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Delegates divide Nigeria Area into three conferences


Anthony G. Danburam reads a petition that proposes the Nigeria Annual Conference be split into three conferences. A UMNS photo by Phileas Jusu.

By Phileas Jusu*
Feb. 4, 2009 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

The Nigeria Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has been divided into three annual conferences for better management.

Nigerian delegates to the West Africa Central Conference, meeting Dec. 18-22 in Liberia, had filed a petition requesting that their conference be split into three areas with one bishop.

Nigeria “is a very big country and the church was spreading to over five states, and one Nigerian state could be more than the size of Sierra Leone,” said Bishop Arthur Kulah, interim leader of the church’s Nigeria Area.

The size, coupled with a rough terrain, could be difficult to manage under one annual conference, he said. Currently, the conference has more than 600,000 members.

No opposing votes

United Methodist delegates from around West Africa approved the petition for division with 51 votes in favor, 17 abstentions and none in opposition.

The proposal to divide the Nigeria Conference was first presented to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, and was referred to the West Africa Central Conference for approval. The new Nigerian conferences will be recognized at the 2012 General Conference.

The new annual conferences are Southern Nigeria Annual Conference with headquarters at Jalingo; Gwaten Nigeria Annual Conference with headquarters at Gwaten Bambur; and Pero Nigeria Annual Conference with headquarters at Pero.

The Nigeria Area headquarters will remain in Jalingo, and conference boundaries “shall comply strictly with the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church,” the petition stated.

Common property of the conference will be shared by the bishop’s office, in consultation with the West Africa Conference’s executive committee. The property among the three conferences will be distributed “in the spirit of equity, inclusion and justice,” the proposal stated.

Turbulent time

Leaders of the Nigeria Annual Conference have been requesting that it be divided since the 2006 death of Bishop Peter Dabale, according to Caroline Njuki, director of the Africa Desk at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Njuki said the division “is welcomed” because “the Nigeria Annual Conference will move forward positively now that they have received what they wanted for some time. The issues that they faced will be amicably resolved.”

Prior to approval for the division, delegates were concerned about the undue influence such a status would give Nigeria in terms of its representation at the central conference. Also, some said the one-conference structure should be kept because the church in Nigeria is emerging from a period of turbulence and that dividing the conference could lead to further struggle for leadership among clergy. The conference has seen power struggles, division and the deaths of its last two bishops within a period of three years.

*Jusu, director of communications for The United Methodist Church's Sierra Leone Annual Conference, traveled to the West Africa Central Conference as a correspondent for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Nigeria Annual Conference

Episcopal Areas in Africa

All Africa.com

United Methodist Board of Global Ministries

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