Bishop Calls for Prioritized United Methodist Ministry in Africa

May 08, 2003 01:58 PM EDT

DALLAS, Tx. – The Washington Area United Methodist Bishop called upon the UM council of bishops to make Africa a special priority for the church, April 28. During the 3 day Council of Bishops’ spring meeting, May, chairperson of the Holistic Strategy for Africa Task Force emphasized the need for focused ministry in the continent.

"I know where weapons of mass destruction are that are not hidden," May said. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, poverty and the lack of education – these are weapons of mass destruction that are out in the open, he noted.

May decided to bring a report to the international council’s meeting next fall, detailing what the church is doing in ministry on the continent and identifying areas of need. Its many programs include the bishops’ "Hope for the Children of Africa" appeal.

"We dare not step back from our commitment to sub-Saharan Africa. Our investment has been great, and the dividends are about to be realized through the establishment of a strong United Methodist presence and witness on that continent.

"The weapons of mass destruction can be dismantled and shalom can come forth if we stay the course," he said.

The church’s General Council on Ministries will vote on affirming the Holistic Strategy for Africa as a missions priority for 2005-08. Similar requests include prioritizing a Holistic Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean and an emphasis on Children, Poverty and Violence. The online-voting will end May 7.

Staff Executive of the UMC, Daniel Church, noted that the Council on Ministries also has the option of supporting an emphasis as either a special program or a theme for the church. After consultation with the Council of Bishops, the ministries council would make its recommendation to General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative assembly, for the next four-year period of work.

May hopes that by establishing a missions priority on Africa, the church’s boards and agencies would prioritize their program work to support a holistic approach to ministry there. The task force has identified more than $42 million in money committed by those agencies for programs directed toward needs in Africa in 2005-08..

United Methodists have a long history of ministry in Africa through churches, hospitals, schools, orphanages and relief programs. Volunteers In Mission teams provide hands-on help with health care services, building construction and other ministries. The church’s Africa University in Zimbabwe is training future leaders for the continent. Other programs are aimed at resettling refugees and getting rid of the countless landmines in countries recovering from civil war. UMC membership growth in Africa accounts for 16 percent of the denomination’s total numbers.

By Pauline J.