End of long-standing impasse over audit issues will resume Global Ministries’ mission and ministry in East Africa
ATLANTA (May 2, 2023) — Pledging to move forward with mutual respect in mission and ministry together, leaders of the East Africa Episcopal Area (EAEA) and the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church (GBGM) have moved to restore their relationship and bring an end to a more than decade-long freeze on distribution of church and mission funds begun after internal audits raised questions about the episcopal area’s use of certain funds. A confidential agreement – approved by EAEA leaders and the GBGM Board of Directors – acknowledges the long-standing impasse over past audits, implements financial protocols and pledges to move forward with mutual respect.
The East Africa Episcopal Area, which had proactively implemented procedures to improve accounting practices, has agreed to the placement of a treasurer in the East Africa Episcopal Office, a position that will be funded by Global Ministries. The restoration of the relationship between the East Africa Episcopal Area and Global Ministries will allow for the future placement of missionaries in East Africa, as well as the resumption of programs and ministries in humanitarian aid, agriculture, global health and church revitalization.
Global Ministries General Secretary Roland Fernandes retained Holbrook Global, Ltd., an independent public auditing firm, in May 2022, to review the audit issues that had created the longstanding impasse and provide an independent assessment of the situation. A leadership group representing both the East Africa Episcopal Area and Global Ministries then met in Atlanta in January 2023 to review the assessment and discuss a resolution, an in-person meeting that had been long-delayed because of the pandemic.
Parties attending the January meeting met with the mutual intent of moving forward with a spirit of reconciliation and healing. The meeting was mediated by Council of Bishops President Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who also serves as the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) president and is a member of the Global Ministries board. It was attended by GBGM General Secretary Roland Fernandes and Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Episcopal Area, as well as the Rev. Dr. Martin Childs (with Bishop Wandabula); Rev. Dr. Karma Denise Kagoro (with Bishop Wandabula); Bishop Hee-Soo Jung (president, GBGM Board of Directors); Bishop Joaquina Nhanala (vice-president, GBGM Board of Directors); Bishop Hope Morgan Ward (chair, GBGM Board audit committee); and Lauren Holbrook (Holbrook Global, Ltd.; GBGM’s audit firm). Also present were General Council on Finance and Administration general secretary, the Rev. Moses Kumar, and Paul Demastus (LBMC, PC; GCFA’s audit firm), who will make their own decisions about EAEA at a future time.
“I am glad that we are now able to move past this long impasse while taking into consideration the issues that led to the impasse and working together to resolve them to everyone’s satisfaction,” said General Secretary Fernandes, while acknowledging the communication issues that had affected the relationship between Global Ministries and the East Africa Episcopal Area. “Moving forward together means that our mission with the people of East Africa will now be resumed, which has been a heavy burden on all of us.”
East Africa Episcopal Area Presiding Bishop Daniel Wandabula and other episcopal area leaders acknowledged the lack of appropriate documentation in certain instances and previous gaps in following best accounting principles. In commenting about the restoration of the relationship with Global Ministries, Bishop Wandabula said, “It has been a long journey and we celebrate this new beginning and the spirit exhibited by all stakeholders in resolving these long-standing issues.” He added: “This reconciliation is a milestone that will enhance the ministry of the four annual conferences in six countries that comprise the East Africa Episcopal Area. We look forward to working with Global Ministries and other partners in mission and ministry to God’s people in East Africa as we continue proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform the world.”
Acknowledging the Spirit at work during their meetings, EAEA and Global Ministries pledged to work together with transparency and with a spirit of full trust in the future. Bishop Bickerton commented on the genuine spirit of collaboration that was evident among all parties. “Guided, I believe, by the Holy Spirit, this mediated resolution represents what is possible when there is a willingness to sit at a common table and intentionally search for potential solutions,” he said. “After many years of conflict, my hope is that we all can rejoice that this matter has been resolved so that the mission and ministry of our church can resume as the central focus of our work.”
“We really thank God for the opportunity that was given to all of us to sit again at the table and talk together,” said Bishop Nhanala. “This is what Christians should do. Not that there will not be challenges; there will always be challenges, but we do not become enemies because there are challenges. When we come back, and we sit together, it is a testament, it is a witness to the world outside the church.” Bishop Jung added: “We came together seeking mutual support and mutual accountability, and God brought us together with forgiveness and wholeness to seek God’s mission. The Holy Spirit guides us in walking a new path to higher ground together in our missional relationship.”
The resumption of the relationship between East Africa Episcopal Area and Global Ministries will allow the East Africa Episcopal Area to once again receive funds for programs and ministries that have been implemented in other parts of Africa. Such funds typically support the placement of missionaries, support hospitals and health clinics, build churches and provide for sustainable agriculture programs, among other ministries. The resumption of these programs will impact the people of four annual conferences in six countries: Kenya/Ethiopia, Uganda/South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda Provisional conferences.
About East Africa Episcopal Area
Bishop Daniel Wandabula serves as episcopal leader of the East Africa Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church. He was elected bishop in 2006 at a special session of the Africa Central Conference held at Africa University in Zimbabwe, after Bishop Alfred Ndoricimpa died while in office in 2005. He was re-elected as United Methodist bishop for life in 2012. The headquarters of the East Africa Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church is located in Kampala, Uganda, and includes four annual conferences: Kenya/Ethiopia, Uganda/South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda Provisional conferences.
The General Board of Global Ministries is the worldwide mission and development agency of The United Methodist Church. Founded in 1819, Global Ministries today supports more than 200 missionaries in over 60 countries, including the United States. It has personnel, projects and partners in 115 countries. Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian relief agency of The United Methodist Church and is a part of Global Ministries.
For Global Ministries/UMCOR: Dan Curran, firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-658-9586.
For East Africa Episcopal Area: email@example.com.