United Methodist Bishops from Africa issue statement

From the 7-11 September, 2015, we the Bishops of the Central Conferences of Africa gathered at the Elephant Hills Resort, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe as part of our Annual business meeting. Highlights of the meeting included worship, fellowship, and evaluation of ministries and responsibilities God has entrusted to our care as Shepherds of His flock.

Bishop Innis

Bishop Innis

Our meeting was immensely blessed by the presence of some of our spouses as we celebrated some of the tremendous success stories in all Episcopal Areas on the continent.

We celebrate with gratitude the recent training and commissioning of thirty Nine Global Missionaries on the continent of Africa (Zimbabwe) by the General Board of Global Ministries

We note with deep gratitude the kind hospitality of the Zimbabwean people and their rich cultures. As part of our activities, we received ministry updates from some of our institutional leaders, as well as lectures and presentations on leadership, economic empowerment and sustainability. In addition, we discussed relevant issues confronting the Church and the global community.

We took time off to pray and intercede for Africa, the world and the global Church, especially the persecuted Church, and the growing global refugee community as a result of ongoing political instabilities we are experiencing in parts of our world.

Global Terrorism

In recent months, the world has watched with shock and dismay the massive human rights abuses against innocent, helpless and defenseless families, especially women and children, and the horrible refugee crisis that has engulfed and overwhelmed parts of Europe and Africa, with no permanent solution in sight. This crisis, is no doubt the result of the ongoing bloody and brutal civil war in Syria, the ISIS insurgency across parts of Europe, as well as the Boko Haram and Al-Shabab insurgencies in parts of Africa.

Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda. Photo by Jay Mallin (UMNS)

Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda. Photo by Jay Mallin (UMNS)

In Africa, the Boko Haram insurgents continue to carry out atrocities and mayhem against innocent citizens in towns, villages, cities, and religious facilities (mosques and churches) in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, etc.  Young men and women are being manipulated to carry out suicide bombings to destroy innocent lives and property. The Al-Shabab also continues to unleash untold havoc against innocent civilians in Somalia, Kenya, and other parts of Africa.

As a consequence of these crises, thousands of families have been ripped away from their homes and made homeless. Thousands of others have died from starvation, disease, lack of shelter, and crossfire bombing and shooting between warring factions. Women and girls have suffered enslavement and rape, while thousands of children are denied their rights to education and safety as the crisis rages on.

We whole-heartedly condemn these atrocities and call upon the United Nations and our political leaders in Africa including the African Union to do all that lies within their power to restore peace and tranquility. We will continue to pray to Almighty God for his divine intervention while we pursue some practical ways to pursue the path of peace and unity, including dialogue with our young people, grassroots, women’s movements, and community and political leaders.

In recognition of our role as God’s messengers of peace and reconciliation, we present this press release in the hope that we will draw the attention of our denomination to the stark realities of needless suffering and pain in our world as a result of current Global terrorism, unjust political systems and the manipulation of weaker nations by world powers; and to work together as a church to usher in God’s reign of peace, justice and freedom to all.

Marriage and Sexuality

Over the past four decades, from 1972 until the present, we have watched with shock and dismay the rapid drift of our denomination from this Holy call to a warm embrace of practices that have become sources of conflict that now threatens to rip the Church apart and distract her from the mission of leading persons to faith and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. One of such practices is the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender).

Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala of Mozambique. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM Communications.

Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala of Mozambique. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM Communications.

We are deeply saddened that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church in favor of social and cultural practices that have no scriptural basis for acceptance in Christian worship and conduct. Yet they continue to attempt to persuade members of the Church to incorporate these practices as an accepted code of conduct within global United Methodism.

As leaders of the church in Africa, we call upon all United Methodists, Bishops, clergy and Laity to an unreserved commitment to the Holy Bible as the primary authority for faith and practice in the church. We call upon all members throughout the connection to adopt practices consistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. We submit to the teachings of Scripture that God designed marriage to be between man and woman, and the procreation of children is a blessing from God (Gen. 2:24-25; Psalm 127:3-5). Scripture also teaches that all persons are sexual beings, whether or not they are married. However, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant bond of a faithful monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and not within same-sex unions or polygamy. The Christian marriage covenant is holy, sacred, and consecrated by God and is expressed in shared fidelity between one man and one woman for life. In this vein, we denounce all forms of sexual exploitation, including fornication, adultery, sexual commercialization, slavery, abuse, polygamy, etc.

As shepherds of God’s flock, we covenant to be in ministry with those of our members who adopt practices that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures

MAINTAINING THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH

Bishop David Yemba

Bishop David Yemba

One of the functions of the Bishops of the church is to “maintain the unity of the church”.  As leaders of the church, we believe that there are far more important issues that unite us than issues of sexual orientation. As a church, we are called to be in solidarity with people who suffer as a result of unjust political systems, wars, famine, poverty, natural disasters, diseases, illiteracy etc. etc. We believe that we can be united around these issues rather than allow ourselves to be ripped apart by issues of sexual orientation.

Therefore, we the College of African Bishops of the United Methodist Church, meeting at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and convening with 11 of our 12 active member Bishops and one retired Bishop present, do hereby unanimously adopt this Statement on global terrorism, Christian sexuality and marriage and the need for unity in the United Methodist Church and commend it to the whole Church for circulation, reading and study.

Recommendation to General Conference

1. That during the entire period of the 2016 General Conference, there should be daily prayer sessions for the return of our denomination to Biblical teachings, the unity of the church,  global  terrorism (remembering the millions of refugees) and the cessation of wars  around the globe.

