Sept. 21, 2004
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) -
Motivating and unifying the more than 100,000 United Methodists in
Zimbabwe is a priority for the African country’s new bishop.
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa
Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, 53, the new bishop of the Zimbabwe East and Zimbabwe
West annual conferences, began his duties Sept. 1. Consultation, trust
and consensus building are aspects of his leadership style, he said, and
he wants to increase the visibility of the two conferences within the
denomination and ecumenically.
Nhiwatiwa vowed to be a people-oriented leader and a minister of presence in connectional ministry.
just have to be where the people are," the bishop said, in a recent
visit to United Methodist Communications in Nashville. "You don’t impose
a ministry, you respond to a ministry. The church is there to respond."
something new is good, he said, but the new must be balanced with a
response to people’s needs. He also plans to increase the visibility of
young people - those under 30 - by encouraging their participation in
a former member of the faculty of theology at Africa University in
Mutare, Zimbabwe, said he "envisions a church where people will own the
church and the church will own the people."
challenge for the African church is in finding holistic approaches to
evangelism to assist in addressing the social and material needs people
face, he offered. He said the United Methodist Church in America must be
aware that the church in Zimbabwe is filled with opportunities for
growth, which are tempered by a scarcity of resources.
bishop cited several personal, educational and mission influences that
helped him on his spiritual path. Those influences will enable him to
respond to his constituencies as a leader who loves them and is mature,
wise and patient, but most importantly as one who makes things happen,
he said. "I want action."
wants to continue the work of his predecessors, Bishop Christopher
Jokomo and Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa, the first non-missionary bishop of
the church assigned in Zimbabwe, to lead the United Methodist Church in
his country "to greatness in the name of God." He wants to assist in
bringing the gospel of love to people and provide them with hope
regardless of the situations they face.
bishop wants to engage the Zimbabwean government in helping people
despite the perceived injustices and misunderstandings the people have
about the government.
is the role of the church whenever there is some misunderstanding?" he
asked. "The role of the church is to be the reconciler, and we have to
engage the government, but not as antagonists." At some point, people
involved in conflict throughout the world must come together and talk,
government respects the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe," he said.
"My election has been published in government papers. They are letting
people know that this is a good thing that has happened. We are a church
that is recognized and given its place."
at ecumenical levels have already begun opening channels of
communication between the divergent groups in Zimbabwe. The United
Methodist Church in Zimbabwe will support these endeavors and "the
United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe will back other churches and be in
unity," Nhiwatiwa said.
that misunderstanding will occur, the United Methodist Church in
Zimbabwe as well as other faith traditions must create channels of
communication with government leaders, he said.
bishop said he felt overwhelmed but also recognized the feeling of
grace and the greatness and mystery of God when he was elected bishop
Aug. 20. "There is a sense of wonder because you begin to ask yourself
who am I to be entrusted with this high task," he said. "It is a
himself as "one whom God has claimed," Nhiwatiwa, although thankful to
those who nominated him for the episcopal office, said what led him to
this point may be found in the "mystery of God. God’s grace is so
mysterious because you never have calculated answers as to why something
one who had a primary role in educating upcoming preachers among his
duties, the bishop sees Africa University continuing its mission of
teaching ethics and Christian values to the students poised to become
leaders in churches, business, government and in other academic
the years, the university has made the church leaders in the central
conferences - regional units of the church in Africa and elsewhere -
more visible for African church members.
continent is already "reaping the fruits" from the university, he said.
"Africa University has charted the way ... has already put its mark in
Africa and will continue to do so."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.