Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Meeting Bame Bame

Rev. Dr. Michael Bame Bame is not tall, nor does he have a big voice – when he speaks, I have to lean forward and strain to catch his deep, low British-accented English.

But the professor certainly has an imposing presence. A Cameroonian Anglophone, Dr. Bame studied in America and Scotland before beginning a distinguished career as theologian and pastor in his home country.

Originally a member of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, Dr. Bame was dean of the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Yaounde. (In fact, he knows Bishop Boni from the bishop’s seminary days!) The library at the Faculty bears Dr. Bame’s name to this day, even though Dr. Bame is no longer associated with the school. Internal infighting in the denomination forced him out, but he found his way across town to a rival seminary, the Faculty of Evangelical Theology, sponsored by the Mission Evangelique Eglise Cameroun (MEEC), a church originally started by Korean missionaries. That’s where he works these days, from a sparse, but spacious office. He also pastors the English-speaking congregation of MEEC, called the Church of Patmos.

I was introduced to Dr. Bame by my friend, Dr. Wilfred Mbacham, and had a fascinating conversation and lunch with him recently. We talked about everything from the state of Methodism in America to wealth and poverty, from current theological motifs to Cameroon’s political problems.

I don’t know exactly what I said in his living room that afternoon, but he called me later and invited me to become a lecturer at the Faculty of Evangelical Theology.

Thus, I have begun a new career as professor! Yesterday, I introduced myself to three young Masters’ level students and began teaching an ethics course on war and peace (one of my favorite topics!). Next semester, I will be teaching a class on John Wesley.

In the course of getting to know Dr. Bame, I have discovered that he defines himself essentially as a Methodist, but given the lack of a Methodist church in his own country, he had to find the closest equivalent. Perhaps he will someday become a Methodist officially, but I’m not interested in trying to “convert” him. Instead, I am hoping that I have found another partner, a companion on the way.

Essentially, Dr. Bame thinks that the Wesleyan revival and theology is relevant for Cameroon. So do I.