By Nyema Nma, Jr.
On June 5, 2022, at about 3:00PM, the resounding melody from the pipe organ in the Trinity Cathedral on Broad Street, will lead an array of worshippers to witness the official induction-others would say-enthronement of Bishop Sellee, who is known for his humanity, integrity and professionalism as the 13th Diocesan Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia. He replaces Archbishop Jonathan BB Hart will retire on June 1, 2022, though his term expires in January of 2023.
He was elected bishop co-adjuctor on February 19, 2022 at a special convention held at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepard in Paynesville, Montserrado County.
“My visions for the church include spiritual growth, true commitment to the interpretation of the Gospel, build a culture of integrity and professionalism, and put the church’s institutions into a secretariat. I will strive to bring about accountability and ensure sustainable development for all our institutions,” the bishop co-adjuctor, Dr. James Bombo Sellee told his congregation during his first sermon on May 1, 2022.
Many persons, including VPK Sackey, member of the Executive Committee of the Cathedral Chapter (ECCC) of the Trinity Cathedral Episcopal Church on Broad Street, could not hide his feeling against Sellee but argue on the Veteran Episcopal Youth Council (Veteran EYC) Messenger page in February that he, Sellee lacks the moral as well as administrative aptitude to effectively run the church so much so that he cannot efficiently and effectively run the affairs of the Trinity Cathedral, a single church in the diocese, where he has been the dean since 2017.
Many Episcopalians are wondering as to the kind of leadership the new diocesan bishop would provide in a church that is divided on several fronts which led to a huge portion of its potential members to leave and established the Anglican Church in Liberia.
The Episcopal Church of Liberia is allegedly been run on the shoulders of few elites in Monrovia who benefitted from its resources while many church structures lie in ruins in the rural parts of the country. Despite being understaffed with clergy, the few who took up the challenge, especially those assigned in rural communities accused their chief priest of leaving them to fend for themselves and their congregations with the minimum salary they earn annually. “We practically have to beggars in our own church. We practically have to beg some of our members and community people just to meet up with some of our basic needs such as food, children school fees and other essentials,” a rural clergyman, who preferred anonymity, said.
Some of Sellee’s supporters also believe that the outgoing Bishop did not do much to promote the spiritual, developmental, moral as well as the administrative growth of the church. They claim that Bishop Hart should take responsibility for the underdevelopment, mismanaged resources and corruption that has robbed the church of its spiritual, educational and material values. “The bishop was busy satisfying the personal egos of few of his personal people and priests than unifying the church,” Mr. Baysah Kullie, one of the breakaway members, observed. “I believe that as chief priest, his primary duties are to warn the sinners, cheer the saints, care for the sick and dying, and preached an undiluted Gospel of Christ, but rather, he became a party litigant where there was no conflict,” Mr. Kullie noted.
“Bishop Hart killed the church,” Madam Nancy Jones, another breakaway Episcopalian asserted. She observed that bishop Hart Episcopacy did not do much to explore the church’s vast resources to rebuild its damaged structure and institutions, but rather led the campaign to divide ‘his own people.’ “And we are looking to see if Sellee will further it or reunite it; or bury it or resuscitate it,” she concluded.
Yet, other Episcopalians, including Bishop James Sellee himself, believed that Bishop Hart worked diligently to promoting God’s kingdom through the church. Some supporters of the outgoing bishop observed that he was very passionate about the welfare of the church, its clergy and laity. Under his leadership, the church’s relief organization, Nets4Life, was transformed into ECLRD, a full relief organization working to promote human rights, peace and justice in communities, establishing farms for churches to become self-sustainable as well as supporting women participation in speaking out against violence against women and children. Even though, the ECLRD is said by some staunched Episcopalians to be run like a one-man NGO that is solely owned and operated on the commands of Madam Annette Kiawu, its National Director.
For his part, Bishop Sellee described his boss as a great liturgist and sound preacher. The incoming diocesan bishop noted that Hart took over a church that was broken administratively and structurally. He maintained, “Bishop Hart was a great leader. He took over the church that was hard hit with the scare of the civil war and the death of Bishop George Brown.”
On the international scene, Bishop Hart worked with the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA) to carve out two internal provinces; the Internal Province of West Africa (IPWA) and the Internal Province of Ghana (IPG) and became the first Archbishop of the IPWA and became the