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Africa University’s Yemba becomes Central Congo bishop

 


Africa University’s Yemba becomes Central Congo bishop

Feb. 15, 2005

By Andra Stevens*

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — The Rev. David Kekumba Yemba, professor and founding dean of the faculty of theology at Africa University, has been elected bishop of the Central Congo Area.

He will succeed Bishop Fama Onema, who served the area for more than 30 years.

Yemba said he was gratified by the confidence the church has placed in him. "You think of the responsibilities the church is putting on your shoulders," he told United Methodist News Service in a telephone interview. "It is a great responsibility."

The Feb. 12 election, which was part of the United Methodist Africa Central Conference, took place in Kamina in Katanga Province. Yemba was elected on the third ballot in a field of 11 candidates and consecrated Feb. 13.

He is taking over the leadership of one of the denomination’s largest episcopal areas, comprising 10 of the 11 provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The church has 844,634 members in the Congo.

Yemba said he "has been with Africa University since the planning stages. In fact, my family was the first to move to Africa University in 1991."

"We have prayed for this for a long time, and God has answered our prayers," said the Rev. Laisha Bwalya, a Congolese student at Africa University and a United Methodist pastor. "I’m very happy that Professor Yemba is now a bishop."

Yemba is the second staff member in less than a year to be elected bishop. The Rev. Eben K. Nhiwatiwa was elected bishop in August 2004 and assigned to the Zimbabwe Area.

"It’s very good news; all my church is rejoicing for this election," said the Rev. Otshudi Ndjekembo, a second-year divinity student and pastor from the conference where Yemba will serve. Ndjekembo described Yemba as "very intelligent and an excellent administrator" who will bring people together.

"The conference where he is going is really a divided conference, and Professor Yemba has got quite a challenge ahead, but with his qualities and experience, we are sure he will break down that division," said the Rev. Banze Kyabuntu waKiluba, a pastor from the church’s North Katanga Area, which also serves part of the Congo.

Yemba joined the staff of Africa University in August 1990 and guided the theology school from its inception. He stepped down in December but continued teaching systematic theology, doing research and writing. Colleagues point to his patience, love for people and approachability as qualities that will help the church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Even when things are difficult, he has a way of handling those things, and you really need this quality when you are a bishop, so that you will be able to sort out some difficult issues," said the Rev. John Kurewa, founding vice chancellor of the university and currently E. Stanley Jones professor of evangelism. He has worked with Yemba for more than 15 years.

An internationally respected scholar and theologian, Yemba is moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. 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.

Before joining Africa University, he served as senior lecturer and associate professor at Zaire Protestant Seminary. In 1987-88, he was a visiting professor at Andover Newton Theological School, teaching Christianity with an African Face and African Theology.

Yemba and his wife, Henriette, have five children.

*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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