|A brief history of Methodism in Côte d’Ivoire|
Women walk past the crumbling French colonial architecture in Grand Bassam,
Côte d'Ivoire, the birthplace of Methodism in the West African country.
UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
By Tim Tanton*
July 20, 2009 | ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)
The United Methodist Church’s roots in Côte d’Ivoire date back to
1914, when William Wadé Harris arrived in the country from neighboring
Completing a prison sentence for his role in a political revolt, Harris
heard God directing him to Côte d’Ivoire. Telling the story today,
United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Boni says people would walk more than
100 miles to hear Harris preach, and the magicians and juju makers fled
before the evangelist.
If Harris were to visit Côte d’Ivoire almost a century later, he would
find a church that has grown over the decades into a powerful presence,
providing a wide range of ministries.
Crumbling examples of French colonial architecture line city streets.
The church started in the area of Grand Bassam, the French colonial
capital on the coast of the West African country. Harris went on to
neighboring countries, and in 1923, William Platt arrived and built on
his predecessor’s work. In 1924, the Methodist Church was officially
established in Côte d’Ivoire.
The church was related to the British Methodist Church for most of the 20th century, becoming fully autonomous in 1985.
In 2004, The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly
welcomed the Protestant Methodist Church of Côte d’Ivoire into the
denomination as a provisional annual conference. Four years later, the
assembly confirmed Côte d’Ivoire as an episcopal area of the
denomination. Boni, who had been president of the church since 1998,
became bishop in 2005.
The church has about 700,000 members and serves a wider community of
about 1 million, in a country with a total population of 21 million.
The Côte d’Ivoire Conference’s main offices are in Abidjan, the
About a third of Ivoirians are Christian, a third or more are Muslim
and some 20 percent follow traditional African religions. Methodism is
the largest Protestant tradition, and the Catholic Church has the
largest Christian presence.
Yed Esaie Angoran is on Bishop
Benjamin Boni's staff.
The denomination has 900 churches and 100 preaching points, and its
membership is growing 7 percent to 8 percent annually, according to the
conference. This thriving church is led by a relatively small number of
pastors – about 109 – with help from 6,000 local pastors and 7,000 to
8,000 class leaders.
Boni also oversees the United Methodist mission to neighboring Senegal,
which has 800 to 900 members, and Cameroon, with about 1,200 members.
For those countries as in Côte d’Ivoire, training pastors is a priority.
Women and youth
Women and young people are driving the Ivoirian church’s growth.
Up to 60 percent of the church’s members are 35 and younger, mirroring
the country’s demographics, according to the Cote d’Ivoire Conference.
Though accounting for only nine of the conference’s pastors, women
represent the majority of the church’s members.
Clergy from the United Methodist Côte d'Ivoire and Texas annual
conferences recite a prayer during a dedication service for mosquito
net distribution at the Methodist Hospital of Dabou.
Methodism’s growth has been accompanied by an expansion of ministries
not only into education but also health care and economic development.
The church operates dozens of schools, a hospital and other health care
ministries. In a country where governmental resources are under strain,
The United Methodist Church is standing in the gap to address the needs
of the whole person.
*Tanton is director of the Media Group for United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cote d’Ivoire denomination joins United Methodist Church
Economic empowerment as Christian mission
Eglise Methodiste Unie Cote d’Ivoire
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Q&A: Ivory Coast’s crisis
Country profile: Ivory Coast
Cote d’Ivoire (U.S. Department of State)
Cote d’Ivoire (CIA World Factbook)
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