WMC Names Bishop Yambasu as Recipient of 2020 World Methodist Peace Award

The World Methodist Council (WMC) has named the late Bishop John K. Yambasu as the recipient of the World Methodist Peace Award for 2020. Bishop Yambasu served as The United Methodist Church (UMC) resident bishop of Sierra Leone until his untimely death in August of 2020.

“This Award is given annually by the World Methodist Council to individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to peace, justice and reconciliation,” WMC General Secretary Ivan Bishop Abrahams said when he made the announcement today.

“The Peace Award is the highest honor of the World Methodist Council,” Bishop Abrahams explains. The criteria for the Peace Award are courage, creativity and consistency in one’s witness to peace, justice and reconciliation. Previous recipients of the award include, among others, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Nelson Mandela, Boris Trajkovsky (Macedonia), Father Elias Chacour, The Community of St. Egidio (Rome) and the Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo (Argentina).

WMC also announced that the 2021 Award recipient was The Rev. Olav Pärnamets, a Methodist clergy of Estonia. The recipients were chosen at the Council’s Steering Committee meeting held in August. The Committee did not choose a recipient last year, so both the 2020 and 2021 recipients were named this year as the Committee met virtually.

“In the last year or so, many United Methodists, especially in the US, think of Bishop Yambasu’s work as related to the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace through Separation, but this award highlights a lifetime of active peace work for the most vulnerable in his country.  Bishop Yambasu demonstrates how peace-making is discipleship at its best,” Bishop Sally Dyck, the Council of Bishops Ecumenical Officer.

Bishop John K. Yambasu, who died August 16, 2020, in a road accident, was chosen for being a courageous peacemaker in his home country of Sierra Leone and across the United Methodist connection for many years. He provided critical leadership during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and the 2017 mud landslide, both of which killed thousands of his fellow citizens. He was known for choosing to speak truth, even in difficult situations, while at the same time living peaceably with all people and was a role model to the United Methodists in Africa and across the connection, his nomination stated.

Bishop Yambasu grew up in poverty and is quoted as having said, “I know through and through what poverty is. I have slept with it and I have woken to it. Countless times, I went to bed without food. I have not only experienced poverty, but for almost ten years I had to wrestle with it. Today in Sierra Leone, I live side by side with poverty and misery.” He then said, “I am totally fed up!…We need to embrace each other” Red and yellow, black and white, poor and rich, have and have-nots, gay or straight, bisexual or homosexual, polygamists, we all need to engage each other… We need to torment God with our prayers and give us sleepless nights until we can look at each other in the face and say, ‘We are brothers and we are sisters’.”

Bishop Yambasu was creative in thought and action and was consistent throughout his life. He served the people around him as the focus of his call to ministry. He was a leader in the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, the Ebola crisis, and COVID-19 pandemic. He was a teacher to young people, founder of the Child Rescue Center, and shortly before his death in an automobile accident, was elected Chancellor of Africa University.

His nominees said that Bishop Yambasu was a man of peace: peace for those living with illness, peace for children struggling in poverty, peace across nations and continents. He exemplified the best in Christian peacemaking.

Rev. Pärnamets of Estonia who will receive the 2021 Peace Award has been saluted for his work on world peace, beginning with Europe in the second half of the 20th century. The tiny Baltic country of Estonia enjoyed less than a quarter of a century as a free republic during the first half of the 20th century. Still, during that time, the Methodist Church planted roots and grew.

Born in 1937, Rev. Pärnamets spent most of his childhood and adult ministry under the strict and oppressive control of the Soviet Union, his nominees explain. Yet, this man served as a pastor and district superintendent, displaying great courage when the government of Estonia oppressed those who even participated in religious activity. Worship, theological study and evangelical activities were suppressed with the threat of punishment. But he traveled the world to share about the faithfulness of the people called Methodists in this Baltic country.

One of Rev. Pärnamets greatest strengths is creativity. With little to no money and Big Brother watching, he led by faith, and his unique ability to bring together people from different cultures, nations and backgrounds is evident in the vital Estonian church.

The dates for the presentation of the 2020 and 2021 Peace Award recipients will be announced later.

Media Contact:

Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga
Director of Communications
Council of Bishops – The United Methodist Church
110 Maryland Ave. NE  # 301
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 748-5172
www.unitedmethodistbishops.org

BSA Bankruptcy Affects United Methodist Congregations

The United Methodist Communications Office of Public Relations released the following letter regarding the ongoing Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy case. Please refer to the letter for information on next steps for local United Methodist churches.

