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Kenyan Congregations Join Global Methodist Church

By Walter B. Fenton
September 6, 2023

Clergy and lay leaders in Kenya announce that 58 local churches voted to separate from The United Methodist Church and join the Global Methodist Church at an annual conference gathering on August 24, 2023.

Fifty-eight local United Methodist congregations in Kenya voted to withdraw from The United Methodist Church and then announced they would align with the Global Methodist Church. The congregations made their decision at the UM Church’s Kenya–Ethiopia Annual Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 24, 2023.

“Our exit stemmed from major differences between ourselves and Bishop Daniel Wandabula [leader of the UM Church’s East Africa Episcopal Area] and a UM Church that appears increasingly dominated by progressives based in the U.S.,” said the Rev. Wilton Odongo, the Kenya–Ethiopia Annual Conference’s Secretary and the Superintendent of its Nairobi District. “Even though our faith convictions, beliefs, practices, and ethics remain consistent with the UMC’s Book of Discipline, they are out of step with where Bishop Wandabula and progressive UMC leaders in the U.S. are apparently determined to take the denomination. Since we have been Methodists traditionally, we still wanted to be within the Methodist family, so we decided it is good for us to join the GMC.”

In addition to the 58 local churches planning to join the GM Church, Odongo said 16 other local churches planted in the past year have also indicated they will join the GM Church as well. He believes other local UM churches in Kenya and also Ethiopia will make the transition to the new denomination as their learn more about their options.

“We of course regret division in the Church,” said Ms. Cara Nicklas, the Chairwoman of the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council, “however, we are thankful the laypeople and clergy of these local churches in Kenya are putting conflict behind them and choosing to unite with brothers and sisters who share their core Christian convictions. We will joyfully welcome them to the Global Methodist Church!”

A provision passed at the UM Church’s special called 2019 General Conference has allowed approximately six thousand local congregations in the U.S. to disaffiliate from the denomination. The UM Church’s Council of Bishops decreed that the disaffiliation provision was only applicable to U.S. churches. Consequently, members in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines have, like the clergy and lay leaders in Kenya, used other methods for extracting their local churches from the UM denomination.

“We desire our local churches to grow,” said Odongo, “We want our churches to be rooted in a Wesleyan expression of the Christian faith, in its history, doctrines, and theology, and also in Methodist polity and liturgy. Our hope is that as many Kenyan clergy as are aligned with the GMC will be afforded the opportunity to register for theological training and acquire leadership principles so the church in Kenya will grow and flourish. We pray God will provide funds for scholarships for our GMC pastors so they can enroll in formal theological training.”

Odongo noted that a wide circle of clergy and lay leaders made it possible for the 58 local churches to exit, but he specifically cited the efforts of Rev. Kephas Otieno Oloo, Superintendent of the Nyanza District; and Rev. Rosemary Iserene Wandera, Superintendent of the Busia District, and lay leaders Dr. Ken Mollo, Mr. Chrispinus Wafula Mugwanga, and Deacon Alice Wasilwa.

In a sign that the separation will be an amicable one, the Kenya–Ethiopia Annual Conference leaders appointed an ad hoc committee composed of an equal number of persons representing departing churches and those remaining to develop a plan for handling the disposition of conference property. The ad hoc committee is to deliver its plan by October 31, 2023, to a special session of the annual conference where the plan will be considered and voted upon.

“I am grateful for the bold, principled leadership of our Kenyan brothers and sisters,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, Chief Connectional Officer of the GM Church. “Denied justice by their bishop in the ruling that there was no pathway for them to make their own decision about their future, they courageously made their decision and acted on their convictions. The GM Church is eager to work closely with them to organize the churches and clergy in Kenya in advancing the gospel unencumbered by the conflict they previously encountered.”

You can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website.

The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.

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