Conference ban on divorced bishops could be tested

Translate Page

The firm intention of Liberian United Methodists not to have a bishop who has been divorced could be tested at the West Africa Central Conference, set to meet in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, December 14-18.

On April 18, 2015, members of the Liberia Conference voted 433 to 24, with six abstentions, to affirm a conference rule which bars divorced clergy persons from nomination for bishop.

The Liberia Conference endorsed two candidates for bishop on Feb. 13, 2016. They are the Rev. Samuel J. Quire, administrative assistant to current Liberia Conference interim Bishop Arthur F. Kulah, and the Rev. David Tokpah, a pastor in the Greater New Jersey Conference. The Rev. Julius Nelson received votes at the annual conference during February, but was barred by the divorce legislation. Nelson is vice president and dean of student affairs of the University of Liberia.

Rev. David Tokpah (right) and Rev. Samuel Quire (to his left) chat at the Gompa District Conference in Ganta City, Nimba County, Liberia. Photo by Julu Swen, United Methodist Communications.

Rev. David Tokpah (right) and Rev. Samuel Quire (left) chat at the Gompa District Conference in Ganta City, Nimba County, Liberia. Photo by Julu Swen, United Methodist Communications.

Nelson could be nominated from the floor at the West Africa Central Conference, and that could prompt the test of the Liberia Conference’s legislation against bishops who have been divorced.

The Liberia Conference will cite the legislation to challenge any floor nomination of a divorced elder, said Rudolph Merab, the conference’s lay leader and leader of its delegation to the West Africa Central Conference.

Merab said the Liberia Conference’s position is supported by the doctrinal standards in the Book of Discipline, paragraph 104, and by Scripture.

“We will use Scripture to keep the moral standing of the church in the Liberian society,” he said.

Merab said there may well be a vote at the West Africa Central Conference on the Liberia Conference’s legislation. He said the Liberia Conference delegation will speak with one voice, should that occur.

Interim Bishop Kulah, in an interview with United Methodist News Service, said any nomination made from the floor during the West Africa Central Conference will be discussed in depth, including reasons why the individual might not have been allowed to participate in the episcopal election process in the Liberia Conference.

 “The UMC Book of Discipline allows nomination on the floor, but the West African Central Conference must approve the individuals nominated before they become official candidates for the episcopal election,” Kulah noted.

The interim bishop said further said that for the “divorce legislation” to take effect at the West Africa Central Conference, it must be debated and voted upon by delegates attending the conference in Abidjan.

“If the West Africa Central Conference throws the divorce legislation off the conference floor, whoever gets nominated, whether they were barred by the church in Liberia … will be part of the candidates for the office of bishop,” he concluded.

Swen is a communicator in Liberia. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Theology and Education
Pastor Kanya Kamahiro Georges (at right) receives his stipend during a presentation ceremony held at the Eastern Congo episcopal office. The assistance from Wespath allows 12 student pastors to buy food and provide for other needs for eight months. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UM News.

Wespath supports student pastors in Congo

With scholarships from Wespath, 12 theology students from Beni attending Kindu Methodist University are able to buy food and provide for other basic needs while at school.
Social Concerns
Participants of a training program at the Songhai Center in Porto-Novo, Benin, learn how to bottle pineapple juice once the processing is complete. The training, part of The United Methodist Church’s Yambasu Agriculture Initiative, gives farmers first-hand experience in sustainable agriculture. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UM News.

Yambasu Agriculture Initiative empowers farmers

Program at West African center gives farmers hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture.
Mission and Ministry
Florence Karambu (left), Eastern Kenya District women president, issues a soft loan to the Rev. Angela Nturibi, pastor in charge of women fellowship at Makutano United Methodist Church during a monthly table-banking meeting. Photo by Gad Maiga, UM News.

Table banking changes women’s lives in Kenya

The United Methodist Church is helping empower women through a group-based funding strategy where women contribute to and benefit from small loans.