Church must emphasize Africa in 2005-08, bishop says
5/5/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: A photograph of Bishop Felton Edwin May is available.
(UMNS) - When Bishop Felton Edwin May looks at Africa, he sees
widespread "weapons of mass destruction": HIV/AIDS, poverty, lack of
That's why he wants the United Methodist Council of
Bishops to make Africa a mission emphasis for the church for 2005-08.
May, chairperson of the Holistic Strategy for Africa Team, will bring a
report to the international council's meeting next fall, detailing what
the church is doing in ministry on the continent and identifying areas
of need. Its many programs include the bishops' "Hope for the Children
of Africa" appeal.
"I know where weapons of mass destruction are
that are not hidden," May told the bishops at their spring meeting,
April 28-May 2 in Addison, Texas. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria,
poverty and the lack of education - these are weapons of mass
destruction that are out in the open, he said.
May, who leads the
church's Washington Area, wants the bishops "to affirm the need to
constantly lift up Africa as a missional priority" for the church. "We
dare not step back from our commitment to sub-Saharan Africa. Our
investment has been great, and the dividends are about to be realized
through the establishment of a strong United Methodist presence and
witness on that continent.
"The weapons of mass destruction can be dismantled and shalom can come forth if we stay the course," he said.
church's General Council on Ministries is voting on whether to affirm
the Holistic Strategy for Africa as a missional priority for 2005-08. It
also is voting on similar requests related to a Holistic Strategy for
Latin America and the Caribbean and an emphasis on Children, Poverty and
Violence. The voting, being done online, will end May 7.
missional priority status, the Council on Ministries also has the
options of supporting an emphasis as either a special program or a theme
for the church, said Daniel Church, top staff executive. After
consultation with the Council of Bishops, the ministries council would
make its recommendation to General Conference, the denomination's top
legislative assembly, for the next four-year period of work. The
assembly convenes again next spring in Pittsburgh.
becomes a missional priority, the church's boards and agencies would be
asked to prioritize their program work to support a holistic approach to
ministry there, May said.
The task force has identified more
than $42 million in money committed by those agencies for programs
directed toward needs in Africa in 2005-08, according to a report
presented by May to the council.
While beset with staggering
problems, Africa is also a continent where the United Methodist Church
is experiencing strong growth in membership. It accounts for 16 percent
of the denomination's total members, according to 2002 figures from the
General Council on Finance and Administration.
have a long history of ministry in Africa through churches, hospitals,
schools, orphanages and relief programs. Volunteers In Mission teams
provide hands-on help with health care services, building construction
and other ministries. The church's Africa University in Zimbabwe is
training future leaders for the continent. Other programs are aimed at
resettling refugees and getting rid of the countless landmines in
countries recovering from civil war.
The denomination's boards
and agencies have cooperated "magnificently" in programs for Africa, May
told the bishops. The task force's meeting in Dakar, Senegal, last
September drew more than 55 people representing the top staff
executives, bishops and general church lay people to review the work
being done in Africa.
He commended the general agencies' top
staff executives and thanked the Board of Global Ministries for its help
in pulling together information for the task force. The board would
have administrative responsibility for the mission emphasis, according
to a report from May.
When the task force's report is presented
to the council next fall, he said, "it will stagger the imagination that
we are doing far more in Africa than we had ever dreamed or imagined."
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