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African bishops glad to not travel to the U.S. for meeting

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Bishop Kainda Katembo
Nov. 10, 2006

By Linda Green*

MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — United Methodist bishops across Africa were elated that the denomination's Council of Bishops decided to conduct its first meeting outside the United States.

Seventy bishops met in Mozambique Nov. 1-6 for the council's semiannual meeting. Bishop Kainda Katembo, Southern Congo, spoke for his colleagues when he said, "I think all the African bishops are more than happy to have it here."

The meeting in Africa was "close, we were at home and did not have to travel a long distance," Katembo said. "Bishops of the United States had to experience what we go through instead."

He added being in Africa afforded the bishops the opportunity to see some of the continent and to get to know United Methodists in Africa who comprise the three central conferences on the continent, the 21 annual conferences and the four provisional conferences.

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Bishop Emerito P. Nacpil
With offices in Washington, the council comprises 69 active bishops and 100 retired bishops; they are the clergy leaders of the nearly 10 million-member church in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Bishop Emerto Nacpil was an active bishop for 20 years in the Philippines before retiring six years ago. He has attended all but four council meeting since he retired.

He said that meeting outside the United States not only expressed the global nature of the church, but also allowed the council "to express solidarity with a Central Conference within an African country in a developing world."

Nacpil said he hoped that "resources of our faith and our witness" will make a difference in the life of the church in Africa.

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Bishop Daniel Wandabula
Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Area is a relatively new bishop in the council. He called the council's meeting in Mozambique both a "miracle and a golden opportunity" because it shows the global aspect of the denomination "and gives brothers and sisters from the United States and other parts of the world a chance to see how the church in Africa is doing."

For Bishop Joseph Humper of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference, the reversal of travel for the bishops "is history in the making." He said that the bishops coming to Africa instead of African bishops going to the United States "is the concept of a global church coming to reality."

African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Sarah Davis, the presiding prelate of the 18th Episcopal District, which includes Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland, learned of the United Methodist bishops' Nov. 1-6 meeting in her territory and flew in to join and support them.

During a Nov. 5 cultural gala that also included a surprise birthday celebration for California-Pacific Bishop Beverly Shamana, Davis greeted her colleagues and friends of Methodism. "I am delighted to be with you. I am honored to be a part of the history that you have made," she said.

She called the council's Mozambique meeting "wonderfully historical and divinely exciting." The United Methodist Church, she said, "stepped out to demonstrate what it means to be a connectional church."

Historic election

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A UMNS photo by the Linda Green

African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Sarah Davis (center right), accepts a token from United Methodist Bishop Janice R. Huie.
On Nov. 6, the bishops sent a message to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo congratulating them on the country's recent elections.

"On this glorious occasion," the bishops of the United Methodist church "would like to take this opportunity to congratulate President Joseph Kabila Kabanga and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for this historic accomplishment."

The message, signed by council president Janice R. Huie, said the bishops hope that election results will be accepted by the candidates and by the people for the best interest of the African nation. The bishops also expressed their prayers for both the government and the Congolese people and conveyed the denomination's support "in this new era that is dawning" for the country.

"We further pray for the peace, unity and prosperity for your great country," the message concluded.

During a press conference with Mozambican media, Huie said the bishops were "inspired by the people of Mozambique" by listening to their stories and participating in worship. "We have tried to make decisions on behalf of Mozambique as well as the rest of Africa," she added.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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