Downsides of Regionalization

Downsides of Regionalization

Downsides of Regionalization

By Thomas Lambrecht

The last Perspective spoke about the unfairness of “regionalization” in its treatment of Africa and other parts of the church outside the U.S. As I wrote, “The top agenda item for the 2024 General Conference in April for most progressives is to adopt ‘regionalization’ as the new mode of United Methodist governance. This proposal would be a dramatic shift in how the UM Church functions. …”

Once again, the regionalization proposal is similar to the U.S. central conference proposal that passed General Conference in 2008 but was overwhelmingly defeated by annual conferences in 2009. It would set up the U.S. as its own regional conference, along with three regional conferences in Europe, three in Africa, and one in the Philippines.

​​​​​​​There are other downsides to consider.

Regionalization Rationale

The rationale for regionalization is to allow each geographic region of the church to adapt specified provisions of the Discipline to fit the missional needs of its region. There is also the argument that many of the resolutions on social issues that General Conference addresses relate mainly to the United States and are not of interest to the rest of the global church. Creating a U.S. regional conference would allow the U.S. delegates to issue specific resolutions or take positions on issues that are U.S.-centric without the need for other delegates to participate in discussions that do not concern them.

On the surface, it may seem like the regionalization idea makes sense. Greater flexibility to adapt the rules of the church to meet the needs of each region could make the church’s mission more effective. It seems that the Discipline has moved in the direction of micro-managing the life and work of the church over the past 20 years, not just in the area of sexual morality, but in many other ways, as well. Do we really need 850 pages of rules to run the church by?

One approach to this problem would be to make the rules in the Discipline more general and flexible, so that different cultural contexts could function equally well within the same framework without needing to adapt any of the provisions. This is the approach taken by the new Global Methodist Church Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline.

The other approach is to have a general Book of Discipline that governs some of the functions of the church, while then allowing each region to pass its own Discipline to govern the functions of the church in that region. However, there are some philosophical problems with that approach, as well as some practical problems.

Weakening the Connection

Methodism has always understood itself to be governed by a unique form of polity called “connectionalism.” It started with John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, who oversaw the growing Methodist movement through all the preachers who were “in connection” with him. There was the emphasis on personal relationship, along with accountability, as the preachers met annually to determine “what to teach, how to teach, and what to do.” Decisions were made corporately (although heavily influenced by Wesley during his lifetime) and governed the actions of all the Methodist societies in connection with Wesley.

Following the regionalization approach runs the risk of beginning to undo the connection that binds all United Methodists together. Wesley identified that Methodists share a common doctrine, a common discipline, and a common spirit that binds us together. Theoretically, visiting a Methodist church anywhere one would find the same doctrines being preached, and same method of operating as a church, and the same spirit bringing unity to the body.

Importantly, the regionalization proposal keeps doctrine and the Social Principles as part of the general Discipline that applies to all United Methodists. However, the proposal also opens the various regions to have different levels of accountability for our common doctrine, codifying what exists today in a rather lax approach toward doctrinal accountability in some parts of the church.

Other aspects of the church’s life and ministry that really are of significance for our connection are also given adaptability. This includes clergy standards, qualifications for lay membership and leadership, and worship rituals. When these connectional items begin diverging from one region to another, it weakens the connection we have as United Methodists. Important areas of church life that were once decided by General Conference for all United Methodists would now be decided differently for each region of the church.

The ultimate end of such a process of disconnection could be that United Methodism becomes an association of regional or national churches, each one different from the other and having its own way of doing church. We could end up as more of a communion than a denomination. It could be similar to the Anglican Communion that has an Anglican denomination in each country overseen by an archbishop, but where the various national churches function quite differently from each other and have different standards, rules, and even beliefs.

