Nigeria Area Bishop John Wesley Yohanna said Nigeria is likely to get one of the five bishops The United Methodist Church plans to add in Africa after 2020. Other church leaders in Nigeria agreed.
Yohanna spoke about the need for another bishop at the inauguration service of the new North East Annual Conference held in Karim Maundi, a small community in Karim Lamido in March.
General Conference 2016 delegates narrowly defeated an effort to add two bishops right away, in Nigeria and in Zimbabwe. Instead, they favored the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to add five bishops after General Conference 2020.
The West Africa Central Conference approved the creation of the North East Nigeria Annual Conference at their meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in December 2016. The headquarters of the new conference are in Karim Maundi.
“With this development, the number of annual conferences in Nigeria is four and we are ready for an additional episcopal area in 2020,” Yohanna said.
Nigeria has more than 180 million people spread out over 356,669 square miles.
The United Methodist Church in Nigeria has about 700,000 members in over 15 states. The churches and United Methodist institutions are scattered all over the country, making the need for an additional episcopal area a necessity, said the Rev. Luka C. Kiki, superintendent of the Eugene Wesley District of the Southern Nigeria Conference.
With church members “scattered all over the country, it is clearly impossible for one bishop to oversee this huge area,” Kiki said.
The youth director of the Central Nigeria Conference Ahmed A. Ahmed said the need is greater because the church is growing “despite the challenge of insecurity that has engulfed the country lately.”
In the past four years, more than 10,000 people have died in Nigeria as a result of various insurgencies, tribal conflict and conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
Doris Jenis, the president of United Methodist Women in the Northern Nigeria Conference, expects that if a new episcopal area is approved, new infrastructure will be needed.
“I see Central Nigeria Annual Conference, North East Nigeria Annual Conference and the church in Abuja, the capital city of the nation, constructing a befitting headquarters; this is a good sign of our physical and spiritual growth. I am happy with these developments,” she said.
Bishop Yohanna encouraged the United Methodists gathered for the inauguration of the new conference to be united in body and spirit, to be of one mind in building the kingdom of God here on earth.
He added that the new annual conference will succeed if there is unity among church members in Nigeria. The bishop emphasized that his leadership is focusing on the Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church. He said the strategic plan of the church focuses on providing education, qualitative and affordable health care, community empowerment through agriculture, peace building and conflict resolutions, and empowerment of women and youth.
Emmanuel is the conference secretary for the Southern Nigeria Conference.