Bishop Gwynne College
Building the "Village of God"
1947 - 1987
Training Early Leaders
Bishop Gwynne College is one of the most treasured and honoured institutions in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. Named after Llewellyn Gwynne, the pioneer missionary of the Church Missionary Society in Sudan, it has trained most of the leading clergy and bishops of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.
Training of Sudanese Christians to take responsibility in the young Sudanese Church started early. Dr Fraser who came to Lui in 1920 quickly started training teachers, medical workers and evangelist. Paul Gibson in Yei began the first major programme of training school teachers. Later he began to train young men for ordained church leadership.
Daniel Deng Atong and Andarea Apaya were ordained as the first deacons in 1941.
Yei Divinity School 1945-47
These early efforts resulted in the foundation in 1947 of the Episcopal Church's first theological institution in Yei - the Yei Divinity School. Fred Crabb was the first Principal. This first college fulfilled Paul Gibson's dream of establishing a relevant, well-taught ministry for the local communities of Southern Sudan. The first students at Yei included important later leaders of the Church - such as Yeremaya Dotiro (later Bishop of Yambio) and Ezra Lawiri (later Principal of Bishop Gwynne College and translator of the Moru Bible).
Bishop Gwynne College 1947-65
Yei, however, was not very central for the new Christian communities of Southern Sudan. In 1947 Fred Crabb moved the college to Mundri (in the Moru country) where it was renamed Bishop Gwynne College. Here the College developed rapidly, training teachers of religious education as well as pastors, and attracting students from other mission denominations. All the early leaders of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan were trained at BGC in Mundri. Principal David Brown, later a bishop of the Church of England, first called the college the "Village of God", capturing the deep sense of community and common purpose that characterized the College at that time.
The expanding civil war (1956-72) enveloped the College in 1965 when it was attacked by government troops. The students, together with Bishop Elinana and Bishop Yeremaya, fled into the surrounding bush and eventually into East Africa, where most of them were able to continue their studies.
The Mundri campus lay in ruins for ten years. Until 1975 - peace had returned in 1972 - theological training continued in Juba at the Juba Bible Training Institution (JBTI). Eluzai Munda, later Bishop of Mundri, was principal of this wartime college. Many other Southern Sudanese obtained their Bible and pastoral training in East Africa.
Back in Mundri. Bishop Gwynne College 1975-1987
Eluzai Munda led 12 students and their families back to Mundri in 1975. Life was very hard in those early days as these pioneers struggled to re-establish the college. Slowly buildings were reconstructed, the land cleared, farming started, classrooms refurbished, a library built up, and lecturers brought from around the world to strengthen the teaching. Principal Munda handed the torch to Seme Solomona (later Bishop of Yei) and then to Benaiah Poggo, who led the college with vision through difficult times until his death in 1992.
The training of teachers of Christian Religion recommenced. The work of the College extended throughout Southern Sudan through the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) programme.
In 1983 the clouds of war began to gather again and in the following years BGC struggled to maintain its educational and communal life through many challenges and dangers. In 1987 the college was invaded by SPLA troops and several expatriate staff were taken hostage. This compelled the evacuation of the College to Juba - its home during the earlier phase of the civil war.
Benaiah Poggo - never a man to be defeated by difficulties - laboured to re-establish BGC in Juba. Teaching began again in the former offices of a Christian NGO called ACROSS. He bought houses for staff and students to live in. A new library had to be assembled. BGC in Mundri had been forced to evacuate on two occasions. It now looked unlikely that it would ever return to its first home. Juba now became its home.