Thursday, May 30, 2024

Recommended Reading: Bishop Nhiwatiwa's Autobiography

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, the soon-to-retire bishop of Zimbabwe, has recently published an autobiography with Abingdon: By the Grace of God: My Life as an African Bishop. The book is well worth a read, especially for US United Methodists. Here are six reasons why:

1. Bishop Nhiwatiwa's loyalty to The United Methodist Church and his leadership in the African Colleges of Bishops were an important factor in preparing African delegates to General Conference to support regionalization. You get a sense of this in his sermon at General Conference. His autobiography explains how he grew up in The United Methodist Church and where his loyalty to that church comes from. His story is an important window for US United Methodists into understanding similar African perspectives as we work together for the ratification of regionalization.

2. As African United Methodists come to compose more of the denomination's members and much of its areas of growth, it's important for United Methodists in the US to understand the variety of perspectives and experiences among African United Methodists so that together we can work for the good of the denomination and the kin(g)dom of God. Bishop Nhiwatiwa's autobiography represents a significant opportunity to do that in English in a format that's readily available in the US.

3. In his autobiography, Bishop Nhiwatiwa is reflective on how cultural practices in Zimbabwe shaped his life and his faith. Thus, his autobiography is an opportunity to learn not just generally about African perspectives but also more specifically about the relationship between culture and faith in Zimbabwe and in a broader sense, Africa generally.

4. Bishop Nhiwatiwa studied in the United States in college. Thus, the book also contains his reflections on his experiences in the US and on US culture. This opportunity to learn how some of our fellow denominational members see us is an important opportunity for US United Methodists to better understand ourselves and how we come off to those with whom we are in partnership.

5. In his work as bishop, Bishop Nhiwatiwa is famous for promoting the concept of "chabadza" mission partnerships. This is a significant contribution to mission thinking by a practical United Methodist mission leader. Bishop Nhiwatiwa's concept of chabadza partnership deserves more attention and study, especially as the church ponders what a decolonial mission future looks like.

6. Bishop Nhiwatiwa is also a student of leadership, and he reflects throughout the book on his understanding of leadership. Leadership is both a universal human experience and a culturally-conditioned practice. For both of those reasons, Bishop Nhiwatiwa's insights into leadership are worth exploring.


  1. David, how would you reconcile Bishop Nhiwatiwa's UMC loyalty with his recent leadership of demonstrations against General Conference actions removing the anti-LGBTQ

  2. Sorry, finger slipped ... removing the anti-LGBTQ bans and "incompatible" language? Secular reports predict Zimbabwe will split with the UMC, but that's not what Nhiwatiwa preached at GC.

    1. I saw the secular report that you linked in your article last week. My understanding from the article was that Bishop Nihwatiwa was not involved in the protests. The article references the protesters "petitioning" Bishop Nhiwatiwa, but not his response. I understood this as a vocal group of Traditionalists in Zimbabwe protesting, but not reflective of Bishop Nhiwatiwa's own position or necessarily the position of the majority of United Methodists in Zimbabwe.