Nine of the United Methodist Churches’ 11 African bishops pledged to support long-term efforts to develop and access language and culture appropriate Christian resources, during their meeting in Johannesburg.
Leaders from the denomination’s publishing, discipleship and communications agencies will join hands under the effort to provide resources in English, Portuguese and French, languages spoken in various parts of Africa.
"The principles of John Wesley are the same in any language," said United Methodist Bishop João Machado of Mozambique. "But we need them in Portuguese so the people can understand them, and we need to be able to train Sunday school teachers in how to use them."
The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the denomination's Board of Discipleship, said she welcomes the "partnership with the African church. It emphasizes the interdependence of the African central conferences on one another to develop appropriate resources." The board cosponsored the meeting, along with the United Methodist Publishing House and United Methodist Communications.
The discipleship board's South African Upper Room Ministries office "will coordinate with U.S. agency staff the creation of a sustainable indigenous resource development and distribution system for United Methodist churches and episcopal areas in Africa," Greenwaldt said. The office coordinates the publishing and distribution of daily devotional guides in five languages, edited by staff in different regions of Africa.
Neil Alexander, top executive of the United Methodist Publishing House, said his agency will invest financial and personnel support to supply "resources to bring about vibrant ministry … and to build capacity and competence to develop resources."
"The partnerships formed from this meeting hold the potential for changing and enhancing the scope of educational and communication capacities on the continent of Africa and beyond," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications.
The conference also agreed on enhancing communications capacity, such as through computer programs, desktop publishing and use of radio.
The communications agency is proposing to the church's top legislative assembly, the 2004 General Conference, a Central Conference Communications Initiative to discover and expand partnerships focusing on communications with United Methodists in Africa, Europe and Asia, Hollon added. The assembly will meet April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
United Methodists in Africa account for nearly 20 percent of the denomination's 10.2 million members.
African representatives included Machado and Bishops Onema Fama, Central Congo; J. Alfred Ndoricimpa, East Africa; Jose Quipungo, East Angola; John G. Innis, Liberia; D.P. Dabale, Nigeria; Joseph Humper, Sierra Leone; Gaspar João Domingos, West Angola; and F. Herbert Skeete (interim), Zimbabwe.