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Agencies pledge support for church in Africa

2/4/2004 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

A photograph is available at http://umns.umc.org.

By Nancye M. Willis and Barbara Nissen*

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (UMNS) - African church leaders are entering a collaborative effort with three United Methodist agencies to develop and distribute resources for ministry in Africa.

During a January meeting in Johannesburg with nine of the denomination's 11 African bishops, representatives of the denomination's publishing, discipleship and communications agencies pledged support to the African church's long-term effort to develop and access language- and culture-appropriate Christian resources.

Few basic United Methodist print resources are available in Portuguese and French, languages spoken in various parts of Africa, and lack of financial resources often prevents their purchase and distribution.

"The principles of John Wesley are the same in any language," said United Methodist Bishop João Machado of Mozambique. "But we need them in Portuguese so the people can understand them, and we need to be able to train Sunday school teachers in how to use them."

The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the denomination's Board of Discipleship, said she welcomes the "partnership with the African church. It emphasizes the interdependence of the African central conferences on one another to develop appropriate resources." The board cosponsored the meeting, along with the United Methodist Publishing House and United Methodist Communications.

The discipleship board's South African Upper Room Ministries office "will coordinate with U.S. agency staff the creation of a sustainable indigenous resource development and distribution system for United Methodist churches and episcopal areas in Africa," Greenwaldt said. The office coordinates the publishing and distribution of daily devotional guides in five languages, edited by staff in different regions of Africa.

Collaborative options being considered include the development of English-, French- and Portuguese-language teams, along with an all-Africa development team to help develop resources in Africa.

Neil Alexander, top executive of the United Methodist Publishing House, said his agency will invest financial and personnel support to supply "resources to bring about vibrant ministry … and to build capacity and competence to develop resources."

Other needs described by representatives of the African central conferences include enhanced communications capacity, such as through computer programs, desktop publishing and use of radio.

African delegates noted the "landmark" quality of the Johannesburg event, both in the opportunity to develop a continent-wide plan of action and in the collaborative efforts of the agencies to create materials and partnerships for ministry.

"The partnerships formed from this meeting hold the potential for changing and enhancing the scope of educational and communication capacities on the continent of Africa and beyond," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications.

The communications agency is proposing to the church's top legislative assembly, the 2004 General Conference, a Central Conference Communications Initiative to discover and expand partnerships focusing on communications with United Methodists in Africa, Europe and Asia, Hollon added. The assembly will meet April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.

United Methodists in Africa account for nearly 20 percent of the denomination's 10.2 million members.

African representatives included Machado and Bishops Onema Fama, Central Congo; J. Alfred Ndoricimpa, East Africa; Jose Quipungo, East Angola; John G. Innis, Liberia; D.P. Dabale, Nigeria; Joseph Humper, Sierra Leone; Gaspar João Domingos, West Angola; and F. Herbert Skeete (interim), Zimbabwe.

Representatives of the United Methodist Publishing House were Fred Allen, executive director of African-American Initiative/International Outreach, and Ezra Earl Jones, director of congregational relationships.

Along with Greenwaldt, the Board of Discipleship was represented by Stephen Bryant, editor/publisher, Upper Room Ministries and Discipleship Resources; Wesley S.K. Daniel, director, evangelism and international church development; and Roland Rink (Africa) and Dale Rust Waymack (U.S.), coordinators, Africa Upper Room Ministries.

Hollon and Barbara Nissen, director of the Communications Resourcing Team and UMCom training center, represented United Methodist Communications.

*Willis is editor for the Public Information Team and Nissen is director of the Communications Resourcing Team at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn.

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