Friday, July 22, 2022

Recommended Reading: Africa Initiative Calls for Episcopal Elections

Following a meeting in Nairobi in May, the Africa Initiative released a statement last month that, among other things, calls for episcopal elections to be held this year. The several page document, which reflects discussions held at its Nairobi meeting, reiterates its opposition to any form of accommodation with those accepting of homosexuality, reiterates its disappointment in the further postponement of General Conference to 2024, and explains its invitation of leaders of the Global Methodist Church to present to the group as a form of open information sharing. It also reiterates support of the Protocol, though there are separate indications ([1], [2]) that there is some dissension within the Africa Initiative about the strategy of waiting for the Protocol to pass in 2024.

The most significant new development within the Africa Initiative statement is a call at the end to hold episcopal elections in the three African central conferences by the end of the year. The statement asserts that not holding such elections "would be considered by us as marginalization; and a gross denial of the rights of the UMC in Africa to exercise its spiritual democracy by electing its new episcopal leaders as will the jurisdictions in the United States."

The Africa Initiative's point about equality among the regions of the globe is certainly well taken. The episcopacy and episcopal elections do not function the same everywhere in the world, raising the question of whether that represents contextualization, inequality, or both.

There may, however, be additional motives for the Africa Initiative to push for episcopal elections. Three out of the four bishops set to retire in Africa are criticized within the Africa Initiative document for alleged mistreatment of African United Methodists aligned with US Traditionalists. Thus, pushing for episcopal elections may also be a way for the Africa Initiative to try to elect episcopal leadership that will treat its members more favorably.

The decision about whether to call episcopal elections in Africa ultimately rests with the central conference, in conversation with the African bishops themselves and international partners who typically support the meeting of African central conferences.

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