Thursday, March 14, 2024

Jefferson Knight: Embracing Regionalization Over Disaffiliation: Safeguarding the Legacy of The United Methodist Church in Africa

Today's post is by Jefferson Knight. Knight is Program Director of the United Methodist Human Rights Monitor in Liberia and a delegate of the Liberia Annual Conference to the 2024 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In recent times, The United Methodist Church finds itself at a crossroads, facing a critical decision that could shape its future trajectory significantly. The proposal of disaffiliation has surfaced, threatening to disintegrate the UMC in Africa and erase the rich history and heritage that our forefathers have diligently preserved over generations. However, amidst this uncertainty, there exists a viable alternative - regionalization - that promises to uphold the unity and continuity of the church while honoring its legacy.

The United Methodist Church stands as a testament to the enduring faith and resilience of its members in Africa and world-wide who have upheld the teachings and traditions of the church with unwavering dedication. Throughout the centuries, African United Methodists have played a pivotal role in shaping the identity and mission of the church on the continent, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose among its members.

The richness of The United Methodist Church in Africa is not measured in gold or silver, but in the unwavering faith of its members, the resilience of its communities, and the love that binds us together. From the bustling streets of Monrovia to the remote villages of Zimbabwe, the message of hope and salvation preached by the church has touched the lives of millions.

When whispers began to circulate about disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church, some voices from across the ocean are suggesting that Africans should break away from the global denomination. But the leaders and members of the church in Africa stand firm, our faith unshaken. We do not need anyone to tell us how to practice our faith. The Holy Bible remains supreme in our hearts and our minds. We will not waver in our devotion to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The prospect of disaffiliation poses a significant threat to the cohesion and stability of the UMC in Africa. By severing ties with the global denomination, African United Methodists risk isolating themselves from a broader network of support and resources, potentially leading to fragmentation and discord within the church. Moreover, disaffiliation could result in the loss of vital connections with sister churches worldwide, hindering opportunities for collaboration and mutual growth.

Furthermore, the dissolution of the UMC in Africa through disaffiliation would represent a profound loss of heritage and history for the church. The legacy of our forefathers, who labored tirelessly to establish and nurture The United Methodist Church in Africa, would be jeopardized, leaving future generations disconnected from their roots and traditions. The wealth of knowledge and experience accumulated over centuries would be at risk of being forgotten and diluted if the church were to splinter and disperse.

In contrast, regionalization offers a path forward that preserves the unity and continuity of The United Methodist Church in Africa and elsewhere while honoring its heritage and legacy. By aligning with neighboring regions and forming a cohesive network within the global denomination, African United Methodists can maintain their connection to the broader church body while fostering a sense of solidarity and shared purpose.

Regionalization provides a framework for collaboration and shared decision-making, enabling African United Methodists to retain autonomy and agency within the church while benefiting from the resources and support of the global denomination. By embracing regionalization, the UMC in Africa can ensure its continued existence and relevance in an ever-changing world, upholding the values and principles that have guided the church for generations.

We are United Methodists in Africa, and we will remain faithful until the day our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, returns.

In conclusion, The United Methodist Church stands at a pivotal moment in its history, faced with a choice that will shape its future for years to come. By rejecting disaffiliation and embracing regionalization, African United Methodists can safeguard the legacy and heritage of the church while promoting unity and continuity within the global denomination. Let us honor the sacrifices of our forefathers and preserve the rich tapestry of history that defines The United Methodist Church, ensuring its enduring presence and relevance for generations to come.

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