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Council lists steps for resolving East Africa issues

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—The directors of The United Methodist Church’s finance agency have adopted a list of steps for resolving the audit issues in the church’s East Africa area, including a call for the area bishop to resign.

The board of directors of the General Council on Finance and Administration met Aug. 16 in Nashville, Tenn., to consider a request from the president of the Africa Central Conference for “actions that would be necessary to satisfactorily resolve the outstanding audit issues” with Bishop Daniel Wandabula of East Africa.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner, president of the council, listed the steps in an Aug. 30 response to Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa:

  • “Bishop Wandabula agrees to resign his position as a bishop and surrender his clergy credentials.
  • “Bishop Wandabula pays a full restitution of all unaccounted-for monies identified by the General Board of Global Ministries Audit Committee from the most recent documents submitted by Bishop Wandabula, that total being $757,275.
  • “Bishop Wandabula agrees to the removal of Charles Bamutya as the treasurer of the East Africa Annual (regional) Conference.”
  • In response to these actions, the Board of Global Ministries and the Council on Finance and Administration agree to appoint a financial administrator for the East Africa Conference “to manage properly all conference finances.” The administrator would be accountable only to the two agencies and could be terminated by them. “This will be reviewed on an annual basis.”

In his letter to Nhiwatiwa, Coyner went on to say: “The Council also requested that we inform you that the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is prepared to distribute monies from the Central Conference Pension Initiative to qualified retirees in the East Africa Annual Conference, provided that safeguards can be put in place with a third party distributor to insure that the pension monies go to and are retained by the designated retiree recipients.”

In August 2012, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries suspended funding through the Advance, the denomination’s designated-giving program, to the East Africa Conference. The move followed the recommendation of the agency’s independent audit committee. The audits began in April 2011.

Wandabula subsequently was re-elected for life on Aug. 17 when the Africa Central Conference met in Nairobi, Kenya. Unlike in the United States, the Africa Central Conference bishops are not elected for life at their first election.

On Sept. 27, 2012, the board of the General Council on Finance and Administration advised all United Methodist bodies to withhold funds from the East Africa Conference office until the resolution of the auditing issues and said it was filing a formal complaint against Wandabula. On Dec. 1, the finance agency announced it would set Wandabula’s salary at $1,000 a month in 2013 until the conference provides a satisfactory accounting of how its money is spent.

Wandabula, in an October 2012 email, blamed the actions of the denomination’s mission and finance agencies on a campaign “of malice, mudslinging, character lynching and insurrection.” He contended the agencies were siding with a blackmail attempt by an anonymous emailer who used the name Journey Jonah.”

Earlier this year, the United Methodist Judicial Council, in a split decision, ended a 10-year financial dispute between the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference and the East Africa Annual Conference. The East Africa Conference comprises several countries and has episcopal offices in Uganda.