Friday, December 2, 2022

Recommended Viewing: American UMs Interviewing African UMs

The African bishops' statement earlier this fall caught many Americans by surprise. In some instances, though, the release of the statement motivated American United Methodists to want to better understand dynamics in The United Methodist Church in Africa. Two such United Methodists have released video interviews of their conversation with African United Methodist leaders.

Rev. Jeffrey Rickman of Nowata and Delaware UMCs in Oklahoma has started a video podcast called "Plainspoken." As part of that podcast, he has interviewed three African leaders:

Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah of the Liberia Annual Conference

Rev. Ande Emmanuel of the South Nigeria Annual Conference

Mr. Simon Mafunda of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference

Rev. Rickman intends to produce more such video interviews as well.

Rev. John Stephens of Chapelwood UMC in Houston has a long-running video podcast, "Pod Have Mercy." Recently, he interviewed Bishop Mande Muyombo of the North Katanga Episcopal Area.

The interviewers and interviewees all have distinct views on and vested interests in the present situation in The United Methodist Church, as do many United Methodists. Thus, some claims may need to be taken with a grain of salt or compared with others across the interviews for a comprehensive picture.

What is particularly interesting about the interviews, though, is two things:

First, to see the interactions between American and African United Methodists when Americans come to those conversations with a real interest in learning, as Revs. Rickman and Stephens do. More such conversations need to be happening in the denomination.

Second, it is interesting to see how, although the four Africans interviewed have very different takes on denominational politics, they do affirm some common themes: the need for Africans to have a greater voice in the denomination, the desire to avoid American control or manipulation of the church in Africa, and the potential problems introduced by American money into the relationship between Americans and Africans. They may differ on the politics of realizing such a vision or what the roadblocks to that vision are, but the vision articulated has significant commonalities.

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