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To: The Council of Bishops
C/O Bishop Cynthia Harvey, President
Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Dear Madame President,
On behalf of the leadership of the UMC Africa Initiative, we bring you and members of the Council of Bishops Lenten greetings in the gracious name of Christ Jesus. The UMC Africa Initiative is an Association of leaders (clergy and laity) within the three Central Conferences of Africa. We are committed to conducting missions and leadership trainings; bi-quadrennial prayer, and leadership summits; and developing the capacity of African delegates to General Conference. Our goal, as UMC African Initiative, is to enhance African delegates’ participation and strengthen the voice of the African church within global Methodism.
We write to express our thoughts and concerns to you and members of the Council of Bishops about recent developments within the global UMC leading up to the postponement of 2022 General Conference to 2024.
Prior to the postponement of the 2022 GC to 2024, we pointed out that about 90% of African delegates were ready to take part in the 2022 General Conference, and that plans were underway for the remaining 10% of delegates from Africa who had not yet taken the vaccine to do so. That African delegates’ access to vaccine or visa challenges should not be used as an excuse to postpone General Conference, because we believe that the global UMC had the capacity to address delegates’ need to access vaccines and visas to enter the United States. Further, we made it emphatic that, if conditions for hosting the 2022 General Conference in the United States were not favorable, Africa was ready to serve as host. Apparently, our request was ignored.
We want you to know how greatly disappointed we are over the postponement of 2022 General Conference. We feel let down by the Commission on General Conference as there were not sufficient efforts made by it to enable delegates to access vaccines, and to serve official invitation letters to delegates to apply for visas on time. We believe the Commission on General Conference, with the support of the Council of Bishops, and UMC’s members in the United States Congress could have appealed to American embassies across Africa to aid with visa interviews for delegates and alternate delegates to General Conference on time. But, seemingly, none of these efforts were utilized.
However, we are still of the strongest conviction that the holding of General Conference before 2024 is possible if the Commission on General Conference and Council of Bishops are willing to exert the necessary efforts to do so, now that the COVID pandemic is rapidly ending globally. And we strongly urge the Commission on General Conference and the Council of Bishops to reconsider their decision to postpone 2022 General Conference to 2024 for the common good of the global United Methodist Church. For the longer it takes to host the General Conference, the faster the global UMC disintegrates and fractures; thereby undermining its global nature and ministries.
Africa Initiative still stands in support of the Protocol as the best possibility for addressing our impasse. This protocol document that was crafted by 16 key leaders of our church, representing the Traditionalists, Centrists, and Progressives is properly before the General Conference. We are committed to a continued advocacy for its adoption as the surest way to ending our disagreements. We therefore urge the global UMC to kindly respect Christian Conferencing as the best expression of our being a church that seeks the mind of Christ.
We also urge the Council of Bishops to kindly respect the need for bishops who have reached their tenure for retirement in both Jurisdictional and Central Conferences, and those requesting for early retirements be duly retired, and elections be held for their replacement. This is the best approach, going forward, in our effort at enhancing healthy conferences through healthy leadership.
We look forward to your prompt and favorable response to our concerns for the common good of the UMC worldwide. Thank you.
Signed by Members of the Executive Committee, UMC Africa Initiative
Rev. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah General Coordinator, UMC Africa Initiative, Liberia Annual Conf.
Rev. Dr. Kimba K. Evariste, Coordinator, Congo Central Conference
Rev. Dr. John Pena Auta Coordinator, West Africa Central Conference
Mr. Simon Mafunda Coordinator, Africa Central Conference
Rev. Philippe Adjobe Member, Cote D’Ivoire Episcopal Area
Rev. Wilton Odongo Member, Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference
Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson Member, Liberia Episcopal Area
Rev. Forbes Matonga Member, Zimbabwe West Annual Conference
Prof. Aboua Louis Roi Nondenot Member, Cote D’Ivoire Episcopal Area
Rev. Dr. Edwin Momoh Member, Sierra Leone Episcopal Area
Chief Prosperous Tunda Member, East Congo Episcopal Area
Mr. Nicolas Sukisa Munongo Member, Central Congo Episcopal Area
Rev. Louis Loma Otshudi member, Central Congo Episcopal Area
Rev. Chipeng Kayemb Francois Member, South Congo Episcopal Area
Rev. Kenneth Kalichi Member, Zambia Annual Conference
Rev. Bartolomeu Sapalo East Angola Episcopal Area
Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Sinzohagera Member, Burundi Annual Conference
Rev. Carol Alois Ososo Busia Member, Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference
Kubona David Muwuya Uganda-South Sudan Annual Conference
Dr. Muriel Nelson, Delegate to General Conference, Liberia
Mr. Kasongo Mwenze Kabah, North Katanga Episcopal Area
Hon. Mrs, Virginia Baba Bambur