The Rev. Dr. Andrew Willis Celebrated

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The Rev. Dr. Andrew WillisThe Rev. Dr. Andrew Willis, member of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) Board of Trustees and co-founder of the seminary’s 33-year old Urban Theological Institute (UTI), celebrated his elevation to the office of Auxiliary Bishop with the Commonwealth Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in a festive banquet with family and friends at Springfield Country Club on Friday, September 27, 2013. 

LTSP president the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey and his wife, LTSP registrar René Diemer, were on hand to give tribute to their longtime friends, the Rev. Dr. Willis and his wife, LTSP alumna the Rev. Dr. Gladys Willis (MDiv 1996). Also joining the festivities was an impressive roster of distinguished COGIC-LTSP comrades: LTSP trustee Dr. Addie Butler; UTI director the Rev. Dr. Quintin L. Robertson, a COGIC elder; LTSP graduate, trustee, alumni board member, and UTI Council of Advisors secretary the Rev. Audrey Moody (MDiv 1988), a pioneering COGIC clergy woman who chaired the banquet steering committee; two-time LTSP graduate and alumni board member the Rev. Dr. Joseph Conner (MDiv 1988, DMin 2013), a COGIC pastor and elder who served as master of ceremonies for the banquet; LTSP honorary doctorate recipient and past UTI Council of Advisors chair Bishop Ernest C. Morris, DD, founding pastor of Mt. Airy COGIC and bishop of COGIC’s Koinonia Jurisdiction, who gave closing remarks and the benediction for the banquet; and LTSP graduate and philanthropic advisor Yvonne Jones Lembo (MDiv 2013), a candidate for rostered ministry with the ELCA and a COGIC evangelist serving with Catalyst for Change COGIC, who offered a musical selection for the banquet.

This many-layered circle of COGIC-LTSP colleagues is an expression of Bishop Willis’ dual legacy of COGIC and LTSP leadership, championing theological education and excellence in ministry.

Speaking of his distinct contributions, the Rev. Audrey Moody said, “Bishop Willis has always been a strong supporter of women in ministry, both overtly and behind the scenes. He has a strong personality and a wry sense of humor, but can be counted on to be supportive when it is needed and often when it is not the popular thing to do or be.”

At the celebration banquet, Dr. Krey highlighted how Bishop Andrew Hopewell Willis, Jr. has been a wellspring of hope for the LTSP Board of Trustees over the years, offering words of wisdom and inspiration to help guide the board during challenging times of deliberation and decision.

Drs. Gladys and the Rev. Andrew WillisBishop Willis’ legacy lives on at LTSP through the vibrant resilience and steady growth of UTI. Thirty-two multi-cultural seminarians enrolled in UTI degree programs this academic year. Another 36 are students in the UTI certificate programs in Church Leadership and Christian Ministry. Three scholarship funds — The JQ Jackson Fund, The Bishop Ernest Morris Fund, and the newly-formed Rev. Dr. George Thompson Fund — provide financial assistance for UTI students enrolled in LTSP degree programs. The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Sr., Chair for African American Studies funds a permanent UTI faculty position. The Rev. Dr. Wayne Croft currently serves as the Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr. Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics in African American Studies. (at left: Dr. Gladys Willis and the Rev. Dr. Andrew Willis)

In a poignant tribute to her husband, the Rev. Dr. Gladys Willis penned these remarks:

“…[Y]ou have excelled beyond the expectations of many — from Cheney University to Princeton Theological Seminary to Drew University. Yet … you have never placed secular knowledge above the knowledge that comes from God. Admirably, you have not been selfish, as you have mentored many young people in the pursuit of education, and you have assisted many pastors with finding church buildings … In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania   of the Church of God in Christ, you have brought Godly dignity to the ordination/licensure process, insisting on the seriousness of preparing effective servants for the cause of Jesus Christ. In the community-at-large, your passion for training effective pastors led to your co-partnering with The Lutheran Theological Seminary to establish the Urban Theological Institute, to make it possible for men and women in ministry across denominations to earn a seminary degree.”

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