|Texas, Cote d’Ivoire conferences join hands|
About 14,000 worshippers crowd the
Palais de Sports in Abidjan to close the Cote d'Ivoire Annual
Conference meeting. UMNS photos by Eleanor Colvin.
By Eleanor L. Colvin*
March 29, 2007 | ABIDJAN, Cote D'Ivoire (UMNS)
Ivoirian United Methodists arrive for worship early and line up outside the stadium. Many were turned away due
to the large crowd.
The Cote d'Ivoire Annual Conference is joining with the Texas Annual
Conference in a history-making partnership that further bridges the work
and ministry of The United Methodist Church in the United States and
Bishop Benjamin Boni of Cote d'Ivoire and Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
of the Texas region announced the alliance March 25 during a four-hour
worship service in Abidjan. The service culminated the West African
nation's second annual conference meeting that began March 20.
"In this annual conference today, we are making history," Huie told
the crowd. "This relationship is the first partner relationship of the
Texas Annual Conference with a conference in Africa. It is the first
partner relationship of Cote d'Ivoire with a conference in the United
“...We are confident that the Holy Spirit will work mighty deeds in Texas and Cote d'Ivoire.”–Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
"We look forward to praying for one another, learning from one
another, helping one another and joining together to work for a better
world. … As a result of this trip, we are confident that the Holy Spirit
will work mighty deeds in Texas and Cote d'Ivoire."
About 14,000 worshipers filled the Palais de Sports for the worship
service. They began arriving almost two hours before the event, and many
ultimately were turned away when the stadium reached capacity.
Mutually beneficial partnership
The partnership, which also will engage the United Methodist Board of
Global Ministries and international entities such as the United Nations
Foundation, initially will focus on:
Supporting the denomination's Nothing But Nets campaign to prevent malaria;
Establishing community radio stations;
Strengthening the theological institute in Cote d'Ivoire;
Assisting the Methodist Hospital in Dabou;
Providing school lunches for Ivoirian students.
Participants in the conference meeting frequently noted the
Texas-Cote d'Ivoire partnership will be a mutually beneficial
relationship and is designed to capitalize on the strengths of both
United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Boni speaks during a worship service closing the annual conference meeting
in West Africa.
Praising the Ivoirians for their evangelistic success, Huie said
United Methodists in the Texas Conference have much to learn from the
church in Cote d'Ivoire, where membership is growing despite war and
More than 642,000 United Methodists are in the southern region, while
the count of the northern region is not well documented due to
political unrest that split the country in 2002. Estimates have ranged
as high as 1 million members for the entire nation, but the official
church estimate is about 700,000.
Huie said she looks forward to learning strategies from Cote d'Ivoire
regarding evangelism and new church starts that can be implemented in
"Bishop Boni has a powerful vision for both evangelization and for improving the lives of all people," she said.
The United Methodist Church of Cote d'Ivoire also has an exceptional
body of lay members, Huie said. Only 121 pastors serve the 720 churches
in Cote d'Ivoire, which is served by more than 2,000 unpaid lay (local)
Methodists in Cote d'Ivoire were welcomed into membership in The
United Methodist Church by the 2004 General Conference, the
denomination's top legislative body. When the church's Judicial Council
meets in April, it will review technical questions related to the 2004
action and the conference's current status.
The partnership reflects the connectional strength of the church, the bishops said.
Ivoirian worshippers offer songs of praise during the four-hour worship service.
"Our partnership also celebrates that the UMC is a global church,"
Huie said. "We celebrate that although the UMC is made up of different
nations, languages, cultures, styles of worship, ways of dress, we are
still one body - the body of Christ.
"No annual conference or country is alone. We are all connected in Christ."
Boni spoke on the global nature of the church at a conference
luncheon on March 24 in the seaside city of Grand Bassam, which
recognized guests and honored the elders of the church in Cote d'Ivoire.
"We are gathered here around the sea - the same sea we have in
England, the same sea we have in Ghana, the same sea we have in the
United States, the same sea we have in Senegal," said Boni. "This is to
mark the uniqueness - the universality of the church. We are several
nations, several continents around Jesus Christ."
*Colvin is the director of communications for the Texas Annual Conference.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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