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Mavula becomes United Methodist bishop of Nigeria


Following his election, Bishop Kefas Kane Mavula is hugged by Bishop Gregory Palmer and is surrounded by Bishops John Innis of Liberia (left) and Benjamin Boni
of Cote d'Ivoire. A UMNS photo by Phileas Jusu.












By Phileas Jusu*

March 6, 2007 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

The United Methodist Church in Nigeria has a new bishop, the Rev. Kefas Kane Mavula, who was elected and appointed on his 40th birthday.

The March 3 election was held during a special session of the West Africa Central Conference at S.T. Nagbe United Methodist Church in Monrovia. Mavula garnered all 74 votes cast by delegates attending the conference.

The church in Nigeria has been led on an interim basis by Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda since the death last August of Bishop Done Peter Dabale. Dabale, who died of cancer, was elected the first United Methodist bishop of Nigeria in 1992.


The Rev. John Wesley Yohanna (right) congratulates newly elected United Methodist Bishop Kefas Kane Mavula
and his wife, Jessica.
A UMNS photo by Phileas Jusu.

The Rev. John Wesley Yohanna and the Rev. Samuel Sule withdrew from the race shortly before the election. When letters of withdrawal were read, the people attending stamped their feet, clapped their hands and ululated with approval. Each candidate was called to affirm his withdrawal letter as a gesture of genuineness.

"I decided to withdraw in the interest of peace for the church in Nigeria," Yohanna said.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, the president-designate of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, was the presiding officer for the election. He explained the electoral procedure, and delegates lined up to cast their votes.

After the results were announced, Mavula tearfully addressed the conference. "I will continue to work together with my friends John Wesley and Sam Sule for the development of the church in Nigeria," he said.

Focusing on unity

A major challenge for the new bishop will be to unify a church that has been fragmented for several years. Mavula, an experienced teacher, is expected to use his leadership skills to bring reconciliation.

"Acknowledging our shortcomings is a very good step towards achieving peace," he said. "We must humble ourselves and accept our shortcomings. These will take us a very long way in achieving peace and solving some of the problems if not all. … I am ever ready to support whoever will emerge from the two so that we work together and bring reconciliation in the church."

Bishop Joseph Humper of the Sierra Leone Area, chairman of the special session of the West Africa Central Conference, expressed relief that the election concluded peacefully.

"I went to bed late last night and woke up at 2 a.m. to pray for this election. Thank God the result is a miracle to us," he said.

The United Methodist Church in Nigeria is large. Council of Bishops President Janice Riggle Huie noted last August that, under Bishop Dabale, the church in Nigeria had grown from about 10,000 to more than 400,000 members.

A career in service

Mavula, an only child, was born March 3, 1967, in a village called Nyaja in Taraba  State, Nigeria. He became a Christian in 1976 and was baptized June 27, 1977, by the Rev. Jonah B. Matindi.

He holds a bachelor of divinity in theology degree and a master of theology degree from the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. He was ordained a deacon in the United Methodist Church's Nigeria Annual Conference in January 1993 and became an elder in January 1995.

Mavula and his wife, Jessica, have six children. He speaks Mumuye, his tribe's language, Hausa and English.

He has served as teacher, vice principal and principal at Kakulu Bible Institute in Taraba State. He was principal of Didanga Bible School from 1992 to 1995, then administrative assistant to Bishop Dabale from 1995 to 2003. Up to the time of his election, Mavula was principal at the UMCN (United Methodist Church in Nigeria) Junior Seminary.

Among other responsibilities, he served as a member of the Board of Governing Council, Theological College of Northern Nigeria, from 1993 to 1995. He is currently on the board of directors of United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe and is chairman of the Peace Committee of Lau, Taraba State.

"We are very excited about the election. … We're going home with a peaceful heart," said Leah Solomon, an observer at the special central conference session.

*Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church's Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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