Bishop Wandabula's Opening Statement: Prayer Summit in Kenya
I greet you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!
On behalf of the United Methodist Church family, I welcome you once again to the East Africa Episcopal Area and most specifically to the Kenya - Ethiopia Annual Conference. This is the second time in two (2) years that you have chosen to hold this important meeting in the East Africa Episcopal Area. This is a sign of the confidence you have in the leadership of the United Methodist Church in our Episcopal Area to organize such a meeting. Thank you for choosing Nairobi, Kenya for this second gathering and a great thanks to the organizing committee for work well done!
We open this meeting today with great sorrow in our hearts because of the sudden passage of our sister Betty Katiyo from Zimbabwe who passed away on August 12th, 2019 after attending the meeting of the General Conference Commissionin Kentucky. USA. Betty has been a very active member of the Africa Initiative and has played a big role in voicing the convictions of the church in Africa. Let us stand up and observe a minute of silent prayer in honor of her soul. WAIT FOR 60 SECONDS. (May Betty Katiyo's soul rest in eternal peace; in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.) Let us continue to pray for her children, family, friends and the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area that God will strengthen and comfort them during this bereavement time.
I would like to thank the leaders of the Africa Initiative from the Annual Conference level up to the Continental level for keeping the organization alive, active and relevant. For the few years of its existence, this organization has played a great role in uniting the African voice in the United Methodist Church as well as representing the African convictions including ensuring that there's fair representation of the United Methodist Church in Africa on all Agencies and Boards of the United Methodist Church among many other things. This same united voice was strongly exhibited during the recently called Special session of the United Methodist Church that met in St. Louis Missouri at the beginning of this year. Your voice on the important questions of the day was heard loud and clear by the Global Church.
You are all aware that after the 2019 Special General Conference in St Louis Missouri the church seems more divided now than ever before. The voices calling for separation and or a revisit of the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference that approved the Traditional plan are seemingly growing by the day especially in the United States. The situation is fluid. This is a clear sign that the work of this body is not yet over. We still have several challenges both on our continent and as a global church that still need our attention as a body. As we strive to build the kingdom of God and grow the Kingdom of God; let us strive for the unity of the church as the body of Christ.
The purpose of the Prayer and Leadership Summit is very crucial at this time in the United Methodist Church. It addresses the key issues that we as a church are grappling with not only the unity of the church, but the resources of the church both human and financial, the allocation of resources for ministry, the different legislation and how they impact the United Methodist Church in Africa, the future of theological education in Africa and others. Let us take time to discuss and come up with resolutions on these issues of stewardship for the growth of our denomination.
I am overwhelmed with joy every time I attend meetings and hear that the United Methodist Church in Africa is growing spiritually, numerically and like Rev Kephas Oloo usually reminds us biologically. We are privileged that in Africa we still regard the Bible as the inherent word of God. This is one of the challenges the United Methodist Church is facing today. Many of us want to interpret the Bible in relation to our culture and not the other way round. Where the Bible does not agree with our way of life, we think that it is irrelevant to our time and age. The most unfortunate thing is that many of our seminaries are teaching this as the agreed position to clergy and church leaders. The Africa Initiative should strive to advocate for a Bible based education curriculum for clergy in our seminaries and colleges in Africa. We cannot make God in our images nor pocket our Maker.
Like I told you during the last meeting, history, tells us that in the 1800s to the early 1900s missionaries moved from Europe and America and came to Africa to preach the Gospel and convert our forefathers and mothers to Christianity. Today this Christianity which they introduced to us is fading so fast and has come under attack from the same people who preached it to us. If what our forefathers and mothers received from the missionaries is true as the Bible clearly says, then we need to fight for it. Africans need to train and equip missionaries to travel to America and Europe to bring a revival and reestablish the Bible as the true word of God. If you follow the events in the Church in America, there are hundreds of Churches that are closed every year and their properties sold. This is very unfortunate, however, there is hope as many denominations are now talking about church planting, replanting and new ways of doing church. All this is aimed at trying to bring back people to the Church. My view is that Africa can help the West in their efforts to grow the church to its former glory. Africa equally must reclaim the black presence in scripture. We also need to know that there is a large population in Africa especially in the urban areas who need to be reached for Jesus. In order to do this, we need to train more leaders at all levels.
I would like to thank you all for the efforts you put into actively praying for the increase of funds to the Central Conference Theological Education Fund. This fund has helped many of our institutions to train more leaders. Our job should now be to mobilize these institutions to come up with relevant curriculum that will help train, equip and send out workers in Christ’s vine yard.
We are all aware that Africa is prayerfully organizing for five (5) more Episcopal Areas which are supposed to take effect after the 2020 General Conference. Let us work hard to uphold the position of the 2016 General Conference and have these Episcopal areas designated.
General Conference 2020 is just around the corner, many of our Annual Conferences have elected or are about to elect delegates to this forth coming gathering. Considering the seriousness of the issues at hand, I would like to call upon you to seriously consider the people you elect to send to General Conference. We should not only send voters but we should send people who are ready to voice our position and stand by what we believe in as the church in Africa.
A lot of information is being published by the United Methodist News Service as well as other independent bodies regarding the future of the church, depending on the outcome of the 2020 General Conference. I call upon all the delegates to read all these publications and familiarize themselves with the different points of view regarding the future of our denomination.
As a body let us objectively think through the different views floating around and come out with one that pleases God and caters for the Wesleyan way of the Global United Methodist Church and particularly Africa. Let is also try to voice our position or support those views we agree with. This will help clear the assumptions and perceptions that Africans do not have a position but we are being influenced by some people in the denomination to vote the way we do.
We should take into consideration the fact that we are one body of Christ and indeed, we are stronger and better together than when we are divided.
As we go to General Conference 2020, I would like us to take the issue of integrity very serious. As you are aware, some delegates were accused by some people as having violated the system and illegally voted under other people’s credentials. While the issue at hand is very serious we should vote and leave the rest to God.
We need to continue praying for the Universal Church especially the United Methodist Church, for our leaders, the delegates to the 2020 General Conference and all the United Methodists in the entire connection for the Holy Spirit to guide us into making the right decisions that will uphold the Name of God and keep the dignity of the Church.
As I conclude it is imperative to point out that The East Africa Episcopal Area continues to be isolated by the Global Church. For over 12 years now, the East Africa Episcopal Area has been excluded, from the Connectional Church, to which we all belong as United Methodist sisters and brothers. This should and ought to be part of the accountability discourse.
We have a responsibility to seat down on a round table and talk through these issues. East Africa needs to enjoy the same privileges like the other Episcopal Areas. The question of isolation is not Godly and is unacceptable.
This situation of the embargo has made it difficult for mission to grow and projects in the communities to thrive. When something like this happens for a prolonged period, it is mostly women and children who suffer as well as our pastors who are doing the work on the ground. You and I have a big role to play t
o move the church forward.
With those remarks I would like to officially, declare the summit open, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and wish you a fruitful discussion.
Thank you and God bless you all!
Grace and Peace,
East Africa Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church