Amidst UMC’s Affirmation Of Homosexuality: United Methodist Africa Forum Denounces Gay Rights

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The United Methodist Church (UMC) in Africa, under the umbrella United Methodist Africa Forum (UMAF), has declined to endorse homosexuality, as has been affirmed by the United Methodist Church that sexuality is “God’s good gift to all persons”; as such, believes human rights and civil liberties are due all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

   However, the UMC in Africa has refused to break away from the UMC, as it was predicted that they would have formed the Global Methodist Church; instead, affirmed and approved the name United Methodist Africa Forum (UMAF) as an association of United Methodists that aims to promote, support and foster unity in the United Methodist Church in Africa, encouraging the Africa Central Conferences to revive the spirit of evangelism.

   At its first sitting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 21—22, 2023, the United Methodist Africa Forum (UMAF) upheld what is stated in the UMC Book of Discipline, paragraph 304.3, regarding homosexuality—that it is incompatible with Christian teaching.

   Paragraph 304.3 of the UMC Book of Discipline reads, “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching; therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

   The stance taken by UMAF is in sharp contrast to the UMC’s original belief and constitutional principle of inclusiveness of the church. The UMC upholds the belief that “everyone is welcome to worship and actively participate in the life of our churches. Laypersons may become members and live out their faith through their local church without respect to sexual orientation or practice”.

   Even though the African UMC differed with the stance on homosexuality, they resolved to support the unity of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Africa, recognizing and supporting the September 2022 African Bishops’ statement against the separation of the UMC.

   On September 8, 2022, the African Bishops resolved to dissociate from any activities of the Africa Initiative, which was geared toward breaking away from the UMC and establishing the Global Methodist Church, and vowed not to allow any activities of the Africa Initiative in their areas; not to allow or entertain any activities of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, whom they said are wrongly influencing God’s people; and not to tolerate anyone giving false information about the United Methodist Church.

Council of Bishops

   Earlier in 2019, the African Bishops noted that they have made two public statements to the general Church in September 2015 and September 2018, in which they are agreed as follows: “That as an African Church, we do not accept nor support the practice of homosexuality because it is incompatible with the teachings of the Scripture; that we do not accept any plan that calls for the dissolution of the church and, by default, the closure of General Agencies; that even if the United Methodist Church splits, Africa will continue to be a United Methodist Church; and that we will continue to be an evangelical, missional and Bible-focused church that is both global and connectional.”

   In a press release issued April 24, 2023, the UMAF called on all United Methodists across Africa to reject the call to split and dis-unite the UMC. The forum recommended investing in agriculture, real estate, mining, transportation, partnership with corporate institutions, and tithing for the sustainability of the UMC in Africa.

   In the release, the UMAF also called for the establishment and investment in relevant theological education and training to address the increasing growth of the UMC in Africa, and encouraged the delegates to gather in central conferences before the General Conference to enable the African delegates to bring issues confronting Africa to be addressed together.

   The UMAF also called for the UMC to address the special needs of children and youths in Christian Education, develop strategic plans that would promote growth and sustainability of the UMC in Africa and adopt the revised 2020 social principles.

   The forum adopted an Operational Document as the tool that will be used for the operation of the UMAF, and expressed support for the future of the unity of the UMC through regionalization based on the proposed Christmas Covenant Legislation to the postponed 2020 General Convention (GC) of the UMC.

   The UMAF also affirmed and approved the election of the leadership team of UMAF, which includes Rev. Lloyd Nyarota as the General Coordinator, Regional Coordinators, General Secretary, Associate Secretaries, Treasurer, and Advisors.

   The UMAF directed the appropriate officers of committees to take all necessary actions to implement the adopted recommendations. The forum expressed its appreciation to the committee for its diligent work and valuable recommendations.

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