In Angola, the United Methodist Church was the first denomination to
establish schools for young people.
In Honduras, 12 new United Methodist congregations were established during
the past four years. Other new Methodist congregations have been developed in
Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
To continue such vital mission work, special programs for Africa and Latin
America and the Caribbean are being proposed to delegates at the 2004 United
Methodist General Conference. The denomination's top legislative body meets
April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
Recommended by the General Council on Ministries, the programs have been
endorsed by others in the denomination, including directors of the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries during their March 22-25 meeting.
Funding will be provided through the budgets of participating church
The "Holistic Strategy on Africa" focuses on the needs of the church in
sub-Saharan Africa. United Methodists are present in 21 countries south of
the Sahara Desert.
"United Methodist disciples in sub-Saharan Africa are committed to and
involved in the evangelistic and humanitarian spectrum we identify with
Wesleyan spiritual holiness," according to the "Report and Recommendations
for Themes, Missional Priorities and Special Programs."
Recognizing rapid membership growth as a blessing, the report also points out
that such growth "places heavy responsibility on the leadership of the
churches, increasing the need for trained leaders, clergy and laity. It also
requires increased activity to nurture members and empower them in witness
and outreach that now defines their discipleship," the report said.
The United Methodist legacy in Africa includes the establishment of primary
and secondary schools, seminaries, Bible colleges, hospitals and clinics, as
well as Africa University. In 2000, the denomination's Council of Bishops
initiated "Hope for the Children of Africa" to help address critical human
needs on the continent, as well as the needs of the church.
Primary goals of the Holistic Strategy on Africa are to assist the African
church in strengthening and expanding its witness and ministry and
strengthening connections among annual conferences of Africa, Europe and the
The $35 million estimated cost of the special program for Africa for the next
four years would be funded from budgets of participating agencies.
Another $8 million in funding from agency budgets is requested for the
"Holistic Strategy on Latin America and the Caribbean."
MARCHA, the church's Hispanic/Latino caucus, is urging delegates to consider
mission programs that respond "to the growing number of impoverished persons
in the Caribbean and Latin America, with women and children being the most
Churches in the regions serve as prophetic voices as well as advocates for
justice and the preservation of human rights, the caucus said. The complex
relations between the United States and Latin American/Caribbean countries
"demand a closer working relationship between the churches in the United
States with the churches in the Caribbean and Latin America to amplify our
effectiveness in our prophetic witness."
Besides poverty, other social concerns include the use of child labor; the
suffering caused by political and economic turmoil; and the treatment of
Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous peoples.
"The dethroning economic and political contexts increase the demand for
social assistance from the churches in the Latin America and Caribbean
region," the report said. "Regretfully, most churches are suffering financial
crises similar to those that their countries are experiencing. For example,
in Argentina, pastors' salaries are not paid in full, even if they serve
The mission strategy calls for church agencies to coordinate their efforts
with the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the
Caribbean (CIEMAL), representing 19 countries; the Methodist Church of the
Caribbean and the Americas and other Methodist churches and ecumenical
organizations in the region.