The Africa Initiative, a unofficial caucus group of African United Methodists with ties to conservative American United Methodist caucus groups, met a few weeks ago in Nairobi, Kenya. Among other discussions and trainings, the group discussed proposed legislation for the upcoming called General Conference in February 2019. The group endorsed the Traditional Plan. You can read a UMNS article by African journalist E. Julu Swen about the meeting here.
The meeting has received some pushback from African United Methodists living in the United States. For examples, see articles by Albert Otshudi Longe and Kalaba Chali.
Amid the meeting and its criticism, there are four points worth highlighting:
1. Not all Africans think the same. There are debates in Africa, just as there are in the US, even if they are not the same debates.
2. While American traditionalists and progressives are promoting various African voices, we should be careful to not just read these African voices as presenting the same set of views as their American allies. Africans have their own takes on issues and their own takes on which issues are most worthy of the church's focus.
3. Both Chali and Longe are living in the United States. One can interpret their critiques of the Africa Initiative in a variety of ways, but one interpretation is to see a distinction between the views individual Africans hold and the views Africans feel free to express publicly in Africa. Many African cultures emphasize deference to communal norms to a much greater degree and individual expression to a much lesser degree than does US culture.
4. Swen's article alludes to conflicts between the Africa Initiative and the African bishops. Three of the thirteen African bishops were at the Nairobi meeting, but the relationship between the Africa Initiative and the bishops as a whole, along with the different strategies each adopt in advance of General Conference 2019, may actually be the determining factor for how African delegates approach that General Conference and thus the result of the conference.