Rev. T. Monsma’s article in the last month’s TORCH AND TRUMPET, indicates the change of opinion that is going on in the hearts of some of the missionaries in Nigeria. 1 also have had a change of mind on the need and importance of a Reformed Seminary in the Benue. Some of the reasons for my change of mind are set forth in his article. There arc other reasons which 1 will not deal with at this time. His article shows that some missionaries are willing to stand against the tide of missionary opinion in Nigeria, and present a position which they feel will be far better for the Reformed Church of Nigeria, than having only a united seminary for the training of the church’s future ministers. The position of a Reformed Seminary in the Benue, I heartily endorse and will try to help bring about when I return to Nigeria.

There have been those missionaries and others who have said the request of the Tiv Church for their own seminary is not the opinion of the whole church but only of a few men who make up the Executive Committee of that church. This simply is not true. I am a member of this executive committee, and have seen the development of the way this request came into being.

At the Tiv Synod of 1966, a report was presented outlining the future growth of the church in the next five years. When the Synod saw that it would need about 70 new pastors by 1973, it asked, “How can we prepare for this future need?” I then outlined a way whereby it could train enough pastors to meet the challenge of the future. I gave them a three point plan.1. They must begin a vernacular Tiv pastor’s class in February of 1969. 2. Continue to send students to TCNN. 3. Prepare to open an English seminary in the Benue for continuous theological education for its students in the future.

The delegates listened and heartily endorsed the plan, and told the Executive Committee of the Synod to bring this plan into effect in the future. And so the request came from the Tiv Church Executive Committee to the Foreign Mission Board, “Please help us to start a Reformed Seminary in the Benue.” When the Board turned down the request, I advised the Executive Committee of Synod to communicate directly to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church of 1968. This they did. Therefore, we may say, the request of the Tiv Church, “Brothers help us to educate our future ministers,” is the desire of the whole church. May we ignore this request, coming from the heart of the African man himself? He knows his own situation and problems far better than we in America, or even we missionaries who have lived among them. We must listen. We must answer, “We will come and help you.”

Some have questioned the sincerity of the request stemming from their concern about doctrinal differences in the united seminary in Bukuru. Some have said they really do not know the difference between the various Protestant churches represented in the TCNN. But this is not true. Most of the Nigerian pastors and evangelists do know the differences and are concerned about the variant teachings of these denominations m the TCNN. It was for this reason that the first class coming out of the TCNN was given a year internship with older pastors so that their doctrine and conduct might be observed. At this past Tiv Synod, when a number of TCNN men were examined, there were several questions concerning the variant teachings given at TCNN, and whether these young men had changed their thinking concerning the Reformed faith that they had learned from their pastors and leaders before they went to TCNN. We are grateful that they all said they had not changed.

I mention this to show that the Tiv Church is very much aware of the variant teachings taught at TCNN and is concerned that their young men do not> imbibe them and teach them in the Reformed church of Tiv land. This is an important reason for having a Re· formed Seminary, a reason that we Christian Reformed people should know well ourselves, and act with sympathy for the Tiv Reformed Church.

There is a spirit of fellowship and unity among the Nigerian churches, but there is also a recognition of the diversity of doctrines and practices in the various denominations. Each group wants to preserve what it has learned from their founding missionary fathers—the Tiv church also. It is our duty as missionaries and Christian Reformed people to respect this desire, and not force upon the Tiv church a type of theological education which they do not want. They need our help in their desire for Reformed theological education. We have no right to turn them down when they feel this is best for their church.

The Tiv church is growing rapidly. Witness the church at Isherev. The work began there in 1960, with only two baptized Christians who had moved into the area. Now there are over 100. Within the next couple of years, the Lord willing, this church will be a calling church with over 200 members. This area is one of the hardest places to work in Tiv land. In other areas, the growth is even faster. That is why the church needs more and more pastors.

We do not know how long we will be able to work in Nigeria. But we must work now while it is still day, for the night is coming fast. And what better gift can we give to the Tiv Church, than her own Reformed Seminary—a school that can perpetually train her own pastors, who in turn can train others in the Christian faith as we Reformed people understand it. The Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa left the Tiv Church the precious gift of the Bible in the Tiv language. Let us leave them the gift of a strong Reformed Seminary in the Benue, which can help them to interpret this Bible aright, and perpetuate the faith that their founding fathers worked so hard to teach them. This is our task. Let us take up the work with gladness, that we may give this wonderful gift to our brothers over sea.


Rev. C. Persenaire serves as missionary in Nigeria and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Tiv Church.