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Nigerian bishop placed on leave, interim leader appointed

 


Nigerian bishop placed on leave, interim leader appointed

June 22, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Tim Tanton*

Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo has been appointed to lead the United Methodist Church in Nigeria while the area’s standing bishop is on leave of absence.

Bishop Done Peter Dabale was placed on a six-month leave of absence May 5 by the United Methodist Council of Bishops’ executive committee. The church’s Nigeria Annual Conference is "conflicted," and some leadership issues need to be worked out, according to Bishop Roy Sano, executive secretary of the council.

The decision for the leave of absence was made in consultation by the council, the West Africa Central Conference and Dabale, said Bishop Peter Weaver, council president and leader of the church’s New England Area.

"I think Bishop Dabale recognized both for some personal reasons as well as for the well-being of the Nigeria Conference that this was a wise step," Weaver said.

"He is a bishop in full good standing on leave of absence, and the support and prayers of the council are there with him," he added.

Ntambo was approved by the council’s leadership team—Weaver, Sano and Houston Bishop Janice Huie, president-designate—in a June 13 teleconference. He leads the church’s North Katanga Area, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and will continue to lead that area in addition to the Nigeria Area.

Ntambo was chosen in part because the West Africa College of Bishops wanted a bishop from outside the region who could be neutral, Sano said. "He’s a respected member of the council. … He just had the quality of leadership that would help the conference at this point."

Bishop Gregory Palmer of Iowa, whose conference has a relationship with Nigeria, will also be helping, Sano said. "So, although Ntambo is in charge, we will have at least two bishops reporting on the situation there, and when they feel it is ready to transfer back the leadership, it will happen."

Though Dabale’s leave doesn’t end until Nov. 5, Sano expressed hope that the bishop can "return before then if harmony is established" in the conference.

The executive committee approved Dabale’s leave at the request of the West Africa Central Conference Episcopacy Committee, Weaver said. The request arose out of the West Africa Central Conference meeting in March, as participants reflected on the work of the Nigeria Conference and its future. Weaver said the West Africa College of Bishops was in consultation with the episcopacy committee.

Dabale has led the Nigeria Conference since being elected bishop in 1992. The conference has 333,244 lay and clergy members, plus 73,000 preparatory church members, according to the denomination’s 2003 General Minutes.

Weaver emphasized that a leave of absence does not carry the implication of any kind of wrongdoing. Bishops have taken leaves of absence for a variety of reasons in the past, including health or the need for a time of reflection and discernment, he said. The Book of Discipline spells out the conditions for a leave.

"Bishop Dabale has made some wonderful contributions to the work of Christ in the Nigeria Conference," Weaver said, "and the Nigeria Conference is in turn making a great witness for Christ throughout the whole region of that conference."

*Tanton is managing editor of United Methodist News Service.

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

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