Inauguration of Dr. Stanley Bhebhe, Africa Nazarene University
Today we are gathered to inaugurate Dr. Stanley Bhebhe as the new Vice Chancellor of Africa Nazarene University. We are grateful for this man who has committed himself and his life to ministry within the academy. All that he has done throughout his life has brought him to this day. He has worked, studied and sacrificed to have the skills and abilities necessary to do this work, but beyond the technical skill, he has gone through life journeys that have shaped him to be a reflection of Christ himself.
The challenges facing higher education here in Kenya, and around the globe, are great. We are living in a time of seismic change and this can lead us in two directions; either we become engulfed in worry and concern about the future, or we embrace the opportunities that change affords and we press on. Often people speak about the unprecedented challenges that we face. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but every generation has had their unprecedented challenges and yet, here we are, having not just survived, but thrived. This is the promise of the past for the future, as we lean into what lies ahead.
There are new days ahead for Kenya, as well as all of Africa. The students who are educated at this University will become leaders on the world stage. The voice and influence of Africa is being felt around the globe, and while the challenges are great, so are the potential rewards. What happens here at ANU will reach far beyond the bounds of this University, this country and even this continent. Therefore the mantle of leadership that Dr. Bhebhe accepts today will weigh heavily upon his shoulders.
Africa Nazarene University is a uniquely Christian University. This means there is an ethos that runs through every fiber of this University, a DNA, if you like, that codifies every decision, every lecture, and every lifestyle. It means that there will be times when ANU will have to respond to situations in a way that other universities may not. We choose to embrace Christian morals that provide a blueprint for expected behaviors, for faculty, staff and students.
To be distinctively Christian, also means that ANU embraces holy love, a love that is focused on God, and neighbor; even the neighbor who may not be just like us. This institution should reflect qualities found within the kingdom of God; a university where we we live out the prophetic words of Christ found in Matthew 25:34-40:
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Our Wesleyan theological perspective reminds us that all of humanity is a part of God’s family. Therefore the unique Christian character of ANU is revealed in love of God and love for others — all others.
What makes ANU different from secular institutions is that she is about the business of moral formation. Through the development of love of God, the students begin to be clothed in virtue. This university exists to teach young women and men “not merely to think well but to live
virtuously.” (“Scalia Speaks”, 131)
What is virtue?
Virtue (Latin: virtus, Ancient Greek: ἀρετή "arete") is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. (Definition https://
In other words, the unique character of this University is that minds are not only shaped by great learning, but lives are formed by spiritual guidance. The most important objectives of human existence— goodness, virtue, godliness, salvation—are not achieved through success within the secular world, but through spiritual formation. Africa Nazarene University must continue to provide opportunities for discipleship, and recognize that this is just as important, or maybe more important, than any technical skill which may be learned in a classroom or laboratory. The result is an expectation of a moral and virtuous lifestyle, for faculty, staff and students alike. The alternative is to lose our Christian character.
I have a few statistics that come to us from the United States. Last month Forbes Magazine published a report.
According to a new study of 500 employees conducted
by LRN, headed by Dov Seidman:
83% said following the “Golden Rule” enables companies to make better decisions;
62% said managers would do better if they relied upon moral authority; and
59% said organizations would be more successful with challenges if their leadership had more moral authority.
Unfortunately, according to the LRN survey called “The State of Moral Leadership in Business,” employees are not getting what they expect.
Only 23% of employees said managers are moral leaders;
Just 17% stand up for people who were treated unfairly; and a mere
12% say managers make time to speak to them about why work is meaningful. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbaldoni/ 2018/04/12/how-to-deliver-moral- leadership-to- employees/#1170d99e37ba)
Corruption, greed, and a desire for personal gain will always derail potential good. The virtues refine the qualities, and help individuals to become the best reflection of Christ. You see, the Romans said, “corruptio optimi pessima est: the corruption of the best is the worst.” In other words, those with the finest education, if not grounded in Christian morals and principles will be set up for corruption, and this becomes exceedingly dangerous. ANU, embrace the gift that you are to Kenya– embrace being excellent, but different.
For a distinctively Christian university to provide this type of eduction, requires great leadership, for the person at the helm becomes a role model to all. Therefore, Dr. Bhebhe today I pray for you.
May God grant you the wisdom of Solomon, whose insights allowed him to rule during a difficult time. His Proverbs provide a roadmap to virtuous living and leading; decisions made for the greater good, the development of others, and for a legacy that would have led into the future, had the leaders remained faithful.