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Bishop Dandala's new role will be boon for Africa, CWS says

5/22/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: A photograph of Bishop Mvume Dandala is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html.

By Carol Fouke*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The election of Methodist Bishop Mvume Dandala as top staff executive of the All Africa Conference of Churches is great news for Africa and its churches, according to the head of Church World Service.

CWS, a humanitarian agency with offices in New York, is seeking to bring increased attention and resources to the struggles faced by most Africans. It will launch the Church World Service Africa Initiative in January, a program developed in partnership with the All Africa Conference of Churches, national ecumenical councils and regional fellowships of churches across the continent.

Dandala's election in May to the All Africa Conference of Churches' top staff position comes at a time "when many of the nations of Africa cry out for the voice of the church in favor of peace and reconciliation," said the Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS executive director and a United Methodist.

"His is a journey of integrity and courage," McCullough said, calling Dandala a dear friend. "The Apostle Paul wrote about powers and principalities. Mvume's ministry has long been characterized as one that has challenged powers and principalities when faith demands such action."

Dandala, 51, is known for his efforts in conflict resolution in the 1980s, especially at the height of the apartheid era in South Africa. In 1985, after the declaration of a state of emergency in his country, he was detained by authorities for 10 days without trial. In subsequent years, he has been called upon to mediate and work for nonviolent solutions in South Africa and beyond.

He has served as regional secretary for Southern Africa of World Methodist Evangelism, a program related to the World Methodist Council. In 1978, he became the first black minister in South Africa to be pastor of a multiracial congregation. Later, in 1991, he became senior minister of Johannesburg's Central Methodist Mission, South Africa's largest multiracial Methodist congregation.

He was elected in 1997 to his current position as presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, which has 1.2 million members and twice that number of adherents in seven countries.

Dandala also serves as president of the South African Council of Churches and moderator of the Advisory Group on Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.

He led a WCC multinational Living Letters delegation of church leaders to the United States in November 2001 for dialogue with American church leaders in the wake of that year's Sept. 11 attacks.

He will begin at the All Africa Conference of Churches Sept. 1. He succeeds Interim General Secretary Melaku Kifle, who was seconded to the organization by the WCC for a year.

The conference, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, is a fellowship of 168 national churches in 39 African countries with a congregational membership estimated at 120 million. National Christian councils are associate members.

CWS is an agency of the 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member denominations of the National Council of Churches USA. It works with local organizations in more than 80 countries to support sustainable self-help and development, meet emergency needs, aid refugees, and address the root causes of poverty and powerlessness.

"I look forward to walking the next part of the journey with Bishop Dandala," said McCullough, "knowing that he will have a profound influence on and witness amongst the peoples of Africa."
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*Fouke is Church World Service's media liaison, with offices in New York.

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