After six years of civil war that has killed over 150,000 people and displaced half the population, the war-weary people of Liberia are clinging to a fragile peace agreement and looking for signs of hope.
The death of Archbishop George Browne in February, 1993, left the Episcopal Church of Liberia mired in efforts to reorganise and rebuild in the middle of a war. In a shining example of Christian hope, a special convocation last May elected Suffragan Bishop Edward Neufville II to succeed Archbishop Browne.
A thousand participants, including top government and religious leaders, attended the 6 January service at Trinity Cathedral in the capital of Monrovia installing Neufville as the 11th bishop of Liberia. In an emotional appeal, the bishop challenged the Church to set aside past differences and to provide the nation with an example of unity.
Using the parable of the talents as his text, Bishop Neufville made it clear that he was convinced that the diocese had the strength of will for the difficult work that lies ahead. And he said he believed the Episcopal Church in the United States had the will to stand with them and give them help.
Following the installation a visiting American team of Church leaders visited the Church's Cuttington College located 115 miles from Monrovia. The college was used by one of the rebel factions as its headquarters. An inspection tour of the college indicated that there did not appear to be major structural damage but most of the buildings had been stripped of anything of value. "It was obvious that rebuilding the college will require extensive planning, investment and time," the team said in its report.
While the civil war shut down the college, many of the staff remained and carried out a valuable ministry to the 6,000 displaced people who used the building.
Covenant relationship with USA
The American team, which included Bishop Don Hart of Connecticut, met with representatives of the Liberian Church to review the covenant agreement between the two Churches and concluded that so much had changed that a whole new covenant relationship was needed.