United Methodists in Nigeria focus on future

Nigeria Area Bishop John Wesley Yohanna speaks at a roundtable discussion in Lagos, Nigeria, in March. Organized by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the three-day roundtable focused on the future of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria. Photo by the Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel, UMNS.
Nigeria Area Bishop John Wesley Yohanna speaks at a roundtable discussion in Lagos, Nigeria, in March. Organized by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the three-day roundtable focused on the future of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria. Photo by the Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel, UMNS.

The United Methodist Church in Nigeria held a roundtable in Lagos, Nigeria, last month to develop a strategic plan for the future of the church.

Organized by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the three-day roundtable included more than 50 participants from the four annual conferences in Nigeria, as well as partners from the Iowa and Great Plains conferences and members of United Methodist general boards and agencies.

The roundtable meeting gave The United Methodist Church in Nigeria the opportunity to develop a clear mission statement and strategic plan for the next six years when the church will celebrate its centenary.

“This roundtable has helped our church to be more focused in mission, pushing us to put our faith into action,” said Ahmed A. Ahmed, a young adult who participated in the event.

The six-year plan includes providing micro-finance loans to women who run small businesses; strengthening health services; enhancing education and leadership development by upgrading Bayam Theological Seminary to a university; establishing a task force committee to promote reconciliation between the tribal faction of the church; enhancing evangelism and discipleship and empowering local congregations through agricultural training and initiatives. 

During opening worship, Nigeria Area Bishop John Wesley Yohanna traced the history of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria back to 1923, when the first Christian missionaries with Methodist ties arrived in Bambur, Karim Lamido. Since then, the denomination has grown substantially, with a large presence in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, as well as nine other states.

Yohanna said the March 6-8 roundtable discussion was urgent due to Nigeria’s economic struggles and population boom.

More than 70 percent of the country’s United Methodists live in the Northeastern area, the poorest and least developed region in terms of infrastructural development and education.

Yohanna said establishing a university in the region is a necessity to support the growing young membership, most of whom cannot afford current higher education options.

A global commodity slump has plunged Nigeria into its worst economic crisis in two decades and pushed youth unemployment through the roof. According to the National Bureau for Statistics, more than 45 percent of the country’s 69 million youth are either unemployed or underemployed. The bureau estimates that Nigeria’s population has surpassed 193 million, exceeding earlier predictions. 

“The need for the global bodies of The United Methodist Church to partner with (the church) in Nigeria is now more necessary than ever,” Yohanna said. “The current religio-political and socio-economic situation in Nigeria must serve as a clarion call for The United Methodist Church in Nigeria and its international partners to come up with supports, programs and campaigns aimed at improving the conditions of United Methodists and other people in Nigeria.”

Speaking at the end of the roundtable, the Rev. Abel Lamido, superintendent of the Southern Nigeria Annual Conference, spoke on behalf of the conferences.

“The roundtable made the African concepts of ‘ubuntu’ more practical as it makes us decide where we want to all go and becoming a church that God wants us to be.”

In closing, Doris Jenis, leader of United Methodist Women for the Northern Nigeria Annual Conference, thanked the organizers and participants and prayed that, “God will bless the strategic plan to yield more fruit for the transformation of the world.” 

The Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel is conference secretary of the Southern Nigeria Annual Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5470.

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