2022 Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference

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2022 Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference 

The fourth session of the Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference convened March 10-13, 2022, at Kayole St. John’s United Methodist Church in the Nairobi District. Resident Bishop Daniel A. Wandabula, East Africa Episcopal Area, officiated.

COVID-19 protocols

Churches and members were encouraged to continue COVID-19 health protocols and get vaccines.

Request for judicial council declaratory decision 

Conference delegates also approved a petition to the Judicial Council seeking clarification on whether to elect delegates for 2024 or to keep the 2020 slate of delegates after the Commission on the General Conference postponed the 2020 session.

Following the approval of the cabinet, the Rev. Paul Njuguna Matheri, superintendent and delegate from Naivasha District, moved the petition that the conference request a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council under ¶ 2610.2j to answer the following questions:

  1. Because the Commission on the General Conference has announced the third postponement of the 2020 General Conference to 2024 while expressing uncertainty about who will be the delegates in 2024 (see the attached March 3, 2022, press release of the Commission on the General Conference), will the session held in 2024 be a postponed session of the 2020 General Conference, or will it be the regular session of the 2024 General Conference? If it is a postponed session of the 2020 General Conference, must the regular session of the 2024 General Conference also be held?
  2. Whether or not the 2024 session is a postponed or regular session, must annual conferences elect new delegates to comply with ¶ 502.3, which states, “Delegates to the General Conference shall be elected at the session of the annual conference held not more than two annual conference sessions before the calendar year preceding the session of the General Conference”? If new delegates must be elected, will the number of delegates to be elected be based on the allocation of delegates for the 2020 General Conference or a revised allocation of delegates based on the formula for a regular 2024 General Conference?
  3. Furthermore, we ask for an expedited ruling, so that annual conferences may prepare for the election of delegates on time, if required.

The petition was unanimously approved by the conference delegates without objection or abstentions.

Conference resolutions 

  1. Following the presentation of the Pastors' Pension Report, it was resolved to dissolve any district whose pastors failed to contribute their pension fee to the pension scheme.
  2. The conference also approved that all districts would adhere to the conference apportioned funds and that each district would remit KES 617,000 ($5,394 USD) annually or contribute KES 51,452($446 USD) monthly.
  3. It was also resolved that the conference would have a voluntary itineracy of its clergy from one district to the next in two years, looking at the district's capacity for sustainability.
  4. It was agreed that only the United Methodist General Conference in 2024, which has been postponed, has the authority to change the current United Methodist position on homosexuality. This is when the Kenya-Ethiopia Conference will take a stand on the denomination’s future.  
  5. As a result, during the trustees' report, it was approved that all church-related properties should be registered in the name of the church rather than a person, even if that person is its pastor.
  6. The conference also decided that all properties owned by the church should have a copy of their title or sale agreement documents/details submitted to the national office by June 30, 2022.
  7. Because non-ordained workers are paid by church-related institutions, the fourth session resolved that all United Methodist church employees must participate in the conference pension plan.

No replacement delegates were elected because of the delayed General Conference. 

One pastor recognized his orders as an elder in full connection. Fifteen were ordained as elders in full connection. Nine were commissioned as provisional members, two as provisional deacons. Two were licensed as local pastors.

Beatrice Asiago, a laywoman, completed her deaconess candidacy studies and was commissioned as a deaconess to the Order of Deaconess and Home Missioner. Evelyn A. Bwire, the United Methodist Women president, presented Asiago’s name to the conference session after the women's division recommended her.

The Rev. Rosemary Iserene, Busia District, and the Rev. Ann Kanini Ntara, Eastern Kenya District, also known as the Meru region, were appointed as district superintendents. During the third session of the Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference, they took over from two retired superintendents, the Rev. Blaise Nyaga, who retired in 2020, and the Rev. Carol Ososo, who retired in 2019.

The following clergy retired:

Eastern District

  • Mary Kanjira Paul
  • Blaise Nyaga, district superintendent
  • Isaac Kiruki Kauru  
  • Josephat Nturibi Ikandi
  • Angela A. M Nturibi   
  • Lawrence Muthuri Rukaria

 Busia District

  • Ferdinand D. Egessa  
  • Patricia Anyango Akanga 

Nyanza District

  • Alexius Angolo Angira 
  • Harrison Odhiambo Oloo 
  • Peres Akeyo Oulo                    

During the clergy session, four clergy members were terminated.

Statistics:

  • Membership: 22,967 in 2022, up from 20,708 in 2019
  • Worship attendance: 6,876 in 2022, down from 7,323 in 2019. (No in-person due to COVID-19)
  • Church school attendance: 3,078, down from 4,866 in 2019 
  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith: 1576, up from 918 in 2019
  • Adults and young adults in small groups: 4,578 down from 6,755 in 2019
  • Worshippers engaged in mission: 22,967, up from 20,708 in 2019

No churches disaffiliated or left the conference. The Eastern District office was closed based on issues other than COVID-19. No openly gay candidates were approved for ordination.

