Episcopal Address to the Liberia Annual Conference

Gbarnga, Gompa, Jorquelleh, Tappita
and Lofa River District Conferences

Held with the
St. John United Methodist Church
Gbarnga City, Bong County
Republic of Liberia

MARCH 17-21, 2021
Text: PSALM 46:1 -11

Ministerial & Lay Members
Brothers & Sisters in Christ

”And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give for His Almighty grace
Preserved by power divine to full salvation here
Again in Jesus’ praise we join and in His sight appear.
What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past,
Fightings without and fears within, since we assembled last
Yet out of all the Lord hath brought us by His love
And still He doth His help afford, and hides our life above.”

How appropriate to cite this great hymn penned by Charles Wesley as we gather for Holy Conferencing commemorating our 188th Session of the Liberia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, as I am convinced that we have so much to give thanks to God for in the midst of a world literally overcome by the COVID-19. Yet, in the midst of such pandemic, we are able to be alive and see each other’s face. Indeed, glory and thanks we give to Jesus for His almighty grace.

I stand on the promises of God as your Episcopal brother and leader to fulfill my disciplinary responsibilities to preside at Annual Conference sessions and give an Update as to where we are as a Church and the people called United Methodists in the Liberia Episcopal Area.

The conference year under review witnessed painful disruption in our public worship celebrations, yet we worshipped our Creator God where we found ourselves and continued to carry out the business of the Church — thanks be to God! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conventional ministry as we have been accustomed to had to be creatively carried out being quite mindful of mask wearing, social distancing and size limitation. Hence, our ability to effectively do ministry was handicapped but not crippled.

Progress In the Midst of Challenges
COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, our various districts report that worship services were held, converts made, baptism, continuation and reception into our Church done. The spiritual life and health of our Church must at all times be measured by the way we reach out and touch God’s people in God’s world by our prayers, presence, gifts and service. I am also pleased to report that COVID-19 notwithstanding, all of our districts were able to hold District Conferences and report that our districts are heading in the right direction. Thanks be to God for the spiritual and administrative leadership of our Superintendents and the support given them by the Laity.

l further report that I was able to attend some of the District Conference, especially in the Central Region along with my wife and truly enjoyed the fellowship and witnessed the spiritual growth obtaining in these districts. We must continue to be Crusaders for Christ and especially in the midst of the pandemic, we must do as Jesus did when the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written: ”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor, he has sent me to announce release, pardon, forgiveness to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, downtrodden, bruised and crushed by tragedy.”

We, the people called United Methodists, in this Liberia Episcopal Area are a peculiar people, a people whose hearts and minds must always reflect the Jesus moments. Yea, in the midst of COVID-19 and the resurgence of Ebola in neighboring Guinea, we must still evangelize, still preach the good news to the poor, in spite of daunting economic circumstances, we must still preach the good news, forgiving each other and reconciling our differences as a Church and Nation. We must encourage, affirm and support those who feel downtrodden, bruised and crushed by tragedy by proclaiming the lord’s favor upon them.

Moreover, I call on all of our clergy men and women to live their lives as examples for the people they minister to daily. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus Christ, our Lord enjoined us to be vigilant in these words:

You are the saft of the earth .. But if the salt loses its saltiness,
how will It come salty again? … You are the light of the world.
A city on top of a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light
a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on
top of a lampstand. And it shines on all who are in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before people,
so they can see the good things you do and praise your
Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:13-16 CEB).

Therefore, let us lead exemplary lives as pastors, district superintendents and laypeople of The United Methodist Church!

What We Do Now – A Sustain able Agricultural Approach
I am of the opinion that no nation can become vibrant and develop economically and socially in the absence of food security driven by a robust agricultural sector. There can be no excuse for the church not to lead and not just any church, but The United Methodist Church in Liberia.
The United Methodist Rural and Agricultural Development Program (UMRADP) must contextualize its approaches to reflect productive processes and mechanism that would yield productive results within the agricultural sector.

For many years, I just cannot fathom how is it that in Liberia we are exporting rubber and importing rice? What a paradox? Is our soil more fertile for rubber than rice? Or, is it that we have adopted an attitude that has distorted our taste buds yearning for imported rice than our highly rich in vitamins Liberian Country Rice? The United Methodist Church must take the lead and I am entreating, encouraging and directing UMRADP to redouble its efforts in our quest to have a sustainable agricultural program. A challenge I give to UMRADP is by the time we gather next year by the grace of God, we should show case rice and other agricultural crops grown by The United Methodist Church.