Practical Challenges

Some of the practical consequences of regionalization could include:

    • Clergy may not be able to easily transfer from one region to another if the qualifications and standards for ordination are different. Currently there are many African clergy serving in the U.S. That ability might be limited in the future if the qualifications for being ordained in an African conference differ significantly from those in the U.S.
    • Local church membership could mean different things in different regions. Some regions could require extensive probationary periods before becoming a member and exhibit strict accountability to behavior standards for members, compared to other regions that have a “y’all come” approach to membership.
    • Each region would have its own accountability process. We have seen, especially in Africa, how the current accountability process is not being followed properly. A few bishops are excommunicating lay members and defrocking clergy without any due process, completely contrary to the Discipline. If the accountability process (including investigations and trials) is removed from the general Discipline, one can imagine how the rule of law would go out the window in certain areas and bishops would become dictators, to the detriment of the church’s life and ministry.
    • The current practice of holding bishops accountable only within their region has not worked. Regionalization would codify that practice and make it even more difficult to ensure that bishops behave with integrity, respecting due process and the rights of clergy.
    • With the ability to have different chargeable offenses in different regions, clergy will be held accountable to different standards. What is not allowed in one region could be perfectly legal in another. These unequal standards not only create inconsistency as to what is expected of clergy across the church, but they could occasion resentment between clergy of different regions who are treated differently. Again, it undermines the connection.
    • United Methodist bishops are bishops of the whole church, not just their episcopal area. But opening the legal possibility of having openly gay bishops means they could participate in meetings and events in countries where homosexuality is against the law. Will bishops be redefined as only regional bishops, able to serve only within their region? Regionalization raises problems with having a general episcopacy.

Inconsistent Identity

What does it mean to be United Methodist? Already, there is confusion and inconsistency between different local churches who claim the same name but teach a different theology and practice Methodism differently. Regionalization will only accelerate the inconsistency of identity. The United Methodist “brand” will suffer a loss of identity.

For traditionalists in Africa and elsewhere, the worst consequence is that they will be tagged for being part of a denomination that performs same-sex weddings and has openly gay clergy and bishops, even if that does not happen in their particular region. This poses a grave threat to the mission of the church where the practice of homosexuality is illegal or where the church is under pressure from a militant Islam seeking to discredit Christianity. What affects United Methodist identity in one region affects that identity in all regions. And each region affected is powerless to change that reality.

Regionalization sounds good until one begins to unpack the intended and unintended consequences. At the very least, it would mark a dramatic shift in how The United Methodist Church functions as a denomination. It is being done at the behest of promoting LGBTQ equality and cementing control by the American part of the church of its own affairs. Delegates should think long and hard before taking such a drastic step.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and vice president of Good News. Photo: Shutterstock​​​​​​​.

Regionalization:  the New Colonialism?

Regionalization: the New Colonialism?

Regionalization: the New Colonialism?

By Thomas Lambrecht

The top agenda item for the 2024 General Conference in April for most progressives is to adopt “regionalization” as the new mode of United Methodist governance. This proposal would be a dramatic shift in how the UM Church functions. It would move from being a connectional church to a regional church, or even an association of national churches.

The regionalization proposal is similar to the U.S. central conference proposal that passed General Conference in 2008 but was overwhelmingly defeated by annual conferences in 2009. It would set up the U.S. as its own regional conference, along with three regional conferences in Europe, three in Africa, and one in the Philippines.

The key is that each regional conference would have the authority to create its own policies and standards in a number of key areas. These include:

  • Qualifications and educational requirements for clergy – so there could be different qualifications to be ordained as a clergyperson in each regional conference.
  • Standards and qualifications for lay membership – so the standards for being a lay member of a local church could be different from region to region.
  • Rules of procedure governing investigations and trials of clergy and lay members – how clergy and lay members are held accountable could differ from region to region.
  • Changes in chargeable offenses and their penalties – what is a chargeable offense in one region could be perfectly allowed in another.
  • Each region could have its own hymnal and worship rituals. It is unclear from the proposals whether each region could have different baptismal and membership vows or ordination vows.

Why Regionalization?

This type of regionalization is a relatively recent development. In 2012, the General Conference began to move toward allowing central conferences outside the U.S. greater flexibility in adapting the Book of Discipline to their particular context. However, this was not finalized in 2016, but only in process until 2020 (which was of course postponed by the pandemic).

The original concept of adaptability for the Discipline was meant to allow for different laws and property procedures in different countries outside the U.S. But the expansion to other areas of adaptability was (I believe) a precursor to justifying greater adaptability for the U.S. church. If the central conferences outside the U.S. had the ability to adapt the Discipline in the ways listed above, one could hardly deny the U.S. church the same ability to adapt the Discipline. Never mind that the majority of General Conference delegates has always been from the U.S. and the Discipline has always been written primarily from a U.S. context, meaning that such adaptation was hardly necessary.

