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George Liele Institute wraps up inaugural term

Victor Kirk teaches Romans at the George Liele Leadership Institute. Photo by Dominic Henry

LANHAM, Md. (BP) – As the first term of the George Liele Leadership Institute comes to an end, leaders are thrilled with the response.

Victor Kirk, vice president of the African American Fellowship of the Baptist Convention of Maryland-Delaware (BCM/D) and pastor of Sharon Bible Fellowship Church in Lanham, Md., said nearly 40 students participated, evenly divided, taking classes in Romans and Old Testament.

“The students really connected with the Word of God and said Romans had a new meaning for them,” said Kirk, who taught the course on the apostle Paul’s longest letter. “People are excited and learning.”

Vernon Lattimore, pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Ranier, is teaching Old Testament Survey, which will be finished by the end of November. Bernard Fuller, pastor of New Song Bible Church in Lanham, where the classes are offered, serves as president of the institute.

BCM/D African American Fellowship President Nathaniel Thomas, who pastors Forestville New Redeemer Church said the first term was “a great beginning.”

“The best is still yet to come as it relates to the institute,” Thomas said. “We’re still working and building on it. Our aim is to take our people above the Sunday School Bible level. It’s for those who want more intense study but are not quite ready for seminary.”

The George Liele Institute is part of the AAF’s strategy to equip Maryland/Delaware Christians of all ethnicities to fulfill the Great Commission. The institute is designed to provide biblical academic training, leadership development, community empowerment, missions outreach and evangelism training.

The legacy of George Liele

“George Liele is one of the most significant figures in the history of Christian missions,” Thomas said. “A black, freed Georgia slave, he left America and planted the Gospel in Jamaica 10 years before Lott Carey left England. He was ordained on May 20, 1775, becoming the first African-American Baptist preacher in America. After his ordination, he planted the first African American Church in North America, which still exists today.”

Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, said, “During my years in Bible college and seminary, no one said anything about black Americans in missions and what they have done and contributed. I knew of many church planters, but those who were going into the foreign field, people of color, I knew nothing about that.

“Somewhere along the line about 20-30 years ago,” Anderson continued, “I heard about George Liele, and I thought, ‘Who is that?’ Over the years, we’ve had a chance to pursue that knowledge and how God used him to start churches in America and Jamaica. Because of him, many of his disciples, those he ministered to, ventured to Nova Scotia, Canada, and Sierra Leone in Africa. It struck me — how come we don’t know about this person? Listen, He belongs in the Christian Hall of Fame!

“He is a tremendous example of us taking the Gospel to the world and every creature hearing the Word of God. And that is part of the Great Commission for us as African Americans. Sometimes we have a myopic vision — we see just America, but we ought to have a whole busload of folks saying, ‘I hear the voice of Jesus say unto me who will go, and we say we will go and take the Gospel throughout the world.’”

Anderson made a successful motion to add George Liele Sunday Day to the SBC calendar at the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham. The first George Liele Sunday was in 2021. In response to the new day of recognition, the AAF established the George Liele Offering to support African Americans called to ministry and missions.

Looking ahead

The 2024 spring semester will be Old Testament Survey II and Romans II, but the prerequisites are Old Testament Survey 1 and Romans 1. Kirk said plans are to offer Old Testament Survey 1 and Romans 1 once again in the fall semester of 2024, as well as add other classes and instructors.

“Our vision and prayer is that by 2030, we will have recruited 200 pastors and will have trained 20,000 new disciples to be kingdom leaders,” Thomas said. “This would reach a minimum of 200,000 unsaved or unchurched people, winning souls for Christ.

“In the society we live in now, we have to go beyond the surface level. We have to be firm about who we are in Christ Jesus. There are a lot of elements out to destroy Christians. We are faced with a great challenge in our society, and the George Leile Institute is part of empowering our churches, pastors, and parishioners.”