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Bishops meet outside U.S., greet Mozambican president

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Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
Nov. 1, 2006

By Linda Green*

MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — When the United Methodist Council of Bishops opened its fall meeting Nov. 1 with a welcome service in the city of Maputo, the event marked the first time the council has met as a body outside the United States.

Nearly 70 episcopal leaders of the United Methodist Church came to this sub-Saharan country to "demonstrate to the United Methodist Church and to all the world that we are a global church," said Bishop Janice R. Huie, president of the council. "We embody a global reality by being here."

Africa, she said, is a place where the church is "exploding." She noted that it "is a place where we have a unique opportunity to participate in kingdom-building" and to further the denomination's more than 116-year relationship with Mozambique.

Unlike some African countries where peace is on a slippery slope, Huie said, "Mozambique is at peace. This country has been at peace for a good long time, and we want to nurture it, support it and make it a continuing reality."

The country has been at peace since 1992, following a United Nations-negotiated peace agreement that ended a civil war. The denomination considers Mozambique a significant area for mission through church growth and redevelopment, education, landmine clearance, water resource development and HIV/AIDS programs.

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A UMNS photo by Linda Green

Bishop Joćo Somane Machado talks about his visit with the president of Mozambique.
Bishop Joćo Somane Machado, the country's United Methodist leader, found it difficult to express his feelings when the first members of the council began arriving Oct. 28 for a series of meetings prior the opening welcoming service Nov. 1.

"I was surprised when they chose to come to Mozambique and decided to go outside the U.S for a meeting," he said. "It was just unbelievable.

"I feel so happy that they are in my country. To come here puts the United Methodist Church in Mozambique at a higher level of recognition and respect," Machado said. "The government will see that this church is a worldwide church."

The United Methodist Church in Mozambique has 160,000 members in more than 170 congregations across two annual conferences. It has 132 ordained pastors, 32 deacons and 278 evangelists.

The bishops are meeting in Mozambique through Nov. 6. With offices in Washington, the council comprises 69 active bishops and 100 retired bishops. They are the clergy leaders of the 10 million-member church in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Accompanying the bishops are spouses and other family members, executives of churchwide boards and agencies, and members of mission-related committees and groups that are also meeting. "We feel humble, and we are trying to make everyone feel that it is safe here, that they are at home and they are with brothers and sisters," Machado said.

Visit with the president

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A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose

A woman waits for medical care at the Chicuque Rural Hospital in Mozambique.
On Oct. 31, Huie and Machado were part of an episcopal delegation that visited the president of Mozambique, Armando Emilio Guebuza, who has been in office since December 2004.

Calling the visit a privilege, Huie described the president as "a dedicated Christian and a man who is trying to lead his country in ways of peace and self-sufficiency." The council's visit was "a way to thank him for the way he has worked with the United Methodist Church," including his support of the Chicuque Rural Hospital and other church ministries and projects, she said. "In the same way, we are trying to be supportive of the self-development of the people of Mozambique."

Both Huie and Machado relayed the president's interest in the church's work with AIDS and malaria and his desire to know why the episcopal leaders of the United Methodist Church were in Mozambique. "We shared our historic ties to the country," Huie said.

According to Machado, the delegation was "warmly welcomed," and when the president learned the council's meeting in Mozambique was the first one outside the United States, "he called it a great honor to receive for the first time the United Methodist Church, which is more than 116 years in Mozambique."

The president, he said, expressed openness to working with the church and said eliminating poverty is one of his top priorities. Machado added that the president's priorities surrounding poverty, health care and education dovetail with those of the United Methodist Church. "The president noted that they need help and support, even moral and spiritual support. It was a wonderful meeting."

A committee on a United Methodist holistic strategy on Africa, created by the 2004 General Conference and administered by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, met Oct. 30-31. Also, a committee working to develop models for pension systems for pastors and church workers in the central conferences met Oct. 30.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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