|Mozambique bishop is model for women leaders|
Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala of Mozambique is the first female United
Methodist bishop in Africa. A UMNS photo by Chris Heckert, GBGM.
By Linda Bloom*
June 25, 2009 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala says it is too soon to tell whether
more women in Mozambique have decided to enter the ministry because of
But she is happy to be a role model.
study at The United Methodist Church’s Cambine Mission Center school in
Cambine, Mozambique. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
Nine months ago, Nhanala, 52, took office as the first female United
Methodist bishop in Africa. She already has set her priorities –
leadership development and self-sustainability for the church in
Mozambique and better access to health care and education for the
On June 23, during a visit to the headquarters of the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the bishop shared her dreams
about strengthening a church where some congregations still “worship
Since the end of civil war in 1992, United Methodism has grown in
Mozambique, with some 150,000 members in more than 170 congregations of
the church’s 23 districts. The Mozambique area is divided into two
annual conferences and has 29 schools, a seminary, agricultural
programs and a hospital at Chicuque.
To continue that growth, better leadership training is required.
“When we talk about leadership development we are not only talking
about clergy,” Nhanala pointed out. “The lay people are key in the
growth of the church. Many are pastoring local churches.”
She wants all church members involved, so another priority is
“encouraging the churches to intentionally include women and youth in
our programs and in our leadership.”
Encouraging the call
Of the 132 ordained pastors in Mozambique, only a small percentage are women, according to the bishop. This year is the 30th
anniversary of the first ordination of women as United Methodist clergy
there and she hopes to use the occasion “to encourage women who feel
called into the ministry.”
Nhanala’s own theological education began in 1985, when she and her
husband, the Rev. Eugenio Tomas, were accepted for theological studies
at the Mozambique Annual Conference. They attended Gbarnga School of
Theology in Liberia and Nhanala was ordained a deacon in 1989.
A woman waits beneath a tree marked
with the AIDS ribbon at United Methodist-related Chicuque Rural Hospital near Chicuque, Mozambique. A UMNS file
photo by Mike DuBose.
She completed her diploma in theology at Trinity College in Ghana
after Liberia’s civil war disrupted their studies. She holds a bachelor
of divinity degree from Limuru University and a master’s degree in
Bible studies and theology from Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of
Theology, both in Kenya.
Education remains a family focus. Her husband is principal of the
United Seminary of Ricatla, an ecumenical theological institution in
the Maputo area, and their four children all have pursued higher
High illiteracy rate
Such educational opportunities are not available to all in a country
where illiteracy remains “a huge issue” both inside and outside the
“Education opens the eyes and minds of people.”
--Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala
To be able to read and write is to be empowered, in the bishop’s view. “Education opens the eyes and minds of people,” she said.
According to UNICEF, less than half of the adults in Mozambique –
only 44 percent -- can read. Illiterate women and their children often
are trapped in poverty as well, the bishop pointed out. Literacy
classes held at local churches are open to all in the community.
United Methodists work in partnership with the country’s now-stable
government to promote literacy and education in general. The state
helps provide trained teachers and salary support for United Methodist
schools. “The church has a very good relationship with the government,”
The government also pays the salaries of some nurses employed by the
church, but Nhanala would like to see United Methodists become more
involved in public solutions to major health concerns, such as
HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and maternal health issues.
She has experience in such matters, having led a World Relief
HIV/AIDS program designed to mobilize churches for education and
advocacy in Mozambique’s three southern provinces.
“HIV/AIDS is a countrywide issue,” Nhanala said, explaining that the
church response also must be national, “not only in Chicuque where the
hospital is located.”
Three missionaries currently are assigned to Chicuque Hospital by
the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and a fourth works in
Mozambique as an agriculturalist and community developer. Thirty-five
projects and programs in Mozambique also receive support through The Advance, the church’s voluntary giving program.
Nhanala appreciates the denominational support. “As
missionaries come, they play a kind of capacity-building role and that
helps the church be sustainable,” she said.
The church in Mozambique also receives other support from U.S.
United Methodists and Nhanala spent much of June participating in
annual conference sessions in Missouri, New York and Virginia.
Missouri’s “Mozambique Initiative,”
which began a decade ago, connects churches, groups and individuals in
Missouri with partner United Methodist congregations and districts in
Mozambique to strengthen the church there. The initiative has helped
build churches and parsonages and supports pastors in the most
impoverished areas of Mozambique, the bishop said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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"...include women… need people who can read..."
"not only about clergy, but that includes the lay people..."
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