2021 Sierra Leone Annual Conference

Location of conference gathering: United Methodist University in Freetown, Sierra Leone, hosted by Bishop Baughman Memorial United Methodist Church, Western District.

Theme: “It’s Time to Get Up” — John 5:8  

Officiating bishops: Interim Bishop Warner H. Brown and retired Bishop Joseph C. Humper

The conference met in-person in the later part of April because of the movement of interim Bishop Brown from the United States to Freetown, Sierra Leone. The 141st annual session of the conference also did not start with its usual parade in the streets due to coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions. 

The conference featured several speakers, including the Rev. Dr. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka, a Global Ministries missionary assigned in Cote d’Ivoire, and the Rev. Raymond Bola-Williams, member of the Sierra Leone church’s council on finance and administration, who preached the memorial service.

In his episcopal address delivered on April 30, Brown called on members of the Sierra Leone Conference to focus on uniting The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. In October, Brown was assigned as interim bishop for the Sierra Leone Area following the death of Bishop John K. Yambasu, who died in a car accident on Aug. 16.

“The unity of our conference and the unity of The United Methodist Church should be our highest priorities,” Brown said. 

He pointed out that the four known potential candidates for bishop have agreed to suspend their campaign efforts until January 2022. Each candidate affirmed the commitment to unity and the suspension of campaign activities during the conference’s clergy session on April 29. 

The candidates for bishop are the Rev. Edwin J.J. Momoh, conference secretary; the Rev. Francis B. Charley, dean of the bishop’s cabinet; the Rev. James Boye Caulker, member of the board of ordained ministry; and the Rev. Emmanuel Pewa, member of the council on youth and young adult ministries. Bishop Brown made a special plea to members of the conference to support and pray with their choice of candidate during the waiting period, adding, “it is not the candidates that make the path to leadership acrimonious, but their supporters.”

Brown challenged members of the conference to continue the conversation started 12 years ago by Yambasu. “We need to focus on agricultural and economic development projects that will give us a pathway to partnership in creating a strong economic foundation for our churches and the people of Sierra Leone.” 

He said the conversation that led to the building of churches, schools, hospitals, and a university for the people of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone and the people of the country must not be hindered by the struggle for leadership.

He warned members of the conference not to settle for sitting and waiting for a bishop or for The United Methodist Church to decide its future. He pointed out that during the waiting season, he will be their bishop and he expects the church to be the church. 

“I know I do not know your context, but you know your context and you know how to be the church. I know how to be a pastor. I know how to be a bishop. I know how to be a coach, and I will come along beside you and together we will lead this annual conference,” Brown said.

In his opening message to the session on April 29, the Rev. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka challenged members of the Sierra Leone church to see their situation as a Kairos moment. 

“This is a special moment of divine favor and intervention for members of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference to get up and work in ways that will benefit The United Methodist Church and the people of Sierra Leone,” Maleka said.

He pointed out that the Sierra Leone church should not be like the man at the pool of Bethesda who was complaining instead of answering the simple question of whether he wanted to be healed.

“Friends, this is your Karios, don’t ignore the ring of emergency, time of work, time of peace and time of trusting one another,” Maleka said.
 
He called on the conference to continue the work that Bishop Yambasu started by making evangelism their priority.

“We can’t make the winds of the Spirit blow; they happen when God decides,” he concluded.

Preaching the memorial message on May 1, the Rev. Raymond Bola-Williams said Bishop Yambasu was a leader who did not want to leave any member of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone unattended to.
 
“He made sure there was a university for higher education, hospitals for the health of all Methodists, and he promoted unity among all United Methodists and the people of Sierra Leone,” he said. He pointed out that love for the church made him explore every possible avenue that would expand the mission and ministry of the church in Sierra Leone and the world.

Bola-Williams lamented that since the death of the bishop, the quest to succeed him have led many would-be bishops to conduct themselves in campaign activities that tilt The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone to the brink of destruction. 

“Selfishness is destroying our society, especially the Sierra Leone Annual Conference,” Bola-Williams said.

Thirteen persons were voted into the clergy order of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference: 10 as elders in full connection, three as commissioned probationary members, and one person was retired according to the Rev. Winston A. Ashcroft, director of connectional ministries for the conference.

Bishop Brown ended the conference by reminding members to practice John Wesley’s three simple rules, stressing, “These are important rules to remember as we start our ministry of getting up and doing ministry with, for and by the people called United Methodists in Sierra Leone and beyond.” 

The conference brought together over 500 persons including guests.

— E Julu Swen, communicator in Liberia

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2021 Michigan Annual Conference

June 3-6, Lansing Public Media Center and online.