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UMC bishops in Africa break with Africa Initiative, Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation

(RNS) — A bunch of United Methodist bishops in Africa introduced Thursday (Sept. 8) that it’ll now not work with the Africa Initiative or the Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation, accusing the teams of spreading misinformation.

In a statement issued on the conclusion of final week’s assembly of the Africa Schools of Bishops at Africa College in Zimbabwe, the bishops mentioned, “We won’t tolerate anybody giving false details about The United Methodist Church in our areas.” 

The bishops declare the Africa Initiative, which was fashioned in 2008 to present African clergy and laity a stronger voice within the world denomination, has “misplaced its unique aim of serving to The United Methodist Church in Africa.” As an alternative, the assertion alleged, the initiative is “working with Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation to destroy our United Methodist Church.”

In addition they declare the Africa Initiative is supporting the International Methodist Church.

For the previous a number of years, the United Methodist Church has mentioned plans to separate the denomination, largely over differing views on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ members. In 2020, a number of bishops and advocacy group leaders arrived at a proposal that might enable particular person church buildings and regional annual conferences to go away to type new expressions of Methodism, committing $25 million to the creation of a theologically conservative Methodist denomination.

With a vote on the proposal on the 2020 assembly of the Normal Convention, the denomination’s world decision-making physique, delayed a number of instances as a result of pandemic, some Methodists based the International Methodist Church earlier this yr as a house for theologically conservative Methodists. 

However the International Methodist Church, the African bishops identified of their assertion, has not but been acknowledged by the Normal Convention.

Within the meantime, the assertion mentioned, African bishops “stay dedicated to the teachings of the Bible and to the doctrines of our Christian religion and heritage.” Nonetheless, their determination to distance themselves from the teams disrupts an often-heard narrative that the conservative views of rising United Methodist conferences in Africa and Asia are a driving pressure behind the schism.

RELATED: Bishop slams ‘negative rhetoric’ as conservative Methodists declare end to moratorium

The assertion was signed by all however one of many 13 lively bishops in Africa listed on the United Methodist Church website, in addition to Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, who’s retired.

The lone holdout was Bishop John Wesley Yohanna of the Nigeria Episcopal Space, who told United Methodist News, “The Africa Initiative and Wesleyan Covenant (Affiliation) are pushing for obedience to the Bible and the Guide of Self-discipline. Why ought to we not affiliate with them?”

On Monday, the Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation, a community of theologically conservative United Methodists,  responded on Facebook, saying it was “deeply disenchanted, however not stunned, by the assertion purported to return from all of the African Bishops.”

However the affiliation additionally questioned in its put up whether or not all of the bishops listed as signers assist the assertion, because it lists the names of bishops “current” on the assembly and never “bishops that had been current and supported the assertion.”

“We stay dedicated to working with theologically conservative Methodists throughout the continent of Africa to empower their witness to the religion and their proper to make knowledgeable selections about their future within the church,” the put up mentioned.

The Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation additionally shared a lengthy response signed by 18 government committee members of the Africa Initiative that characterised the bishops’ statements as a “declaration of conflict.”

The Africa Initiative’s response mentioned the group resolved at its most up-to-date gathering to proceed its assist for the proposal to separate the denomination and to encourage African church buildings to attend for a vote on that proposal on the subsequent Normal Convention assembly.

The African bishops aren’t the primary to precise issues about ways utilized by the Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation and different conservative teams to encourage church buildings to disaffiliate from the denomination.

In his first official tackle as president of the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops final month, Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the New York Annual Convention called on these teams to cease the unfavorable rhetoric. That features what Bickerton described as “accusations and statements which are simply not true” made by the International Methodist Church and Wesleyan Covenant Affiliation.

RELATED: African Methodists worry about the church that brought them Christianity

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