|Zimbabwe hosts Social Principles training|
Children in Zimbabwe welcome
church leaders to Streamview United Methodist Church in the Chikanga
township in Mutare. A UMNS photo
by the Rev. Clayton Childers.
By the Rev. Clayton Childers*
March 27, 2007 | HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
Facing desperate social conditions, 121 United Methodist church
leaders in Zimbabwe studied the church's Social Principles as an
instrument for change in a nation burdened with systemic economic,
medical and political challenges.
"Overwhelming social conditions in Zimbabwe have forced the church to
reevaluate how we do our mission and ministry from top to bottom," said
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, leader of the denomination's Zimbabwe area. "We
can't continue in the old model."
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa
The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church speak to human
issues in the contemporary world based on biblical and theological
In Zimbabwe, the human issues include 80 percent unemployment and
skyrocketing inflation. A confusing "para-economy," or street economy,
pays 3,000 Zimbabwe dollars for every one U.S. dollar while the official
exchange rate used at hotels and banks is 250 Zimbabwe dollars to every
one U.S. dollar.
One in four Zimbabweans have AIDS or test positive for HIV, while the
health care system is overwhelmed by a large number of medical
professionals who have left the country because of horrendous working
Meanwhile, the African nation is struggling to repay a massive debt
on International Monetary Fund loans. Many people identify "good
governance" as the major challenge facing Zimbabwe today. Frustration is
rampant and the administration of President Robert Mugabe recently
began forbidding political demonstrations in areas around Harare.
Training and dialogue on the Social Principles was provided during
two three-day sessions in February near Harare and also near Mutare. The
event was facilitated by the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society, which is planning similar training events on the Social
Principles this year in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic
“Overwhelming social conditions in Zimbabwe
have forced the church to reevaluate how we do our mission and ministry
from top to bottom.”
–Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa
During the Zimbabwe consultation, participants discussed the rich
Christian tradition of social engagement demonstrated in the Bible by
Moses, Esther, Nathan and the prophets. Also addressed was the
liberating ministry of Jesus Christ for marginalized people and the
church's rich history of reaching out to embrace the least, the last and
Exercises allowed participants to share personal opinions about a
number of the Social Principles, which have been established by the
General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking body.
Even in the midst of tremendous national challenges, the United
Methodist Church in Zimbabwe is thriving. A visit to Streamview United
Methodist Church, a rudimentary wooden structure, found 1,200 dedicated
worshippers and hundreds of children, with membership growing and
vibrant worship services.
"The United Methodist Church is well known in Zimbabwe for Africa
University and its many other educational institutions, community
clinics, children's homes and ministries of emergency assistance," said
the Rev. Lloyd Nyarota, who helped lead the training sessions.
"Still we must move on to imagine responses that carry us from
ministries of mercy to ministries of justice; we must move on to address
the root causes of our problems," said Nyarota, coordinator of special
projects for the Zimbabwe area.
The Rev. Lloyd Nyarota
"We also must engage the government and do this at all levels," said Gabriel S. Manyangadze of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.
"As church leaders you need to get to know your government officials.
If you work with youth, find out who in the government also works with
youth. Go see them. Talk to them about what you see as the greatest
needs in your community. See if there are ways you can collaborate," she
Participants pledged to pray for Zimbabwe, lead dialogues on the Social
Principles in their home communities and work through their local
churches to make a difference.
*Childers is director of conference relations, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Washington.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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