|African bishops focus on poverty at historic meeting|
United Methodist bishops attend the first-ever
African Bishops Roundtable, including (from left) Daniel Wandabula,
Gaspar Domingos, Emilio DeCarvalho, Kainda Katembo and Moises Domingos
Fernandes. UMNS photos courtesy of Africa University's Office of Public
By Andra Stevens*
Oct. 5, 2007 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
United Methodist bishops in Africa ended their first continental
meeting with a renewed resolve to work together strategically to fight
poverty in Africa.
The three-day African Bishops Roundtable brought together 12 active
and retired bishops to the campus of Africa University in Mutare. The
bishops, representing congregations from west, east, central and
southern Africa, developed strategies against poverty and committed to
make United Methodist-related Africa University a partner in their
The Sept. 10-13 roundtable was the first gathering of its kind for
the denomination's African bishops, who lead 3.2 million United
Methodists and 1 million preparatory church members.
The bishops had wanted to meet as a group similar to the way their U.S.
counterparts meet as a college of bishops within each of the five U.S.
jurisdictions. Previously, the only times the African bishops have met
has been at the spring and fall meetings of the denomination-wide
Council of Bishops.
The bishops develop strategies for
fighting poverty in Africa.
Africa University proposed the roundtable event, which was organized
with the support of the Council of Bishops, the General Council on
Finance and Administration and the denominational Episcopal Fund.
The bishops said such periodic gatherings allow them to share
experiences, reflect on the challenges and joys of their ministries, and
plan together approaches to a myriad of issues confronting church and
society in Africa.
"As we go through our struggles, God is sharpening our tools so that
we can be instruments of change," said East Africa Bishop Daniel
Wandabula. "Sharing and listening to my fellow bishops, I believe that
the kingdom can come. We cannot separate the spiritual and the physical …
to be the church; we should not shy away from the problems we face."
Education and quality of life
The bishops explored how issues of health, food security, governance
and education intersect with poverty to negatively impact the quality of
life of people in their congregations and communities. They agreed that
a poor quality of life leads many Africans to migrate to Europe, North
America and elsewhere, which hurts development efforts in Africa.
"(People) aren't able to live in their own communities and localities
and so they move away to other countries in an effort to find a better
place and life," said Nigeria's Bishop Kefas Kane Mavula. "We have to
convince people that moving away is not the solution. … We have to make
sacrifices, remain in our situations and try as much as possible to do
what we can to improve those situations."
Saying education is a key to fighting poverty, the bishops committed
to partner with Africa University in efforts to increase skills, nurture
responsible leadership and help to change unconstructive mindsets. They
need the university to train professionals, but limited resources make
it difficult for young people to receive higher education.
"We have everything to be rich in this continent," said South Congo
Bishop Kainda Katembo. "Where we are poor is in our minds and way of
thinking. We want an education that will set free our minds and change
our mentality so that we realize that we have resources and there is
much we can do together, here on the continent."
Africa University Vice Chancellor Rukudzo Murapa presents during the bishops’ meeting.
In Angola, Mozambique, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo,
the bishops are spearheading local efforts to increase access to
professional training. They are founding church-related, tertiary-level
institutions and upgrading existing ones to offer training in the fields
of health, information technology and agriculture, among others.
Role of Africa University
The bishops view Africa University as a primary source of educators,
managers and administrators to implement training programs and nurture
new development projects in various countries.
Because the bishops want country-specific programs, they are taking a
more active role in finding resources to pay for scholarships for
students going to Africa University from their countries and
conferences. They agreed to take a proposal for scholarship support for
the university to the Nov. 4-8 meeting of the Council of Bishops. The
proposal, dubbed "Hope for African Students," seeks support to enroll
four students a year at Africa University from each episcopal area in
The United Methodist-related school has 1,300 students from 26
African countries and more than 2,000 alumni — pastors, teachers,
agriculturalists, public health workers, business professionals and
others — at work across sub-Saharan Africa. It offers undergraduate
and graduate programs in six faculties and an institute.
The African bishops hope the Council of Bishops will help make the
African Bishops Roundtable an annual gathering on the Africa University
"Let us not wait for heroes; let us be the heroes. Let us not wait
for disciples; let us be the disciples and let us transform our
reality," said West Angolan Bishop Gaspar Domingos.
*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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