I am encouraging member churches to start small to medium agricultural initiatives – church yard gardens where you have the space to do so, especially our churches that are located out of the cities – plant cash crops, pepper, bitter balls, plantain, pineapple, potato greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, eddoes, cassava, etc. Your church yard gardens can gradually transform into small farms. The Liberia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church will provide technical support to local churches starting farms and gardens. Thanks be to God for the progress being made by
UMRADP at White Plains and also the Ganta Mission Station’s Agricultural Program (see their reports).

Sustainable Investments
“He, who increases his wealth by interest and usury, gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor.” (Proverbs 28:8)

As a Church we must be mindful of the future and how the life and work of the Church can be propagated. How we raise and contribute funds to the work of our Church and how it is expended should drive us to think in new and creative ways as stewards of the gifts God has given to us. I am convinced that we should invest our time, effort, money and actions in activities and investments that will yield a profitable return in the future. We must become wise investors in all aspects of our lives so that as a church, as we are blessed with the sufficiency of God’s grace, we will also be able to see the availability in abundance of financial resources through wise investments.

While the Liberia United Methodist Endowment Foundation was birthed out of great and helpful thoughts to see the Church Invest in the future, it is now time to rethink our strategy moving forward. Hence, I am proposing the setting up of an Investment Commission. An anonymous author said “Investment is an asset or item that is purchased with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future. That is the hope of the proposed United Methodist Investment Commission which will see me consulting with experts within our Annual Conference to develop the best investment models that would reap rapid and genuine returns that would serve to enhance the work of our Conference for the people of God.

Part of my vision is to see our Church have a Development Corporation where we can invest in Real Estate and other tangibles, safe, but long and short form investments that would give our Church financial viability. It is possible for we, United Methodists are a great people and whatever we
put our minds to, we can achieve.

UMC Following 2022 General Conference and the Gracious Separation
Fellow United Methodists, by now you are all aware that the global United Methodist Church is at a crossroads At the next General Conference which has been postponed to August there is the high probability that our beloved United Methodist Church may cease to exist as we know it today This is because the church is due to amicably separate into two or more denominations, a traditionalist denomination, and a progressive denomination. This will be the case if the 2022 General Conference adopts the implementing legislation for the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation that is properly before it.

The traditionalist wing of our denomination, with which the Liberia Annual Conference identifies basically upholds our denomination’s current Doctrinal and moral standards, teaches the biblical, traditional understanding of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman; and considers the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian living.

This wing of our church does not bless homosexual marriages and does not ordain for ministry practicing homosexual persons. The Traditionalist position is the official position of the global United Methodist Church since it was founded in 1968. On the other hand, the Centrists/Progressives wing of our denomination advocates for the consecration of bishops and clergy who have homosexual partners, the blessing and celebration of homosexual marriages, and the ordination of LGBTQ persons for ministry in our church. Since 1972 General Conference, the Progressive members of our church have put forward tons of petitions for a change in the language of our constitution to accommodate this lifestyle without success because it is just not biblical. Despite General Conference’s repeated reaffirmations of our church’s teachings on all these issues, the Centrist-Progressive wing of the church continues to undermine the General Conference decisions by their action of disobedience.

In recent years, they have become not only defiant to decision of General Conference on these issues but violent with impunity. A significant number of our fellow bishops now support this cause against the will of the General Conference which is the highest decision-making body within global United Methodism. The Evangelical/Traditionalist Wing of the church has also reached to the point where she can no longer tolerate a rebellion that undermines the spiritual health and growth of the church. Because of this situation, we have become deeply divided. And our differences have reached to the point of ir-reconciliation. It was against this background that the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace was negotiated by 16 UMC leaders to divide the Church. This process was headed by the late Bishop John K. Yambasu of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference. The global church has generally concluded that given the deep division that exists, an amicable separation is necessary so both wings of the church may go their separate ways to do ministry as they know best. By pursuing the path of gracious separation, every local church, annual or central conference becoming a part of either the Evangelical/Traditionalist Wing of the church or the Progressive Wing of the church will go their separate ways along with all of their properties.

