Cote d’Ivoire denomination joins United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church today grew by about 1 million members.

Delegates to the 2004 General Conference unexpectedly received a West African “mission” into full membership of the United Methodist Church. The new members formerly constituted the autonomous Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

“This is the most significant thing that’s happened here in Pittsburgh,” said the Rev. R. Randy Day, head of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, at a press conference following the delegates’ action.

“For us it is a moment of great joy,” said the Rev. Benjamin Boni, leader of the Cote d’Ivoire, who expressed his gratitude to God, the United Methodist bishops and General Conference.

“We want to be part of the mission of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world,” Boni told the delegates. “May the Lord help us to be bearers of light to the whole world.”

Upon a motion by delegate Ron Bretsch of North Central New York, the General Conference accelerated for Cote d’Ivoire the process of electing its own episcopal leadership and planning for its future.

Both the representatives from Cote d’Ivoire and United Methodist officials had expected the process to take four more years. However, the delegates voiced their intention to embrace the French-speaking Methodists in Cote d’Ivoire now.

The church in Cote d’Ivoire has been in existence since 1924, Boni explained. In 1985, it left the British Methodist Church to become autonomous.

“We wanted to be part of a more global environment, which is the United Methodist Church,” Boni said through a French translator.

Church leaders approached the Board of Global Ministries several years ago, requesting mission status in order to become part of a worldwide church rather than a national body.

“In a step-by-step fashion, we got here today,” Boni said.

Day expressed delight at the General Conference action. “We know our brothers and sisters from Cote d’Ivoire well. They are vital, self-supporting Christians with highly developed ministries of evangelism, social outreach, programs with women and young people, and French-speaking seminary training.”

The Cote d’Ivoire members voted unanimously to join the United Methodist Church. Before the addition of the Cote d’Ivoire, the United Methodist Church’s worldwide membership was about 10 million, including about 1.4 million in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The new conference in Cote d’Ivoire has five districts, two of which are missionary districts. Women and children make up a majority of its membership, said Boni, who explained that rumors about civil unrest in his nation should not be attributed to religious differences.

In Cote d’Ivoire, he explained, one-third of the population is Muslim, one-third is Christian and one-third is known as animist, a combination of several religions. “There is no religious problem,” Boni said. “We collaborate freely.”

Being integrated into the United Methodist Church has many implications, including the support of a bishop and the costs of taking part in denominationwide activities.

The General Conference resolution included the provision that the Cote d’Ivoire church will be responsible for funding its own bishop for the next four years. At the 2008 General Conference, it will have two delegates, one lay and one clergy.

Bishops in the United Methodist Church are supported by a central fund. Legislation is expected to be brought in 2008 to incorporate what will be called the Cote d’Ivoire Episcopal Area into that fund.

*Wright and Yocum are staff members of the Board of Global Ministries. Melissa Lauber, with the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference staff, contributed to this article.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.  After May 10: (615) 742-5470.


Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! 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-subscriptions
General Church
Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky presides as delegates hone their electronic voting skills during a practice election at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Ore. In response to the Commission on the General Conference’s decision to further postpone the 2020 General Conference until 2022, the Council of Bishops has called a special session of the General Conference to be convened online on May 8, 2021. File photo by Paul Jeffrey, UM News.

General Conference postponed until 2022

Organizers have postponed the full General Conference, including proposals for a church split, until 2022 when delegates can meet in person. A special one-day, virtual General Conference is planned for May 8.
General Church
An international group of General Conference delegates invited fellow United Methodists to envision a better way to be the church. Based in part on that feedback, the group is unveiling a new vision map offering ways to make room for all at God’s table. Graphic courtesy of Out of Chaos, Creation.

Delegates map out vision for church future

An international group of General Conference delegates asked United Methodists around the globe to help imagine a better way to be the church.
General Church
An informal group of General Conference delegates holds the first of two webinars Dec. 1. The delegates discussed feedback they have received from United Methodists about casting a new vision for the denomination. Screenshot of Zoom meeting by UM News.

Delegates discuss mapping new church vision

General Conference delegates shared some of the international feedback they have received about The United Methodist Church’s future.