By Bishop Kasap Owan –
The meaning of the cross is to bring us closer to God. The meaning of the cross is to reconcile us with God. Origen, an early church father, says the gift of God is Jesus himself. Because Jesus Christ is the gift of God given to us, he was on the cross crucified because of us. Through faith we are crucified with Christ. Faith is the confidence we have in God, and that confidence is centered on Jesus. When we depend on God, we need to be obedient to the gospel.
I come from Africa. In my area we received the gospel in 1912 through Bishop John Springer (1863-1963) who was sent to start mission in the Congo. Bishop Springer preached the gospel to the people. He asked them to believe in God – not in their ancestors or so-called sacred trees.
The gospel has completely transformed the culture of these people. There were so many traditional religions, but the gospel, the good news of God of our Lord Jesus Christ, has completely transformed our culture.
I have five annual conferences. One day I met a lady who asked me, “Bishop, what does the Bible say, what does the Book of Discipline say about marriage?” In Africa Christians talk about the Bible and the Discipline. This means Africa is always going along the word of God and Discipline. Africa holds on to faith in Christ our savior – Christ as the one who freed us from our culture.
Christ is the one who brings us close to our God. Christ is the one who gives us peace and the one who is giving peace between different tribes. That’s really the meaning of the cross.
Africa is saved in Christ. Africa keeps faith in the gospel. Remember when Jesus was born, Herod decided to kill all male children. Do you know where Jesus went as a refugee? It was in Egypt. It was in Africa. Jesus was protected in Africa. When the church is in this turmoil, Africa will remain the place to protect the gospel.
Africa will keep faith. Africa will respect the cross of the one who died for us. Africa will continue to obey the one who is just. Africa will continue to say yes to Christ.
This is what one man told me: “Bishop, we have celebrated a hundred years of evangelization in Congo. If you bring us another teaching on marriage, our churches will be empty. But if we remain obedient to the word of God, the church will continue to grow in keeping faith with Christ.”
I told him, “You have a bishop who is a true disciple of Christ who will keep the gospel as it was given to us through the apostles and we’ll continue to obey because Christ died for us.”
Bishop Kasap Owan is the Resident Bishop of the South Congo Area of The United Methodist Church.
The Special General Conference gave us new insight into the direction of African United Methodist. Because of the alignment of African votes for the “Traditionalist Plan” it follows that American United Methodist dollars will be substantially reduced. As you know costs for the Africa College of Bishops come from the American UMC Episcopal Fund. AAUMTI and AAMIHE are sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The UMC Africa Initiative is funded by American donors. Africa University is also largely supported by American donors. You should expect and plan for sharp reductions in funding. It is clearly time for Africa United Methodist to pay their own way. God bless and best of luck in your continued ministry.