In view of all this development, what then is the anticipated position of the Liberia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church when the gracious separation happens? First of all, we are uncompromising regarding our commitment to remain obedient disciples of Jesus Christ, and to growing the church in Liberia and Africa consistent with the traditional teaching of the Bible. Our objective is to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ banded together in the common mission to which we have been called by the Father, to be obedient to Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, ensuring that everyone hears the Gospel, and that those who respond become fully committed followers of Jesus. Therefore, when division happens, the Liberia Annual will look forward to partnering with other United Methodist traditionalists all around the world to create a truly global Methodist church that is rooted in Scripture, and the great teachings of the Christian faith down through the ages. We want to be a part of the traditionalist Methodist Church that will make disciples of Jesus Christ. When the separation happens, we are aware that we may lose some of our current partners who are supporting some of our major projects. But we rather stand on the side of the Scripture and truth, than to compromise our faith in the Scripture and disobey Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. We are also confident that the God whom we serve is not broke! God will sustain God’s Church. Our responsibility is to be obedient disciples. This is where I stand and this is where I invite all United Methodists in Liberia to stand along with me as we move into the future service to Jesus Christ. Amen

Education/United Methodist University
My Fellow United Methodists and Friends, we need a massive overhaul of our educational system. While many of our schools may need physical repairs, our ·instructional staff and materials need to be strengthened and deeper commitment exhibited. People who graduate from our schools
need to be well equipped and unafraid to challenge anything educationally, for the United Methodist Church is best known for Education and Leadership Development.

Our United Methodist University has become an immediate focus for me. In the coming days and weeks you will hear of changes and reorganization at our University aimed at strengthening the University, improving the overall personnel, infrastructure, as well as academic and to make the
University students friendly. Pray along with us.

During the period under review, the cold hands of death struck the flock and took away some of our members. Those who were called from labor
to rest include, but not limited to:
Rev. Rose Cummings, Retired minister
Bro. D. Benedict Freeman, from J. J. Roberts UMS
Bro. Jacob Gaytayn, former YAF President, Monrovia District
Mother Rachel Barchue
Mother Cecelia Walbuck
Fth. T. Esau Carr – former Trustee Board Chair
Bro. Cyrus Saye, – Lay leader, Gompa District, amongst others.
The full and complete listing will be heard during the memorial service.
We also remember the late Bishop John K. Yambasu, former Bishop of the
Sierra Leone Conference.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed saints, rest in
perpetual peace, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given by Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:4).
God’s graciousness has been sufficient for me and my family as I give God all the praise and honor for protecting and sustaining all of us to be able to gather again as a Conference. I thank my God for all of you my dear Sisters and Brothers for the work we continue to do together. My staff led by my Administrative Assistant, Rev. J. Joel Gould, I am grateful.

My Cabinet, led by the Dean, Rev. P. Karyidia Gartor, for their unrelenting posture and dutiful support to the work of our Annual Conference as they lead our various Districts and Circuits. Grateful thanks to our Pastors and our Lay people who together make sacrifices. To all the ministries and
agencies, Chairpersons and Directors, our various heads, councils and committees of our Conference. Thank You!!!

An African proverb says: If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together. As a Conference, we have been walking far and gaining success in our ministry because our Partners have been with us in ministry from the United States of America, Europe, Africa and the
rest of the world, for which I am most grateful.

A world of thanks to everyone, all my people called United Methodists in the Liberia Area for your gracious support to our Church. Without you, we would not have gotten this far, for in your various areas and ministries you have fought the good fight and we have won small battles for the
advancement of the kingdom of God. Because of what you continue to do, we can truly say … ”thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In Chapter 14 of is book, God Distorted under the caption God is Fully Pleased. John Bishop quotes Mark Twain: “God puts something good and loveable in every person His hands create.”

To my Partner, Richlain, I am full pleased for indeed when God made you, God put something good and loveable in you. Thanks to my dear children for their support. May God be praised!!!

As I conclude this address, I want us to be mindful of the trying times we are in; COVID-19 crisis is still a threat; the splitting of The United Methodist Church still looms; daunting financial and economic situation overwhelms the ministry of the Church. But amidst these challenges, Christ
is still on the vessel.

I call on each one of you, United Methodists, to be strong and courageous despite all the difficulties.

If we remain faithful to God, united in our faith and practice, I believe no matter the circumstances, no matter the challenges, God will see us through and we will know that “‘God is God”.

May God bless us and prosper the works of our hands and save His Church.