At the same time, I learned early on that when I trusted the local leadership, they would take care of things in a wonderful way. Our trains, planes, and buses would be met, local security would watch our stuff, people would go out of their way to see to our needs. Meetings would be set up for, resources I had asked for would be ready. People were glad to have our help (such as it was), and eager to make the most of it. When I looked at how they ran their own work, I was also impressed. The Tanzanians and Congolese leaders I have met are dedicated and competent. They work for little pay, in difficult conditions, and they get results.
The bottom line is, I respect my African brothers and sisters in Christ.
The prospect of a United Methodist Church in which overseas United Methodists, particularly from Africa, have an equal say in all matters concerning The UMC does not phase me. The idea that in a few quadrennia, Africans might become a majority of all General Conference delegates causes me merely to shrug. I am embarrassed by those – mostly white progressives from America -- who mutter patronizing or disparaging things about our African members, or who believe that because Americans put up most of the money, they should get to call the tune. If a conservative like myself had said such things, the progs would call me a racist, a colonialist, and someone who believes his money can buy him special power and privilege. Well, such muttering is not less racist, less colonialist, and less privileged when progressives say it.
And it’s not just muttering any more. Mainstream UMC and other progressive interest groups are now making such arguments for all to see. I apologize to my African brothers and sisters for their remarks. I value their participation. I rejoice in their successes. I am humbled by their faithfulness. In all ways, I wish to remain united with them in the service of Christ. And, while we’re at it, I appreciate their firm stand for the truth as revealed in the Scriptures.
In ancient times, African Christians included many thriving churches and many of our greatest theologians. Simon of Cyrene carried the cross of Jesus on Good Friday. The Ethiopian baptized by Stephen stands at the head of a long line of faithful Copts. Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo helped define Christian doctrine and develop Christian practice. A truly catholic Church understands that God calls people from all nations into his kingdom and calls individuals from all backgrounds to leadership. As we look backward with gratitude for the achievements of the African Church, so we look forward with expectation to the contributions of today and tomorrow by our African brothers and sisters.