Nashville, Tenn.: The United Methodist Church and its predecessor denominations have a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which dates back more than 100 years. In February 2020, the BSA announced the national organization would file for bankruptcy to allow it to continue carrying on its mission while also compensating sexual abuse victims who were harmed during their time in scouting. While the bankruptcy is ongoing, the BSA, along with its local councils, recently reached an agreement with representatives of most of the survivors on a proposed $850 million settlement.

 

At this time, negotiations are ongoing for other parties with an interest in the bankruptcy. Questions remain about how that agreement might affect chartered organizations, including thousands of United Methodist congregations that have sponsored scouting programs. United Methodist congregations represent the largest active collection of chartered organizations. The interests of those congregations are represented by an ad hoc committee established to represent United Methodist interests, which is actively engaged in the bankruptcy process and related negotiations.

 

The denomination continues to maintain a relationship with the BSA and churches may continue to support scout troops. However, the ad hoc committee is disappointed and very concerned that the BSA did not include its sponsoring organizations, charter groups, in the agreement with the claimants. This leaves as many as 5,000 United Methodist U.S. congregations—or more than 15 percent of U.S. congregations—exposed to potential lawsuits by the survivor claimants. Charter organizations were promised by the BSA to be covered by their insurance, but at this time, it is not clear to what extent United Methodist congregations will be covered.

 

The ad hoc committee has advised that churches that support scouting units should: (1) agree to extend an expiring charter through December 31, rather than renew that charter; (2) replace an expiring charter with a facilities use agreement that expires on December 31; or (3) terminate an existing charter and replace it with a facilities use agreement that expires on December 31. All of those options allow more time to see how the bankruptcy will impact United Methodist congregations.

 

United Methodist leaders across the denomination grieve for those who experienced harm. Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey called upon the church to pray for the victims and their families. “This tragedy is a reminder for all of us to be vigilant, update Safe Sanctuary policies and continue to review those policies to ensure congregations are following the policies and keeping all young people safe from harm.”

 

More than 80,000 distinct claims from 1940 through 2018 were filed by the court-established deadline. Some of those claims are potentially connected to scouting units sponsored by United Methodist congregations. The BSA implemented its current program designed to help prevent sexual abuse and ensure the safety of Scouts starting in the 1980s and there have been fewer cases since the development and improvement in the program. The percentage of claims related to United Methodist-sponsored scouting units is proportionately lower than that of other chartered units. United Methodists have and continue to implement Safe Sanctuary policies and practices.

 

A leadership team has also been formed to help develop principles, guidelines and action steps in preparation for leading the church through the unfolding bankruptcy and its impact on United Methodist chartered organizations. The team, chaired by Bishop John Schol, includes representatives of the Council of Bishops, as well as persons with financial, legal and communications expertise.

For questions or concerns, please contact the Rev. Jim Polk, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministry, at jim.polk@arumc.org, (501) 324-8042.

Employment Law Live Webinar

ADA, FMLA, ADEA, Title VII. These are just a few of the employment laws with which those in Human Resources need to know well. The world of employment law is constantly changing and recent Supreme Court decisions may have an effect on your organization.

The General Council on Finance and Administration’s team of Human Resources professionals is here to help. During this live webinar, we will provide you with a thorough overview of employment laws and how to make sure you stay compliant. This webinar will provide you with best practices and useful resources to make sure your ministries are aware, informed, and up-to-date on Human Resources related topics.

This live webinar will be held Thursday, August 26th, at 10:00am CDT. For just $25, you’ll be able to:

  • Gain a general understanding of the employment laws related to your business practices.
  • Implement best practices for recordkeeping and new hire documents.
  • Have exclusive access to GCFA’s HR professionals to help answer your questions.

To register, please click here.

*Although every effort has been made to provide a complete and compliant review and presentation, The General Council on Finance and Administration does not provide legal advice.

Bishop Beverly Shamana dies at 81

Bishop Beverly J. Shamana, a retired bishop of The United Methodist Church, has died.  She died this week in California at age 81.

Bishop Shamana was elected and consecrated to the Episcopacy in 2000 in the Western Jurisdiction. She was the second black woman elected as a bishop in the history of the UMC. Bishop Leontine T. Kelly was the first black woman elected in 1984.