2. That the Council of Bishops commit to demonstrating their shepherding responsibility (1 Peter 5:2-4) by acting consistently with the Holy Bible for to do otherwise would require that one must recuse himself or herself from the divine call to be Shepherd of all of God’s people.

Signed on this 11th day of September in the Conference Room of the Elephant Hills Resort, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to the glory of God:

  1. Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area
  2. Bishop John G. Innis, Liberia Episcopal Area
  3. Ntambo, Nkulu Ntanda, North Kantaga Episcopal Area
  4. Bishop Bishop John Wesley Yohannah, Nigeria Episcopal Area
  5. Bishop Gabriel Unda, East Congo Episcopal Area
  6. Bishop Domingos, Gaspar Joao,   W. Angola Episcopal Area
  7. Katembo, Kainda, Southern Congo Episcopal Area
  8. Nhanala, Joaquina F., Mozambique Episcopal Area
  9. Bishop Jose Quipungo, East Angola Episcopal Area
  10. Bishop Daniel Wandabula, East Africa Episcopal Area
  11. Bishop John K. Yambasu, Sierra Leone Episcopal Area
  12. Bishop David K. Yemba, Central Congo Episcopal Area
  13. Bishop Benjamin Boni, Cote D’Ivoire Episcopal Area
  14. Bishop Arthur F. Kulah, (R)

Comments

  1. Praise God that at last we have Episcopal leadership that seeks after God! Would it be that our American UM Bishops stood with this statement.

    • Matthew Ray says:

      Where are the cries for biblical integrity from these bishops, on the persecution, imprisonment, and deaths of so many LGBT individuals within their communities?

  2. Eldon Nolte says:

    Praise God for the United Methodist Church in Africa and it’s Bishop’s with their deep Biblical convictions and stance on critical issues facing our denomination today!

  3. Dorothy shepherd says:

    praise God for this letter.

  4. Michael Stedge & Barbara Stedge says:

    Thank you for your faithful work on these matters. God has richly blessed us all with your dedication to your call and your willingness to let your light of witness shine in the darkness of the shadow of unrepentant sin. God does not compromise with He who is a prevaricators of sin. The church has, for too long, entertained and pacified those that would have us believe that sin needs to be redefined.
    God has called you and The Holy Spirit has provided you with ALL the tools you need to offer His people an opportunity to repent of past inequities and be saved. The grace of Compassion is needed within all three topics but there can be no compromise with the sinfulness of political and sexual SIN.
    We will pray for all of you daily until the General Conference is completed .
    May God’s Mercy be upon us all.

  5. Larry Collins says:

    Is this sentence missing the word “not”??

    As shepherds of God’s flock, we covenant to [not?] be in ministry with those of our members who adopt practices that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures – See more at: http://goodnewsmag.org/2015/11/united-methodist-bishops-from-africa-speak-out/#.dpuf

    • Thank you for your question, Larry. I think the bishops mean that they will minister to those who are in error with a view toward leading them back to right doctrine and right behavior.

      In Christ,
      Tom Lambrecht

  6. Jennifer Charles says:

    Thank you for this call to scriptural and holy living as a light in our world which is growing so dark.

  7. Interesting in how the first paragraph on human sexuality and marriage, they reduce people (LGBT) to “practices.” If they are concerned about the law of the church being primarily rooted in Holy Scripture, perhaps they should turn their attention to what Jesus identified as the core of Holy Scripture, which leads one to seek equal rights for those of marginalized sexual orientation. Where is their “deep sadness” over the LGBTQ people who are imprisoned or executed because of their sexual orientation in their own parishes? Why is it we’re not holding General Conference 2024 in Zimbabwe again? https://www.newsday.co.zw/…/mugabe-chides-homosexuals…/ –did any bishops express “deep sadness” over that anti-Christian pronouncement? This letter might be strongly worded, but it’s not strongly reasoned.

    • You make a valid point when it comes to the persecution of LGBTQ’s in Africa. It is not uncommon for the church to develop blind spots because of the culture they are part of–that is why there needs to be a course correction form time to time. Here in America, the church has lost the ability to talk about sex from an historic Christian perspective and thus the push for “anything goes”. In Africa, the church is relatively young and historic Christian teaching is still fresh, but yet the church is existing in a cultural atmosphere of persecution of LGBTQ’s. Truth is, we need to learn from each other–it is not for the church or Christians to legislate morality and persecute those that do not believe like we do. But at the same time it is not appropriate for the church or Christians to support people living in sin as defined by an historic understanding of the Bible–and I am not talking about specific verses, but the overall picture revealed by the Bible. And yes, sin is about our actions because sin is about living in a way NOT intended by the triune God of holy love when he created the earth and everything in it and called it good. When it comes to the sexuality issue, The UMC in America and the UMC in Africa both come to the table with huge “logs in their eyes”; neither is getting it right; both fall short of what God intended.

  8. Licensed Local Pastor says:

    Praise God!!! For shepherds who are standing for the authority of scripture. Praise God for the Bishop’s of Africa. They call our American Bishop’s to remember, Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. For about 40 years the United Methodist Church has wandered in this desert, it is time to come out of this desert place.

  9. Rev. Margaret Stratton says:

    Praise the Lord! Finally we have Bishops that truly believe the Bible is God’s word. We have desperately needed leadership that leads us back to the Holy Scriptures. Thank God for these Godly Bishops that are taking a stand and leading the Church back to the Lord’s teaching. I praise God for our African brothers and sisters who God may use to save the United Methodist Church. Rev. Margaret Stratton, retired pastor, Fort Worth, Texas.

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