. "What that also means is that there are so many churches that should have pastors but cannot have pastors."
Peter Bartimawus, the principal officer of Bronnum Lutheran Seminary in Yola, Nigeria, has experienced similar struggles for resources. A 2005 graduate of Luther Seminary's Ph.D. program in Church History, he has focused largely on developmental challenges since becoming Bronnum's provost in March 2006.
"Most seminaries in the Third World were built by missionaries, and they were founded by missionaries. Of course, when the missionaries left, the structures were there, but that's all you have," says Bartimawus, noting that the need for more classrooms and housing has grown amid a growing Christian church. "But also in terms of manpower, you want to train people who have the knowledge and skills to be able to communicate the gospel in a changing culture. That's a challenge."
Opportunities and challenges
In visits to Luther Seminary last summer, Fayose and Bartimawus discussed their roles as seminary presidents in their African homelands, where Christianity's rapid growth is creating both opportunities and difficulties for theological education.
Fayose was already serving as lecturer, campus pastor and counseling center director when he tacked on the role of Trinity president in September 2006. Previously vice president, he's one of the seminary's youngest faculty members at age 41, about the same age as most students. His courses range from pastoral care to homiletics.
As Ghana's major Protestant seminary, Trinity has about 450 students and offers programs at the diploma, bachelor's and master's levels. Built for fewer than 100 students, it faces great demand in Ghana for pastors, who now serve as many as 25 con-gregations at a time.
Fayose's objectives include developing a master of ministry program and doctoral programs in ministry and theology. He also hopes to upgrade the seminary's library. Fundraising has become an increasing priority as well, since Trinity's sponsoring church bodies have backed off from fully funding scholarships for all students. "Things are changing, and we can't continue to depend on the churches because the money's not coming in," he says.
During his recent visits to Luther and other U.S. seminaries, Fayose hoped to build stronger relationships and support structures, and establish better exchanges of scholars. "I don't believe that the traffic should be one-way," he says of scholars. "Insights from Christianity in the West should also be brought to us to give us new insights."
Bartimawus, 48, returned to his alma mater in the Twin Cities over the summer while visiting the ELCA's Minneapolis Area Synod, which partners with the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria.
Bartimawus was a teacher and academic dean at Bronnum before coming to Luther. It was shortly after he resumed teaching at Bronnum that he was chosen to lead the seminary. He is in his third year of a five-year term as provost and continues to teach courses on religion in relation to social change and Reformation history.
Bronnum, with about 130 students in all, offers a three-year pastoral program toward ordination in the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria and a women's ministry course. Maintaining a consistent flow of candidates for ordained ministry amid the growth is one of the Nigerian Lutheran church's key concerns, he says.
"We have to really work on that deliberately in a more conscious way but also make the church relevant in a context that is quite changing," Bartimawus says. "Sometimes we talk of the church in the West as being in a post-Christian era, but those realities, too, are there, even in our context. So there's a need to offer curricula and education that help people meet those challenges in a very constructive way."
Both Cyril Fayose and Peter Bartimawus now serve as presidents of seminaries in Africa. But earlier in life, a career in ministry was far from their minds.
While growing up, Bartimawus wanted to be a lawyer. But when he was 15, a conference organized by Nigeria's Fellowship of Christian Students provided him with a conversion experience that reshaped his perspective. At that point, he says, "I knew that the best thing I could ever do in my life is to lead another person to Christ."
After completing his undergraduate studies in Nigeria, Bartimawus pursued his Master of Theology degree at New College, the divinity school of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Bartimawus was an instructor and academic dean at Bronnum for several years, meanwhile serving a congregation as an associate pastor, before coming to Luther Seminary in 1999. In 2005, he received his Ph.D. in church history. He had returned to teaching at Bronnum when the seminary's provost was made a bishop and needed a successor.
Bartimawus began his five-year term as Bronnum provost in spring 2006. He and his wife, Fiyayina, welcomed their first child, Joshua, last year.
Fayose had been a farmer with his heart set on becoming an economist when a pastor in Ghana changed his course. "He says, 'You know, I think this guy is a good candidate for ministry.' And that was the beginning of my troubles," says Fayose, laughing.
"It was a long-term journey, but let me say that I have never regretted being a minister," he says. "It's the greatest thing that happened to me."
A Trinity graduate, Fayose studied industrial psychology at the University of Ghana during his first several years as a pastor. In 1993, he came to the United States to pursue a master's in religion at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He spent a second year in Iowa as a clinical resident in Des Moines, where his wife, Marylinda, and the first of their four children joined him.
Fayose returned to Ghana to serve as a pastor and Trinity lecturer before coming to Luther Seminary in 1996 to pursue a Ph.D. in pastoral care and counseling. He graduated in 2001, having also spent a year as a pastor in Alexandria, Minn. He resumed teaching and pastoring in Ghana, became director of Ghana's National Counseling Center and in fall 2006 assumed Trinity's presidency.