The sixth session of the Burundi Annual Conference convened July 19-21, 2023, at St. Peter’s Cathedral (Nyabugogo), Gitega District, Gitega Province.
The theme, based on Nehemiah 2:17-20, was “Let Us Raise and Build.” Officiating was Resident Bishop Daniel Wandabula, East Africa Episcopal Area.
Other leaders included the Rev. Emmanuel Sinzohagera, legal representative; the Rev. Lazare Bankurunaze, bishop’s assistant and deputy legal representative; the Rev. Ladislas Niyiragira, conference secretary; and 11 district superintendents.
The bishop’s cabinet met before the annual conference sessions, and Sinzohagera was appointed dean of the superintendents.
After opening prayer by Wandabula, Sinzohagera preached on the Nehemiah theme. He advised and encouraged unity and encouraged members to build a strong church.
On the second day, lay and clergy delegates met separately. The laity session focused on the role of the laity in giving apportionments and church fundraising. Chairing that session was Dr. Theodore Mbazumuima, conference lay leader. The clergy session was led by the Board of Ordained Ministry chair, the Rev. Claude Ntakarutimana.
During the plenary session, host superintendent Bankurunaze welcomed delegates. Sinzohagera recognized guests and officially welcomed Wandabula, who expressed gratitude for the conference’s growth.
“It is developing very fast,” Wandabula said, “and this is a very good thing. I know globally the economies of our countries are still recovering from the effects of COVID-19, and finding resources to travel from all parts of the country to spend these three days together is, indeed, a great sacrifice.”
He also thanked delegates for their continued commitment and sacrifice to the mission of God and The United Methodist Church: to make disciples committed to transforming Burundi and the world for Jesus Christ. He appreciated that the church continues to serve God and proclaim God’s goodness, despite the difficulties experienced worldwide.
Wandabula said it is time to raise and build whatever God has called United Methodists to do in Burundi. He explained that Nehemiah was talking to the Israelites who were returning to Jerusalem from exile. In this verse, the bishop said, Nehemiah acknowledged how God was good to him and made it possible for them to return to Jerusalem. He urged the people to rebuild Jerusalem to its previous glory, starting with rebuilding the wall and its gates that had been destroyed.
“You will hear during the course of this state-of-the-church speech, our region is going through a serious time of hardship,” Wandabula said. “In South Sudan, for instance, war is still raging, and many people are in refugee camps in Uganda, unable to return home. In Uganda, the ADF rebels stationed in eastern Congo continue to threaten the peace of our people in western Uganda across the border with DRC.
“We see several things that have over the years destroyed our people’s moral, social and physical life, namely, poverty, disease, ignorance, greed, sexual immorality. As a church, we think this is the time to stand up and start rebuilding that which has been destroyed.”
He noted that Nehemiah’s message to the children of Israel is important and timely. Especially appropriate is their response: “Let us rise up and build.”
On the agenda were the organization of parishes, teaching on Sunday services, Annual Conference Forms Committee. Board reports included Ordained Ministry, Pensions, Trustees (land) and Health. Other reports focused on education, finance and statistics.
Clergy and laity who completed courses of study in 2019-20 received certificates. Memorial and retirement services were also on the agenda. The final item for the 2023 annual conference was fixing the appointments. The Board of Ordained Ministry presented four pastors: the Rev. Ferdinand Mbikiye and the Rev. Ferdinand Nicayenzi, both of Gitega; the Rev. Abel Niyukuri, Bujumbura; and the Rev. Fidel Majana, Kinyinya.
Two pastors were put under disciplinary actions, and the Board of Ordained Ministry was advised to set up an investigation committee. The pastors were the Rev. Léonidas Habonimana, Giharo, and the Rev. Gervais Vyimana, Bujumbura.
The annual conference approved the retirement of nine pastors:
- Bujumbura District: the Rev. Cyrille Siboniyo, with 62 years (early retirement due to health)
- Cankuzo District: the Rev. Lin Kazoba (66 years)
- Giharo District: the Rev. Andre Ndayagamba (65 years) and the Rev. Isaie Nitunga (66 years)
- Makamba District: the Rev. Eliachim Nitegeyeko (66 years)
- Ngozi District: the Rev. Timotee Miburo (66 years)
- Rutana-Kayero District: the Rev. Concile Girukwishaka (65 years), the Rev. Juvenal Kabura (65 years) and the Rev. Jacques Simeon Nyandwi (65 years)
To strengthen financial capabilities, an ad hoc committee presented a project: a 10-story building in the church-owned Velo Moto plot. Delegates approved the building project and permitted church officials to finalize a feasibility study, to seek financial support from church partners and to request a bank loan to kick off the project.
Delegates received the Ad Hoc Committee's report on the Framework Agreement between the government and UMC Burundi. The report was approved, but delegates also suggested that the document be written in Kirundi to enable all church members to know the agreement’s content.
The conference also approved:
- A new church-related NGO called United Methodist Development Agency of UMC Burundi, which will work in education, health, agriculture and humanitarian relief;
- The harmonization of church statutes with the law governing religious institutions in Burundi, with certain modifications before submitting the document to the government; and
- Creation of the church's microfinance, with a request to launch that project as soon as a feasibility study is completed.
A Memorandum of Understanding on education between the UMC Burundi and the government of Burundi was ratified. Delegates urged the church to respect and implement the agreement. Delegates adopted a resolution asking that women will be represented in Burundi Annual Conference according to the law of Burundi. It will take effect in the next session.
The conference also approved the use of a new book titled “Way of Salvation” to help teach new church members. Delegates also approved the annual conference treasurer, Joyeuse Rukundorwimana.
— The Rev Ladislas Niyiragira, Burundi Annual Conference secretary and communicator
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