The real reason for regionalization and adaptability is to allow the U.S. church to liberalize its standards regarding marriage and LGBT persons. Each of the bullet points above has a direct relationship to LGBT persons. Adapting the qualifications for ordination would allow the U.S. church to ordain non-celibate LGBT persons. Adapting the qualifications for lay membership would allow the U.S. church to forbid pastors from preventing non-celibate LGBT persons to become local church members and serve in leadership in the local church, district, and annual conference. Adapting the rules of procedure for holding clergy and lay members accountable would allow the U.S. church to prevent trials for LGBT clergy or for clergy performing same-sex weddings. Adapting the chargeable offenses would allow the U.S. church to remove from the list of chargeable offenses anything related to same-sex marriage and non-celibate LGBT persons serving as clergy. Adapting the hymnal and the rituals would allow the U.S. church to create liturgies for same-sex weddings and potentially alter the ordination vows to mandate support for LGBT persons.

In the wake of the 2019 General Conference’s affirmation of a traditional perspective on marriage and human sexuality, progressives have rebelled. They decided to move ahead with same-sex weddings and the ordination of non-celibate LGBT persons regardless of what the Discipline said. Regionalization would give them the legal ability to do so within the Discipline by codifying different standards and policies for the U.S. church than those adopted in Africa and other regions.

This is the goal of regionalization, as articulated in a recent Mainstream UMC fundraising letter. “Homosexuality is the flashpoint in this conversation.  A US-only vote likely would have permitted LGBTQ ordination and marriage as many as 12 years ago, just like the US Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Disciples have done. … The mean-spirited Traditional Plan of 2019 – which doubles down on the harm – has proven to be the tipping point in the United States. Either this policy is completely repealed at General Conference 2024, along with the other anti-LGBTQ language, or the exodus continues, and likely accelerates, in the United States.” (The letter is referring to an exodus of progressives and LGBT persons, which Mainstream UMC blames for the decline in UM membership over the past 40 years. Never mind that, while LGBT-affirming mainline denominations have all declined precipitously, non-denominational evangelical churches and Pentecostal denominations with a traditional understanding of marriage and human sexuality have grown.)

What about colonialism?

It is unquestionably true that UM governance has always had a U.S.-centric approach. Particularly in the realm of social issues and resolutions on particular justice issues, the focus was predominantly on the U.S., although that had begun to change by 2016 with greater attention and sensitivity to global issues and how resolutions could be worded to be more inclusive of global concerns.

The question is whether to solve the problem of U.S. centrism by decoupling the connection through allowing wholesale adaptability of the Discipline, or by allowing greater input from non-U.S. delegates to the forming of a global Discipline. Most progressives and the church’s “establishment” chose the route of adaptability, first through the defeated U.S. central conference plan and then through initiating changes in the Discipline in 2012. Traditionalists have consistently favored the second approach of moving toward a more globally inclusive Discipline. That was the stark contrast between the One Church Plan in 2019 that would have allowed maximum adaptability, and the Traditional Plan that maintained a global standard.

But in its quest to rid the denomination of its U.S. centrism and colonial undertones, does the new regionalization proposal codify a new form of colonialism? Some African leaders have said yes. A closer analysis of the proposal shows they are right.

Curious Timing

It is interesting that the big push for regionalization comes just as the U.S. church membership has moved into a minority status. Even before disaffiliations began, membership outside the U.S. had pulled even with U.S. membership. This was not reflected in the percentage of delegates at General Conference, particularly for Africa, as the formula for delegates favors the U.S. with its very large number of retired clergy and clergy serving in extension ministry.

Even as African membership was increasing by 10 to 20 percent per quadrennium, their delegate percentage would only increase by less than five percentage points. It was going to be at least a decade or more before African delegate percentage more accurately reflected their percentage of membership. That, of course, changed with disaffiliation, which has drastically cut U.S. lay and clergy membership.

But Mainstream UMC is panicking over the fact that U.S. delegates will soon be in the minority. “In 2012, … international delegates totaled nearly 1/3 of the votes. For General Conference 2024, the delegates from outside the US will be close to 45 percent. In four years, it will be almost 55 percent.”