Council of Bishops President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey described Bishop Shamana as a voice for justice and all that was right and true.

“Women bishops stand on the strength of her shoulders. Her commitment to the episcopacy and for women bishops was paramount. She was one who offered her constant love and support to all the bishops but particularly the women bishops who had accepted the responsibility to lead,” Bishop Harvey said. “Her presence will be missed.”

Bishop Tracy S. Malone, secretary of the Council of Bishops, noted that she has known Bishop Shamana for many years and always respected and appreciated her faithful leadership and her relentless commitment to address racial and social justice issues.  “She always encouraged and empowered us to be transformational leaders… to use our voice, position and power to be agents of change…to transform systems and structures and people’s lives. Bishop Shamana will be deeply missed,” Bishop Malone said.

Former Council of Bishops President Bishop Warner Brown was elected in the same jurisdiction with Bishop Shamana and said he was devastated by the news of Bishop Shamana’s death.  “Bishop Beverly Shamana is widely known as a gifted preacher, musician, artist and teacher. But I will remember her most as a cherished colleague who embodied a love and spirituality that embraced and lifted all the people she met.”

Born November 4, 1939, Bishop Shamana was a native of Los Angeles, California, and was raised with three younger siblings in Pasadena, California, by her parents Sylvester and Charlene Martin. It was in the Metropolitan Baptist church of her childhood that she was nurtured in the faith, baptized by immersion, and made a personal commitment to Christ. This decision was deepened when her family joined the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church in the community during her adolescent years.

As a student of choral and piano performance in Pasadena schools, she pursued her love of music and earned a B.A. degree from Occidental College in Choral and Music Education in 1961. In Bishop Shamana’s early career, she taught public school choral and music history in Compton and Pasadena School Districts while directing church choirs for ten years. The ministry of the Ecumenical Institute of Chicago was established in the Los Angeles area where she became a participant through her local church, Grace UMC. During this time, she established a retail/manufacturing knitting machine business in Pasadena.

While serving as the Executive Secretary for the Commission on the Status and Role of Women in the Pacific and Southwest Conference in the mid-seventies, she answered God’s call to ministry and entered Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary, receiving her Master of Divinity Degree in 1980. She was ordained deacon in 1979 by Bishop Charles Golden and elder in 1984 by Bishop Jack Tuell in the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

She was a delegate to six General and Jurisdictional Conferences from 1976 to 2000. From 1980-89, she served multi-cultural churches in Los Angeles and Inglewood until her appointment to the Conference Council on Ministries as Associate Council Director.

She served eleven years in that position until she was elected to the episcopacy by the Western Jurisdiction in July 2000. Bishop Shamana was assigned to the San Francisco Area.

She served two quadrennia each as an officer on the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (1976-1984) and the General Board of Publication (1988-1996). She also served as president of the General Board of Church and Society and as a member of the Connectional Table.

In 2002, Bishop Shamana traveled with the Council’s peace delegation to Pakistan and the Middle East. She made an Episcopal visit to the West Angola Annual Conference and Africa University in October 2004, and in 2006, she spent January teaching at Drew Seminary as the Bell Scholar as the Bishop in Residence.

Abingdon Press published her book, Seeing in the Dark, A Vision of Creativity and Spirituality, in 2001. Her book challenges the church to affirm the creative gifts as sacred pathways to a deeper companionship with God and a way to a more vital discipleship. She enjoyed playing the piano and other arts, writing, gardening, and preaching.

Bishop Shamana is survived by her husband, Walter Woods.

A Memorial Service has been tentatively arranged for Sept. 11, 10:00 a.m. at Pasadena First UMC.

FUMC Bella Vista to host The Caring Congregation Seminar

First United Methodist Church of Bella Vista will be hosting The Caring Congregation Seminar from Friday, August 27 at noon through Saturday, August 28 at 4:30pm. Learn how to create a laity team that works in partnership with pastors to provide congregational care ministry in the church family and community. This is an in-person event that will be hosted at First UMC in Bella Vista (20 Boyce Drive, Bella Vista, AR 72715). The cost of $75 minimally covers textbooks, ministry tools, and food. This plus any travel or lodging are your only expenses. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event is limited to 50 participants. You can learn more and register at fumcbellavista.com/ccmseminar or thecaringcongregation.com or contact Rev. Brenda Wideman at brenda@fumcbellavista.com.