Church delegation to attend Liberian presidential inauguration
|Photo by D. Snyder and J. Malone
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will be inaugurated as Liberia's president Jan. 16.
Jan. 9, 2006
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
A delegation of United
Methodist leaders from the United States will attend the inauguration of
Liberia’s newly elected president in a show of support for the first African
woman head of state.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an
active member of First United Methodist Church of Monrovia, will officially
become president of Liberia in a Jan. 16 inauguration ceremony in Monrovia, the
country’s capital city.
“We celebrate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s
election as president because she represents great compassion, a commitment to
justice, and she is a fine disciple of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Peter Weaver,
president of the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops.
Weaver will present Johnson-Sirleaf
with a Bible signed by all the denomination’s bishops. Last year, the Council of
Bishops presented President George W. Bush, also a member of the United
Methodist Church, with a signed Bible.
“We are honoring both of these
United Methodist presidents and praying they will find strength and guidance in
the Gospel for their particular calling,” Weaver said.
President Bush offered
congratulatory words to Johnson-Sirleaf on her election, according to a report
in the Daily Observer in Monrovia. The story quoted him as “offering
renewed partnership in building a secured, democratic new Liberia.” The country
is still recovering from a 14-year civil war.
election marks a huge milestone on the road to establishing peace and order in
Liberia,” said Jim Winkler, chief executive of the
United Methodist Board of Church and Society and head of the delegation, which
will travel to Liberia Jan. 12-19.
“She will be the first African
woman head of state, a long overdue moment in African history. She brings a lot
of experience to the job, something critically needed for Liberia. She is a
United Methodist, and our denomination can be proud of that,” he added. The
board has actively advocated for peace in Liberia for many years.
Liberia is a “country dear to
the United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. R. Randy Day, top executive of the
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, when Johnson-Sirleaf was elected.
The denomination has been active in ministry with Liberia since the country’s
founding in the 1840s, he added.
Bishop John Innis, leader of
the church in Liberia, has been involved in post-war reconciliation efforts, and
he led the country’s United Methodists in mobilizing voters to turn out during
last year’s elections. He also advocated for a fair, transparent election
process. The Africa Union monitored the vote and reported few irregularities.
Liberian United Methodists are
developing ways to work with Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration as well as to be
independent from it. The Liberia Annual Conference has created the Liberian
United Methodist Empowerment Foundation to help the church’s work in education,
health and agricultural development as well as to support clergy throughout the
The fund is intended to help
build the capacity of ordinary Liberians through livelihood support projects and
training, among other things. The foundation is building an endowment fund,
which receives support through the denomination’s Advance for Christ and His
Church giving program (Advance Special #14368T).
“The church has been playing
its role as a loving and caring community on behalf of God’s people, who are in
desperate need of food, clothing and shelter,” the bishop said in October.
United Methodists throughout
the country worked hard in the months leading up to the election to educate
people in the most remote parts of the country on how to vote. The human rights
department of the United Methodist Church held trainings and workshops on issues
such as women’s participation in the political process and the importance of
On Dec. 13, Innis sent a
statement to his fellow Liberians calling for peace and a show of support for
the new president.
“It is time that every Liberian
submits to the will of God by rallying around Madam Sirleaf so that finding a
safe place for our children will no longer be a dream, and our young people will
have a right to free academic, vocational and technical education throughout our
land,” he said.
In addition to developing
congregations, the United Methodist Church in Liberia has contributed to
education, health services, and, since the civil war ended two years ago,
demobilization and reconciliation. United Methodists continue ministries to
Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is
responsible for a major demobilization and job placement program in a post-war
“I am honored to have been
invited by the government to be there for the inauguration,” Weaver said. “We
look forward to keeping President Sirleaf in our prayers as well as being in
partnership with the Liberia government in the many ways in which the United
Methodist Church is reaching out in that community. Bishop Innis has done an
outstanding job of leading our strong United Methodist conference in that
Liberia has about 600 United
Methodist churches, with a membership of about 170,000.
In addition to Weaver and
Winkler, other members of the Jan. 12-19 delegation include:
The Rev. Vance Summers of
West Ohio, member of the Board of Church and Society;
Mark Harrison, director of
the Peace with Justice program, Board of Church and Society;
Kathy Gilbert, news writer
for United Methodist News Service, United Methodist Communications.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist
News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L.
Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or
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