In other words, just when non-U.S. delegates are poised to have a significant voice in denominational governance, progressives want to marginalize them through regionalization. No matter what the non-U.S. delegates believe, the U.S. delegates that are a majority progressive can do what they want. Non-U.S. delegates will no longer be able to “interfere” with what the U.S. delegates want. In another fundraising letter, Mainstream UMC says, “There is a growing sentiment in the US that we will not fund a church that constrains our outreach to our local mission field.  Period.”

No Override Option

The current regionalization proposal has no provision for the General Conference to override the decision of a regional conference. If a regional conference enacts something that is contrary to UM governance, the only recourse is to file an objection with the Judicial Council, which is difficult to do and made more difficult by the regionalization plan itself. Another region may not have standing to bring an action before the Judicial Council under the new regime of regionalization.

A previous version of the regionalization proposal allowed a regional action to be overturned by a two-thirds vote of the General Conference. Of course, the U.S. would have more than one-third of the votes, so its actions would not be overturned. But Europe, the Philippines, and the three African regions would each have less than one-third of the votes, so their actions could be overridden, while the U.S. would not.

Other Favorable U.S. Treatment

There are other ways in which the U.S. gets favorable treatment under the current proposal. Other regions could set the tenure of their bishops, but the U.S. bishops would be guaranteed life tenure by the Constitution.

The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters would continue with its current 30 to 40 percent U.S. representation. But the U.S. regional conference would have only 14 non-U.S. delegates, making up only 3 percent of the conference. Thus, the U.S. would have a bigger say in non-U.S. matters than non-U.S. delegates would have for U.S. matters.

The General Conference could change the boundaries of non-U.S. regional conferences without the consent of its annual conferences but changing the boundaries of jurisdictions in the U.S. would still require annual conference consent. Again, U.S. conferences would have more say in their affairs than non-U.S. conferences in theirs.

It is no wonder that some African leaders and delegates are opposing the regionalization proposal. In an effort to ostensibly remove colonialism from UM governance, regionalization as currently proposed installs new, discriminatory provisions that reinforce U.S. autonomy and superiority. One must ask whether the UM Church is exchanging one form of colonialism for another. It is enough to cause second thoughts on whether this is the direction the UM Church should take going forward. Time will tell how the General Conference delegates and annual conference members evaluate this proposal.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and vice president of Good News. Image: Shutterstock.

Will Regionalization Be An Option for Africa?

Will Regionalization Be An Option for Africa?

Will Regionalization Be An Option for Africa?

By Jerry Kulah

It has become abundantly clear in recent times that the issue of “regionalization” has taken center stage within The United Methodist Church  body politic. This is evidenced by the fact that some influential structures within the general church, such as the Connectional Table, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and the Council of Bishops, have given their endorsement of the plan. The centrists and progressives within the UM Church have made it their common talking point, claiming that it is the most reasonable path to pursue going into the 2020 General Conference, scheduled for April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

We understand regionalization as the process whereby each of the seven central conferences in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines will function as a regional conference, while the five jurisdictions in the United States will combine to form one regional conference. Following their formation, each region would create its own “book of discipline” that addresses its missional needs. The general church would maintain a general book of discipline to address needs and operations of the general church. Proponents claim that regionalism would promote missional effectiveness. One retired bishop even claims that it would “keep the UMC alive and relevant in a worldwide context,” and would address “the mandate of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28: 16-20: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’”

This assertion could not be further from the truth.

Not only has the regionalization conversation become prevalent within the United States and Europe, it has also found a fertile soil among African bishops, who made the issue of regionalization a priority during their recent annual meeting in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, September 2-8, 2023. Without initiating conversations about the regionalization proposal within their various annual conferences, the African bishops took a vote among themselves to determine whether to accept regionalization as the path to pursue in Africa. But consideration of any regionalization legislation will be the prerogative of General Conference delegates in North Carolina, not the bishops (Book of Discipline, 2016, Par. 406). Bishops have no vote in this matter.

Apparently, most African bishops are now inclined to remain with the worldwide UM Church even if its biblical interpretation, theology, and polity contradict the clear teachings of Scripture, including its legalization of same-gender marriage, ordination of self-avowed homosexuals, and election and consecration of gays and lesbians as bishops to represent the UM Church worldwide. According to them, “Notwithstanding the differences in our UMC regarding the issue of human sexuality especially with our stance of traditional and biblical view of marriage, we categorically state that we do not plan to leave The United Methodist Church and will continue to be shepherds of God’s flock in this worldwide denomination.” We consider this a contradiction.

