Presiding bishop receives honorary doctorate in Liberia

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January 5, 2010

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori received an honorary doctorate degree from Cuttington University here during a special convocation Jan. 4.

Liberia Bishop Jonathan B. Hart and Cuttington University President Henrique F. Tokpa conferred the degree as more than 300 people watched in the university's Epiphany Chapel. Jefferts Schori arrived in Liberia Jan. 2 for a weeklong stay at the invitation of the Episcopal Church of Liberia.

"It's a great honor and privilege to join you here at Cuttington. It has been remarkable experience to not only hear about but to see some of the remarkable work you are doing here," Jefferts Schori said during the convocation. "I see beautiful rice fields, I see very beautiful goats … my husband and I raised goats for more 20 years in Oregon.

Prior to receiving the honorary doctorate, the presiding bishop toured Cuttington University's rice field, rubber plantation, animal farm and library.

"I see the fruits of hard labor and diligent study … your leaders who are trained here go not just all over Liberia to serve and meet people, but all over the world. And on behalf of the Episcopal Church, I can only say thank you, thank you, thank you. Your blessing is reaching far and wide across this globe. May this blessing continue to grow, may it continue to expand and may God's gifts be shared with a world that is exceedingly hungry for those gifts of leadership. God bless you all. Thank you."

As part of her visit to the Diocese of Liberia, Jefferts Schori preached and presided at a high solemn mass at Trinity Cathedral in Monrovia Jan. 3.

Cuttington and Collegiate Divinity Schools were founded in 1889 in southern Liberia by the Episcopal Church, and named in honor of Robert Fulton Cutting, then-treasurer of the church in the United States, who gave $5,000 to found the university. Today, the university is located in Bong County, about three hours north of Monrovia.

The university offers degrees in education, humanities, business and social science; natural resources; nursing; agriculture and integrated development; and theology. The university has 1,400 students, including 200 ex-combatants.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Liberia, a west African nation of nearly 3.5 million, was crushed by civil war, with more than 250,000 people killed and more than one million people displaced.

Founded by the U.S.-based Episcopal Church in 1836, the Episcopal Church of Liberia was a diocese in the Episcopal Church until 1980, when it became part of the Anglican Province of West Africa. As part of that change of affiliation, the Episcopal Church and the Liberia diocese established a covenant partnership, which pledges each entity to mutual ministry and interdependence and calls for financial subsidies with an eventual goal of self sufficiency and sustainability for the Church of Liberia.

Jefferts Schori is also expected to visit the all-girls Bromley Episcopal Mission School, meet with clergy and vestry members, U.S. Embassy and USAID officials and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the continent's first elected African woman president.

The visit marks the first time Jefferts Schori has been the official guest of an African church.