Representatives of Sioux Falls Seminary and Taylor Seminary have just returned from Cameroon where a growing partnership in theological education continues to take shape with the Cameroon Baptist Convention and its two seminaries. And in the heat and humidity of a classroom in Kumba, presidents Greg Henson and David Williams, respectively, led a one-week intensive course on Christian Ethics.
The trip would have been worthwhile for many reasons. For Dr. Williams, teaching Cameroonian students a subject that’s so close to his heart was a highlight – though he failed to appreciate what it would mean to teach in 90-degree heat with 85% humidity.
“I hadn’t really processed just how hot, or how humid that would be,” he said. “Five days of teaching from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. with clothes sticking to me everywhere they touched, in a room full of men and women struggling to understand and to be understood, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. What an amazing experience!”
As Dr. Williams taught, Henson joined the class as well and contributed significantly. Among the students there were school chaplains and district pastors, including a pastor who served at a church with a pastoral ministry staff of three and a solo pastor who served three churches. There was also a primary school teacher and a secondary school philosophy teacher.
Dr. Williams called it a privilege to come alongside what God is doing in Cameroon.
“One of my profound joys was watching students’ eyes light up, making connections, and realizing the dramatic impact that following the teachings of Jesus can have in the real world,” Williams added. “One event that was particularly impactful for me was when Richard, a pastor in the class, came up to me after a class discussion on identity and reconciliation and acknowledged how much the Cameroonian church needed to see tribal reconciliation. Their issues are not Jew/Gentile distinctions as with Paul, or black/white issues or indigenous/non-indigenous relations as in the US and Canada. The deep divides in their context are the ‘natural’ divisions that separate the Christian Church by tribes. He was convicted that ‘we have to deal with this!’”
The February trip was the first step in a five-year partnership that took shape in 2015 between the North American Baptist Conference (NAB) and the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC). Dr. Daniel Hamil (NAB Executive Director), Rev. Norman Poehlke (NAB Vice President, Ministry Outreach), Mr. Greg Henson (President, Sioux Falls Seminary), Dr. David Williams (President, Taylor Seminary), and Mr. Calvin Hohn (Director of Cooperating Missions), visited the NAB’s partner in mission, the Cameroon Baptist Convention. That delegation met with Cameroonian leaders to consider how a partnership could facilitate theological education across the entire CBC, including theological education of students at Ndu (CBTS) and Kumba (CBSK), where the CBC’s two seminaries are located, as well as to continue theological educational of CBC pastors and ministry workers.
Out of this meeting came a vision for a partnership that would serve to edify the system of theological education across Cameroon. It was agreed that a five-year development project would begin in 2016, which it has, and the most recent trip was a great start to the project. Presidents Henson and Williams spent time meeting with representatives of the CBC as well as various leaders and faculty members of the CBC seminaries in Kumba and Ndu:
- Godwill Ncham, Executive President of CBC
- Felix Fimba, Director of Evangelism and Missions (outgoing)
- Paul Mokake, Director of Evangelism and Missions (in coming)
- Bernard Lobe, Provost of CBSK
- Nsiemboh Johnson, Provost of CBTS
- Naomi Nnoko, Academic Dean of CBSK
- Peter Yuh, Academic Dean of CBTS
- Richard Koni, Coordinator of TEE/CE
- Samuel Ndelle, Professor at CBSK
Much was accomplished at this meeting. Amidst wonderful discussion throughout the day, two important tasks were accomplished.
1) The group identified the priorities that would guide the five-year project and how those priorities would inform the partnership between the NAB (specifically the seminaries in the NAB) and the CBC (specifically the newly formed Department of Theological and Christian Education).
2) A tentative timeline was created.
Over the coming years, the NAB seminaries will aid in the development of the newly-formed Department of Theological and Christian Education in several ways. In addition, programs for faculty development among the faculty members at the seminaries in Cameroon will be designed. One such program could be the creation of a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) track for students in Cameroon.
Working closely with the leaders in Cameroon to consider the future of theological education in the CBC was a very enriching experience for Henson.
“I enjoyed learning more about the various people in the room. Each has different strengths, all of which will serve this partnership well. While I could reference something about each person in the room, let me share a story about two of them from CBSK. Naomi Nnoko is the Academic Dean of CBSK, and she has a passion for preaching and church planting. She both teaches at CBSK and shows great leadership. When I spoke with her about this partnership after the meeting, her excitement was palpable. Samuel Ndelle is a professor at CBSK. He has a PhD from a school in South Africa as well as two Master’s degrees. In addition to studying theology, Samuel has spent time studying higher education administration. It was wonderful to see his enthusiasm for creating a system of theological education in Cameroon that meets the needs of the church.”
About the Doctor of Ministry program, Henson remarked, “Having the opportunity to lead a discussion on the creation of a DMin program that is specifically designed for students in Cameroon and allows students to stay in their contexts while pursuing their degrees was a blessing. Even more encouraging was the fact that the concept arose from discussion with CBC leaders who gave shape and meaning to the program.”
Henson and Williams’ visit to Cameroon was a wonderful first step in this new five-year project. The next visit is scheduled for June 2016. During that visit, a professor from North America will teach a course identified by Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Ndu and will offer a faculty development workshop.
Both Taylor and Sioux Falls Seminary are excited to see what God does over the next five years. Henson closed by saying, “The fact that Taylor and Sioux Falls Seminaries are working together on this project and doing so in partnership with a host of leaders from the CBC is a testament to what can occur when we think first about the Kingdom of God and the mission to which we have collectively been called.”