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Africa Initiative ponders future of Methodism (UM News)

June 1, 2022

Members of the Africa Initiative advocacy group gathered to discuss the future of The United Methodist Church and the implications of the recent launch of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination.

Ninety-two delegates met May 13-18 for the initiative’s Prayer and Leadership Summit under the theme, “Envisioning the Next Methodism in Africa.” Much of their time was spent learning about the Global Methodist Church, a new denomination launched May 1.

At this point, the Traditional Plan is officially only in effect in the United States. The 2019 special General Conference voted for any legislation passed at the legislative gathering to not take effect in central conferences — church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines — until 12 months after the coming General Conference. 

In an interview with UM News, Yohanna urged United Methodists who will be attending General Conference to vote for the passage of the proposed Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. The plan, crafted by a team of church leaders from across the theological spectrum, would allow traditionalist churches to leave The United Methodist Church with their church property and $25 million in United Methodist funds and form their own denomination, and it would make available another $2 million for other groups of churches that might leave.

Yohanna said that adopting the protocol would be a way to honor the memory of the late Bishop John K. Yambasu, who focused on bringing peace in The United Methodist Church and was recognized posthumously with the World Methodist Peace Award.

Joyce Jaka, women’s president of the Uganda-South Sudan Conference and first-time delegate to the postponed General Conference, said that most of the issues that were discussed at the prayer summit were strange to her, adding, the “information shared here is mind blowing.” 

She said that all she hears about in her conference is same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Asked if she was going to work toward leading her annual conference in joining the Global Methodist Church, she said there is more that the conference needs to understand before making the decision.

Participants from each of Africa’s three central conferences voiced the need for more information on how the Global Methodist Church was going to go about establishing itself in Africa. 

After the conclusion of the Africa Initiative gathering, another advocacy group, the Africa Voice of Unity, stated that it is planning on strengthening its network in the three central conferences in order to protect the unity of The United Methodist Church.

“To many of us in Africa, the Africa Initiative does not speak for The United Methodist Church in Africa, and all they said are individual personal opinions,” said the Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel, president of Africa Voice of Unity.

In an email to supporters, the group said it is going to encourage churches to stay in the denomination, and it will also be working with General Conference delegates from Africa to oppose the passage of the protocol proposal in its current form at the 2024 assembly.