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New UMC Bishop Offers Vision For Church

( [email protected] ) Sep 24, 2004 08:56 PM EDT

Elected as bishop of the Zimbabwe East and Zimbabwe West annual conferences, Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, began his service on Sept. 1, 2004. Zimbabwe currently has 100,000 Methodists, who will be under the direction of the new bishop.

When asked by UMNS how he felt about this, he described himself as “one whom God has claimed” and attributed his nomination to God’s grace and greatness. “There is a sense of wonder because you begin to ask yourself who am I to be entrusted with this high task,” he said. “It is a humbling effect.”

Bishop Nhiwatiwa is focused on continuing the mission of educating students in Africa University who are positioned to become leaders in ministries, academia, government, and businesses. He notes that Africa University has “charted the way, and that the continent is already “reaping the fruits” from the university (UMNS).

He envisions that the two conferences will increase their visibility both within the Methodist denomination as well as ecumenically. This goal can be accomplished by responding to the people’s needs, he states.

"You just have to be where the people are," the bishop said, in a recent visit to United Methodist Communications in Nashville. "You don’t impose a ministry, you respond to a ministry. The church is there to respond."

His plan also includes factors aimed at growth, for example by encouraging the young people to take a more active role in ministry and diverting their attention and passion to Christ.

He admits that there is a challenge for the African church to find holistic approaches to evangelism and to help the people who have social and material needs. However, there is a huge opportunity for growth, which is hindered only by the scarcity of resources.

Nhiwatiwa wants to lead the United Methodist Church in his country "to greatness in the name of God." He wants to assist in bringing the gospel of love to people and provide them with hope regardless of the situations they face, reports UMNS.

Finally, he believes that the government can actually help the people and the church. Many have misunderstandings and misjudgments about the government, however, the church can help clear that up, he declares. "The role of the church is to be the reconciler, and we have to engage the government, but not as antagonists."

Nhiwatiwa vowed to be a people-oriented leader and a minister of presence in connectional ministry, and it is clear that his direction is in accordance with his goals. At some point, people involved in conflict throughout the world must come together and talk, he said.