Bishop’s state of the church address 

Theme — Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Bishop Wandabula thanked the annual conference planning team for working tirelessly amid COVID-19 uncertainties. He noted that it was the first annual conference since the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. That means the Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference missed the 2020 and 2021 sessions. 

“COVID-19 came with its challenges and uncertainties,” Wandabula said. “As a church in East Africa, we lost a number of our family members, a pastor and laity as well. Others died due to other illnesses.”

In Uganda, he noted the loss of both the bishop’s biological father Mzee Ephraim Wandabula, and his sister, the Rev. Dr. Patience Kisakye; two superintendents, the Rev James Mwoho, Busia District, and the Rev. Achile Ron, Arua District. In Burundi, the Rev. Justin Nzoyisaba and many others, and in Kenya, the church lost the father of the conference lay leader and a mother of the Naivasha superintendent. Wandabula asked the conference to observe a minute of silence in remembrance of their distinguished service to God and humanity.

The bishop noted that it was not possible to conduct the 2020 and 2021 conference sessions due to government lockdowns and travel bans or restrictions, gathering prohibition measures imposed to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Indeed,” he said, “these were tying moments in the lives of the church and the nations around the globe. As church leadership, we tried holding cabinet Zoom meetings and other mass-media communication, including social media platforms. In the recent past, as the country’s COVID-19 situation was easing down, physical cabinet meetings resumed gradually as well. However, we are all grateful, despite the spikes of COVID-19. Ministry has continued, and the name of Jesus Christ has been exalted.” 

Wandabula commended the churches that created mitigation programs and activities in support of those affected and infected with COVID-19 by providing food, handwashing devices, sanitizers and other personal protective equipment. He also expressed appreciation to partners who gave in-kind aid to alleviate the situation. He noted the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and other groups and churches that made it possible to serve humanity as the core mission of the people called Methodists.

The text in Deuteronomy 31:6, Wandabula noted, is set against the backdrop of Moses telling the Israelites and Joshua to be strong and courageous, as well as to trust in God, as they prepare to leave to enter the promised land, which is the conference theme. In light of the situation and uncertainties created by COVID-19, the conference chose this theme to guide its work. 

COVID-19 halted and stressed many people, countries, businesses and other operations, and many people are still struggling to recover. The United Methodist 2020 General Conference was  postponed to the 2024, causing uncertainty in the political future and disruption of the world order. 

“Many Christians,” Wandabula said, “are still debating and pondering whether or not the Bible is true and whether The United Methodist Church has matured enough to rise above the tides of homosexuality and the hailstones of uncertainty to serve God as a united entity or as a separated church beyond the General Conference. 

“As African leaders,” he added, “we are aware of the widespread speculation about the formation and dissolution of a new denomination. Everyone is wondering, ‘Where does this leave us as The United Methodist Church in Africa or the Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference?’ amid these uncertainties. In some ways, the Israelites were faced with uncertainty and fear, given that their military and civil leaders had known since their forefathers' days that they would not accompany them into the promised land.

“When we compare 2022 to what we faced when the General Board of Global Ministries announced the suspension of funding from the general church to the East Africa region,” Wandabula said, “we see fear, hopelessness, powerlessness and an inability to do God's work among our Christians. Many people believed that Christ’s church would fall apart, that all of the affected programs would shut down, and that local churches and leaders would turn against their leaders, despite some being influenced by the west to do so. However, the church had relied on GBGM for its survival, and some congregations were even joining The UMC to gain support other than Jesus Christ. Currently, the church in East Africa has grown into three annual conferences and one provisional annual conference.”

The bishop reminded the conference that the United Methodist General Conference was scheduled to take place in May 2020, but it was twice postponed to August 2021 and 2022. It has again been put off until 2024, due to the COVID-19 strike, safety concerns, particularly for older delegates, and government restrictions. 

“Many Christians and caucus members,” he said, “have expressed their displeasure with The United Methodist Church's failure to address the elephant in the room: homosexuality. The time frame appears to be excessively long, but it is not. There must be sufficient time to prepare for each important question. By allowing a large number of delegates to attend the General Conference, the General Conference is deciding the church's future. 

“The Wesley Covenant Association,” Wandabula said, “plans to launch a new Methodist denomination on May 1, 2022. It has created a lot of excitement as well as anxiety among United Methodists all over the world. Our superintendent in Ethiopia, the Rev. Gezu Mosisa, emailed the conference secretary intending to join a new Methodist denomination. We, the Council of Bishops, asked for a declaratory request to the Judicial Council to guide us in the disaffiliating process, especially over the USA churches. But our central conferences’ Book of Discipline, paragraph 572, sections 1-6, talks about becoming an autonomous Methodist affiliate, autonomous Methodist, or affiliate United Methodist church from central conferences. Paragraph 570, sections 1a and b, and 2a and b, in particular, define and demonstrate the types of church [entities that] Rev. Mosisa, our Ethiopian superintendent, conveyed.” 

— Gad Maiga, communicator for the Kenya-Ethiopia Conference.


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