On November 22, 2019, the Judicial Council of the African Methodist Episcopal Church by a 5-3 vote issued a decision granting the appeal of Bishop Wilfred Jacobus Messiah regarding his removal from supervision of the 17th Episcopal District. On June 24, the Council of Bishops voted with a two-thirds majority to remove Bishop Messiah from the Episcopal District “for the good of the church” in accordance with the Discipline (Part XI, Section III D (1), p. 172).
The action was initiated by reports earlier this year that a substantial number of congregations and clergy in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had joined with the AME Zion Church due to a lack of Episcopal supervision over several years.
Per the Discipline, Bishop Messiah had right of appeal to the Judicial Council, the church’s highest appellate court in the interim of the General Conference and duly filed on July 1, 2019. In their majority opinion, the Judicial Council granted the appeal and overturned the decision of the Council of Bishops stating that, “The lack of consistent Episcopal presence throughout certain parts of the Seventeenth Episcopal District from 2013 to the present has been no secret throughout the Connectional Church. The reasons for the lack of consistency have been published. The removal of Bishop Messiah is not an effective remedy to the problems affecting the Seventeenth Episcopal District.”
In a dissenting opinion, it was stated “The majority opinion gives Bishop Messiah credit for serving the vast amount of the episcopal district for which he was appointed and inexplicably took his word that there was unrest, and danger and Ebola health concerns without him providing factual material documents to verify his assertions. The majority opinion defies the logic of the expectation. The amount of his actions in other parts of his episcopal district simply does not excuse the existence of dereliction of his duties to the affected areas of the controversy.”
A statement from the Council of Bishops will be forthcoming.
Editor’s Note: Decisions of the Judicial Council are printed in the hardcopy edition of The Christian Recorder as they are made available and as space allows. Due to the intricate nature of this decision, we are publishing it immediately online here.