Sunday evening’s Africana Dinner was one of the most anticipated events of the 2o12 General Conference for delegates, monitors and church leaders. Sponsored by Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the second Africana Dinner featured the theme “the ties that bind,” continuing the caucus’ focus of unity that connects African and American United Methodists.
The dinner, hosted by Bishop Alfred L. Norris (retired), featured bishops and church leaders, including Bishop Joaquina F. Nhanala, Mozambique Area, and Bishop Julius C. Trimble, Iowa Area, who brought greetings to more than 600 attendees.
The evening began with music from the 15-member Africa University choir, whose energy and enthusiastic melodies engaged and thrilled guests, many representing the largest delegation from the African continent attending the 2012 General Conference—287 delegates, 22 alternates—along with 12 African bishops and spouses, and a host of translators.
Sierre Leone bishop John K. Yambasu filled in for Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and the Malawi Missionary Conference, who was scheduled to present but was absent due to death in his family. Yambasu’s homily explored the ties that bind God’s people. “Over the last couple of years,” he said, “there has been a surge of renewal and a yearning for connection with the Black people of Africa.”
His homily explored family, diplomatic, political, sexual, national, and tribal/racial ties. “But,” he said, “the tie that binds is the love of God, which puts aside all inequalities … whether we like it or not,” he explained, “it is God’s intent that we are to be connected.” In closing, he cited Colossians 3:12-14, urging United Methodists to put on love, which binds all together in perfect unity.
On behalf of BMCR, Bishop Violet Fisher made presentations to two retiring members of the United Methodist episcopacy: Bishop Ernest Lyght, West Virginia Area, who retired at the end of 2011 due to health reasons; and Bishop Linda Lee, Wisconsin Area, who was honored with a spontaneous standing ovation, led by clergywomen in the audience who responded to her example of leadership and ministry.
Calling on unspeakable peace and the power of the Holy Spirit, Dr. Kabamba Kiboko, representing the African Clergywomen Association, closed the celebration with a challenging benediction.