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Bishop Yemba re-elected in the Congo

United Methodist Bishop David Kekumba Yemba is now a bishop for life following his Aug. 26 re-election to oversee the church's Central Congo Area.
A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.

By United Methodist News Service
Aug. 27, 2008

United Methodist Bishop David Kekumba Yemba has been re-elected to oversee the church's Central Congo Area after four years of service.

With his re-election, he is now a bishop for life.

Yemba won Aug. 26 on the third ballot by the Congo Central Conference, meeting in Kananga in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The election had begun with three candidates, but one was dropped with too few votes. The final ballot gave 119 votes to Yemba and 35 to the Rev. Richard Okoko, a pastor in the church's East Congo Annual Conference.

“It was a great expression of joy to know the people have confidence in what we have been doing and want to continue as far as the Lord is helping,” Yemba said in an Aug. 27 telephone interview with United Methodist News Service.

Yemba said the 2008 United Methodist General Conference held in Fort Worth, Texas, last April set clear priorities for The United Methodist Church to focus on leadership, strengthening congregations, global health and fighting poverty.

“The people are expecting leadership from the church in terms of how The United Methodist Church and our connectional system can help us exchange experiences, ideas and to share resources.”

Yemba is the third United Methodist bishop elected or re-elected in Africa this year. In July, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa was re-elected to lead the denomination's Zimbabwe Area, and the Rev. Joaquina Filipe Nhanala was elected to oversee the Mozambique Area. On Sept. 1, Nhanala will become the first female United Methodist bishop in Africa.

One more United Methodist bishop is expected to be elected in Africa this year. In December, balloting is scheduled to replace retiring Bishop Joseph Humper of Sierra Leone.

The Central Congo Area, where Yemba leads the church, is one of the church's largest episcopal areas, with four annual conferences and two provisional annual conferences. Together, they cover 10 out of 11 provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yemba said it is a challenge to serve such a large area.

“The Congo has just gotten out of repeated wars and we need people trained to deliver what is needed,” he said. “We need district superintendents, lay people … all pledging to work together with the bishop.”

When he was first elected in 2005, Yemba was a professor and founding dean of the faculty of theology at United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe. He replaced Bishop Fama Onema, who had served the area for more than 30 years.

Since his election, Yemba has been an outspoken proponent of changing the denomination's structure in an effort to make The United Methodist Church less U.S.-centric and more global.

In an interview last fall with United Methodist Communications, he said the change should come "in terms of services, in terms of meetings, in terms of use of human resources, personnel from different corners of the globe. I think this is a kind of a church we are dreaming of."

Yemba was on the staff of Africa University from 1990 until his election. Prior to that, he was a senior lecturer and associate professor at Zaire Protestant Seminary.

He has a bachelor of divinity degree from the Protestant School of Theology of the Congo Free University at Kisangani and a doctorate in systematic theology from the University of Strasbourg, France. He was ordained an elder in the church's Central Congo Annual Conference in 1970.

Yemba and his wife, Henriette, have five children.

 News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Audio Clip

Bishop David Kekumba Yemba: "It was a great expression of joy..."

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