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Ceremonies mark new mission church in Côte d'Ivoire

10/16/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom (646) 369-3759 New York

By United Methodist News Service*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
The African Continent featuring the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire UMNS graphic by Laura J. Latham, Photo number 03-366, Accompanies UMNS#495, 10/16/03

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
The Rev. Randy Day (left) meets Laurent Gbagdo, president of Cte dIvoire. Photo number W03045, Accompanies UMNS#495

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Republic of Cote d'Ivoire UMNS graphic by Laura J. Latham, Photo number 03-367, Accompanies UMNS #495, 10/16/03
In ceremonies lasting three days in early October, the Protestant Methodist Church of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) became a mission of the United Methodist Church.

Now known as the Eglise Methodiste Unie Côte d'Ivoire, the West African church began its celebration Oct. 4 with ceremonies at the Félix Houphouët Boigny Stadium in Abijdjan, attended by more than 20,000 people.

A year earlier, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries granted mission status to the autonomous 1.4-million-member Methodist denomination, an outgrowth of the British Methodist Church. Under the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the agency is allowed to initiate, administer and coordinate a mission, defined as an administrative body for work inside or outside the structures of an annual or missionary conference.

The Oct. 4 celebration, witnessed by Laurent Gbagbo, the country's president, was led by the Rev. Benjamin Boni, president of the Church of Côte D'Ivoire. United Methodist participants included the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the Board of Global Ministries, and Bishop Ruediger Minor of Moscow, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Ceremonies continued with an Oct. 5 worship service that recognized the 86 active pastors, elders and evangelists. An afternoon concert sponsored by the women and youth, provided the color, movement, sound and rhythm of African praise music. The celebration concluded Oct. 6 with groundbreaking for a new conference building, which will replace the one built by the British mission in 1928. The land for the office is strategically located between the National Assembly (Congress) and the High Court of Côte d'Ivoire.

With mission church status, Côte d'Ivoire Methodists may later request a provisional conference status. The church brings a 100-year history, schools, a hospital, orphanage and ministries with women and youth, board officials pointed out. In a nationally televised interview in Côte d'Ivoire, Boni said integration with United Methodists would allow the church to make its witness as a part of a global church.

The Council of Bishops has named Bishop John Innis from neighboring Liberia as the presiding bishop for the transitional period.
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*Rena Yocom, special assistant to the Rev. R. Randy Day, supplied information for this story.

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