Our current African bishops cannot claim that they uphold the sanctity of Scripture regarding human sexuality and yet remain in an ecclesial marriage with those who vehemently oppose this biblical view and theological position, unless there are other factors relative to some personal benefits necessitating their decision. Their decision runs contrary to the biblical stance and spiritual formation of the majority of the members and clergy within the UM Church in Africa whom they claim to shepherd. We doubt many United Methodists in Africa consider regionalization an acceptable option.

The African church is aware of the history of the regionalization plans within the worldwide UM Church. Since 2008 to present, centrists and progressives have featured it in several forms at past General Conferences without success. At the 2008 General Conference, a task force on the Worldwide Nature of the Church proposed 32 constitutional amendments. Twenty-three of those amendments sought to create regional conferences within the denomination, while the remaining nine were devoted to other vital concerns of the denomination. Concluding these changes counterproductive to the connectional polity of the general church, almost all annual conferences in the United States and Africa voted against those proposals in 2009.

African bishops supporting regionalization seem ready to betray the doctrinal integrity of the UM Church in Africa. However, the Africa Initiative stands with a majority of African United Methodists and delegates to make it clear that regionalization is not an option for the UM Church in Africa. We stand ready to vote against these multiple changes to the constitution at the upcoming General Conference. If the General Conference approves them, we will work at the level of the annual conferences to make sure they do not receive the 2/3 majority support needed for ratification.

While we respect the rights of liberals, progressives, and centrists to endorse and promote the regionalization proposal, it is equally our right to reject legislation that does not align with our understanding and practice of biblical Christianity. Here are further reasons why we reject regionalization:

1. Regionalizing the UM Church is biblically and theologically wrong. Regionalization would create national churches, with the probability of different doctrinal standards and practices, under one general UM Church umbrella. In essence, we will be different denominations pretending to be one. Each region would have no say in what other regions of the same church may believe, teach, and practice.

While we will claim to be one denomination/church, our moral qualifications for church membership and for becoming a clergy or bishop within the same UM Church will differ greatly, as per regional requirements. For example, while it would be illegal to ordain persons involved in same gender marriage or elect and consecrate gays and lesbians in one region, it would be biblically and theologically legal to do it in some other regions of the same church. This is deception; for by doing so, we would pretend to ourselves to be one denomination, yet preach different gospels (Galatians 1:6-9; 6:7).

Our founding father, John Wesley, referred to himself as a homo unius libri: “a man of one book,” the Holy Scriptures. While tradition, experience, and reason aid in our theological reflection, Scripture remains primary. The Gospel is above culture, not below or of culture. Hence, we believe that every cultural practice must align with and not contradict Scripture. The African church wants to maintain the clear and consistent teaching of Methodist doctrinal statements. We want to be a part of a church that maintains a robust accountability to its doctrines.

2. Regionalization contradicts the connectional nature of the UM Church. Regionalization disconnects the general church and does not reflect the United Methodist way of serving Christ. The principle basic to the UM Church is that all leaders and congregations are connected in a network of loyalties and commitments that support, yet supersede, local concerns. Regionalization divides while connectionalism unites. Regionalization is therefore counterproductive to the worldwide connectional nature of the UM Church. We want to be a part of a church whose statement of faith, doctrinal standards, and ethical teachings apply to all, irrespective of the region of the world in which one finds oneself. The General Conference is the highest decision-making body of the church where all the annual conferences come together each quadrennium to make decisions jointly that will govern the programs, projects, and ministries of the church. To attempt to change this unique polity of the denomination for regionalization is counterproductive.

3. Regionalization is a recipe for segregation and marginalization. Regionalization bars other members of the UM Church who do not belong to certain regions from having a say in what fellow United Methodists believe, teach, or practice. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were among the first African Americans licensed to preach by the Methodist Episcopal Church. They received their licenses at the St. George’s Church in 1784. Three years later, protesting racial segregation in the worship services, Allen led about forty black members out of St. George’s. Eventually they founded the Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, which led to the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. We are concerned that regionalization might take us along this path.

