African Methodist Bishops Say They Oppose Any Split in the Denomination; Reiterate Opposition to Homosexuality

Bishop John K. Yambasu of Sierra Leone addresses a meeting of the Africa College of Bishops in Mutare, Zimbabwe. The bishops said the church would continue in Africa after General Conference 2020. Photo by Tim Tanton, UM News.

Bishops in Africa have resolved not to support any proposed legislations or plans that may result in a split or dissolution of The United Methodist Church.

In a statement at the close of the Africa College of Bishops retreat Sept 2-6, the bishops said the church would continue in Africa after the 2020 General Conference.

“We do not support any legislation that calls for the dissolution of The United Methodist Church. We uphold our values as a connectional and worldwide church committed to ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world’,” the bishops’ statement said.

President of the Africa College of Bishops, John K. Yambasu of Sierra Leone, said the bishops would not allow others to set the agenda for the church in Africa.

“We African bishops and the galaxy of informed clergy across this continent must set the agenda for the church in Africa rather than allow others to draft it on our behalf for us to rubber stamp and seal it,” Yambasu said.

The bishops said they were concerned that conversations on the future of The United Methodist Church are taking place in the United States without African representatives.

“We cannot allow a split in the global church to split up the church in Africa again. We cannot allow a split to further reduce us to second-class citizens in a church that only needs us when they want our votes,” the statement read. “As Africans, we have the right of self-determination and we have the right to speak for ourselves and determine who we want to be.”

During his keynote address, Yambasu said the future of the church is not about winning and losing.

“Christ came and died for all of us, and so the church belongs to all of us. We can agree that the debate on human sexuality is not about who wins or loses; it is about all of us winning. Nor is it about kicking others out so that we can stay in. More importantly, it is not about one group of people making decisions for and on behalf of every other group,” he said.

At the meeting, the African bishops reiterated their stance on homosexuality, noting in the statement that they agree, “as an African Church, we do not accept nor support the practice of homosexuality because it is incompatible with the teachings of Scripture.”

At the 2019 special General Conference, held this past February in St. Louis, delegates by a 438-384 margin approved the Traditional Plan, which reinforces the church’s restrictions on ordination and same-sex marriage.

Since then, several groups have developed alternate plans for the future of church, including the Indianapolis Plan, the UMCNext Proposal and the Bard-Jones Plan.

The African bishops’ statement called on the entire denomination to exercise restraint at General Conference 2020, “and work towards an approach to the human sexuality debate in ways that are humane and respectful.”

In an interview with UM News, Yambasu said this year’s College of Bishops retreat at Africa University aimed to sensitize African bishops regarding the impact of decisions on the future of the church in Africa.

“There is a kind of development of preparedness strategy for economic sustainability, functional structure and continuity of programs and ministry already on the continent,” he said.

Yambasu also spoke about the creation of five new episcopal areas in Africa in 2020.

“The placement of five new bishops was a General Conference decision and we therefore expect that General Conference through the General Council on Finance and Administration will provide the needed support for those bishops. However, in the event that funding may not be readily available, part of our strategy as a college is to develop alternative means of support or alternative ways of addressing the issue,” he said.

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Source: United Methodist News