Malawi United Methodists begin reconciliation


Two days of face-to-face negotiations that culminated a year of peace talks marked the first steps toward reconciliation and unity for two Malawi United Methodist church leaders estranged for 10 years.

Anglican Bishop Gifford Matonga, top executive of the Malawi Council of Churches, served as mediator at the July meeting in the nation’s capital of Lilongwe. The peace talks began about a year ago, when the Rev. Alfiado S. Zunguza, manager of leadership development for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, engaged the two sides separately and helped identify Matonga as a local mediator.

 

The Rev. Daniel Mhone, left, and the Rev. Maxwell Jawati embrace negotiations that could bring a new era of peace for the Malawi United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of Alfiado Zunguza.

The Rev. Daniel Mhone, left, and the Rev. Maxwell Jawati embrace after negotiations that could bring a new era of peace for the Malawi United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of Alfiado Zunguza.

Participating in the negotiations were United Methodist Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, who leads the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area, which includes the Malawi Provisional Conference; the Rev. Alan Gurupira, personal assistant to the bishop; and Zunguza. Church leaders and others representing the Revs. Maxwell Jawati and Daniel Mhone, who because of conflict had had no contact for 10 years, joined the discussions.

The negotiations marked a new era of peace in The United Methodist Church. Jawati and Mhone agreed to work together as conference superintendents for a two-year transitional period.

Jawati had been appointed superintendent by Bishop Christopher Jokomo, who then led the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area. He was expected to serve from 2000 to 2006. When his term expired in 2006, Nhiwatiwa appointed Mhone, but Jawati disputed that appointment.

The leadership team will operate through an executive committee for which Jawati and Mhone will alternate chairing responsibilities. The goal is to ensure due consultation occurs before any deliberations are made. The executive committee is charged with the following:

  • Evaluating current legal cases with the intention of speeding a resolution;
  • Updating the inventory of church property;
  • Restoring all movable and immovable church properties that were affected by legal disputes;
  • Working on all other matters related to personnel and pastoral assignments; and
  • Beginning revision of the church constitution to ensure it aligns with The Book of Discipline.

There are four legal cases involving church finances with charges and countercharges of misuse of church funds and property. The executive committee will try to resolve these disputes.

Jawati and Mhone will report to Nhiwatiwa who, eventually, may decide to appoint one of the men as superintendent. During this interim period, Global Ministries will send a missionary treasurer to manage all finances of the Malawi Provisional Conference. An assistant treasurer will be recruited by the Registered Board of Trustees currently chaired by Jawati.

When critical decisions must be made, leadership in the Malawi church will be based on a consultative process before it is forwarded to Nhiwatiwa for approval. This leadership model is possible because of the continual availability of counsel, guidance and supervision of the Malawi Council of Churches, Nhiwatiwa and Global Ministries.

The 10-year power struggle began when the office of the mission area superintendent was supposed to shift from Jawati to Mhone. The transitional/reconciliation period of dual leadership will conclude with the September 2020 annual conference, which will elect new quadrennial leadership. United Methodist leaders in Malawi pray for God’s grace to heal hearts, restore trust and rebuild relationships.

Malinki is the Malawi Conference secretary and communicator. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

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