4. Regionalization enhances financial inequity within the general church. We believe regionalization enhances financial inequity within the general church, in favor of the jurisdictions in the United States. It further impedes our pursuit toward mutual partnership, and the empowerment of financially less privileged annual conferences within the general church. Among the 80 million worldwide Methodists and 12.5 million United Methodists, Africa accounts for the largest membership anywhere on the planet. Until recently, the United States has enjoyed majority membership. With the great decline of Western Christianity, the UM Church in Africa has ascended to the majority position in terms of membership. However, the UM Church in America is still the economic powerhouse of the denomination.

Currently, the UM Church in the United States accounts for 99 percent of budgetary support to the ministries, projects, and programs of the general church, including the payment of salaries and operational funds for episcopal offices in Africa. Regionalization, given the Western liberal and progressive stance on many cardinal biblical issues like human sexuality, would silence the voice of the church in Africa. Proponents could certainly bring economic pressure to bear on African conferences lacking financial self-sustainability. Regionalization is therefore detrimental to the continued growth of a biblically committed and Christ-centered church in Africa

5. Regionalization undermines African community life. We are a communal people. The concept of the Bantu word, Ubuntu describes this: “I am because we are.” The concept of Ubuntu describes how Africans live in community with and for each other, share common affinity, working together to achieve the common good. We seek to have equal access to assets of the community to benefit everyone. We come together, through the elders, to discuss our needs and concerns and address them corporately. We live in unity, working collectively and harmoniously for the common good.

Another concept we cherish within our community life is umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu. That is, “a person is a person because of others” (from Indigenous Κnowledge and the Εnvironment in Africa and North America, edited by David M. Gordon and Shepard Krech III, Ohio University Press, Athens, 2012). Hence, in African culture, the community, rather than individuals, raises a child. We translate these concepts into the way we understand biblical Christianity (Hebrews 10:24-25) and do church. On the contrary, regionalization promotes ethical autonomy, and disconnects the church as individual regions develop different rules and ways of doing church. Under such circumstances, many important areas of church life that the General Conference previously decided would now be the decisions of individual regions. This is unacceptable for the UM Church in Africa.

Inevitably, regionalization is a difficult, if not impossible, path to pursue for the general church. As Mark Holland of “Mainstream UMC” admits, “Regardless of how generous [some] delegates and Bishops in Africa may feel towards regionalization, they face serious social, political, and even legal pressure back home unlike anything we [centrists/progressives] face in the US and Europe.” In addition, we have a strong holy discontent about the creation of several national, partly independent churches under one umbrella denomination. This is incompatible with our connectional polity and lacks any effective way to give the church the unity it needs to be alive and effective.

Proposal for the Way Forward: Amicable Separation. While the path to regionalization, in our opinion, is almost impossible, we wish to proffer a recommendation that could help both the progressive and conservative wings of the church to move forward. We acknowledge that Centrists and Progressives within the UM Church desire regionalization. As traditionalists, we desire the same opportunity to disaffiliate as was afforded to traditionalists in the United States. We deserve justice! In addition, we believe that a more acceptable way forward for both wings of the church would be to pursue the path of amicable separation. In this way, we can bless each other and go our separate ways to fulfill our mission as we know best. We can then endeavor to do some ministries together where we both find it appropriate.

Against this background, we have submitted two petitions for disaffiliation for the next General Conference. The first is a new Par. 576. This petition, when passed, gives the rights to annual conferences outside the United States to disaffiliate from the UM Church and join another Wesleyan church.

The second is a revised Par. 2553. Even though we voted for passage of the original disaffiliation pathway, we were shocked and surprised when the Council of Bishops informed Central Conferences in Africa that its implementation did not apply to us. If this is not an act of segregation and marginalization of the UM Church in Africa, then I do not know what it is.

Our denial by the Council of Bishops to implement Par. 2553 in the Africa Central Conferences was another action of marginalization. It is similar to another case in point: While jurisdictions in the U.S. and central conferences in the Philippines, and Europe, by decision of the Judicial Council, elected new bishops in 2022 to replace their bishops due for retirement,  with the acquiescence of the Council of Bishops, the Africa College of Bishops denied its central conferences the rights to elect new bishops.

Despite these impediments, the UM Church in Africa continues to forge ahead in raising faithful disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the people of Africa in particular, and the world in general.

Jerry P. Kulah is Vice President of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, United Methodist University in Monrovia, Liberia. He is also the General Coordinator of the UMC Africa Initiative.