Baltimore-Washington and Zimbabwe conferences renew covenant
By SHAUN LANE
With his country in the midst of political and economic turmoil, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, episcopal leader of the Zimbabwe Area, said that the role of United Methodists in Zimbabwe is to continue to encourage a spirit of peace.
“We need to develop and equip spiritual leaders to promote peace,” Bishop Nhiwatiwa said. “But we can not do that alone. We need resources from our brothers and sisters around the world.”
Since 1997, the Baltimore-Washington Conference has been a resource that Bishop Nhiwatiwa has been able to depend on. Yesterday, at the 2008 General Conference, the Baltimore-Washington Conference and the Zimbabwe Conference signed a new covenant that extends its working relationship through 2012.
The covenant states that it will focus on issues such as theological training, community and economic development, young adult ministries, preaching biblical studies and leadership in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.
“This is an important relationship that strengthens both conferences,” said Bishop John R. Schol, episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. “We value our relationship with the Zimbabwe Conference and this covenant illustrates our commitment to helping our brothers and sisters to grow in Christ in a very challenging part of the world.”
The two leaders signed the new covenant on a table that was made from trees salvaged from Gulfside Assembly, in Waveland, Misssisipi – a United Methodist retreat center that was heavily damaged from Hurricane Katrina. Delegate members from both conferences were present for the signing.
Bishop Schol announced that the new covenant would extend the work and relationship-building that has occurred since 1997. Last summer, the Baltimore-Washington Conference, led by Bishop Schol, sent a 13-member Baltimore-Washington Conference team of clergy and laity to Zimbabwe to teach about 300 pastors church leadership and community development strategies and skills. The team also distributed more than 7,000 mosquito insecticide nets, as part of the Nothing But Nets campaign.
“This covenant between us and the Baltimore-Washington Conference is a healthy one because it is something that will really help our churches to grow and support spiritual leaders,” Bishop Nhiwatiwa said. “I value our relationship with them and I thank God for their commitment.”
Ministry Partnership Covenant
Before God, and Between
The Zimbabwe Episcopal Area
And The Washington Episcopal Area
Jesus commissioned his followers to reach the whole world with the Good News when he said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18-19) In response to this calling, the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area (ZEA) and Washington Episcopal Area (WEA) of the United Methodist Church agree to a continuing mutual partnership in ministry in order to call, equip, send and support discipling leaders together for the benefit of people and communities in both countries. Our prayer is that God will work through us individually and together to bring about transformation in our churches, nations and the world.
As covenant partners in ministry, we agree to the following:
1) A jointly planned and conducted Pastor’s School will be conducted in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area no less than every 2 years. This experience will be designed to focus on theological training, community and economic development, church administration, pastoral counseling, worship, United Methodist polity, issues of women in ministry, and issues focused on the funding of pastor’s pensions, pastor’s family life, youth and young adult ministries, ministry with single mothers, preaching, biblical studies and leadership among others, as identified by the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area. In the years when WEA does not participate in the Pastor’s School, the WEA may provide financial support for the Pastor’s School as determined by the Bishop of the WEA.
2) Coordinate jointly planned and implemented mission projects between each of the districts of the Washington Episcopal Area and various churches, mission schools, districts and conference ministries in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.
3) Coordinate with the project coordinator of Zimbabwe to ensure support from WEA staff to facilitate project development, implementation and completion.
4) The provision of jointly procured funding for theological education, seminary training and course of study work of Zimbabwean pastors.
5) The development of the means and the process for ZEA laity and pastors to interpret the emerging needs of joint ministry by itinerating in the WEA.
6) Funding support for the development of designated administrative facilities in the ZEA as mutually agreed to by each area’s Bishops.
7) Support, development and training of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Shalom Zone Ministry and other community ministries administrated within the context of this covenant and under the direction of the Bishop of the ZEA.
8) Open access to each other’s communication networks for the purpose of building bridges of understanding through the sharing of our stories and experiences. The WEA may also assist the ZEA in the production of its Conference Journal through means mutually explored and agreed upon by the respective Bishops.
9) Jointly plan and conduct training and dialog in the WEA to increase WEA skills in church growth and development, particularly in the development and implementation of the class leader and class meeting framework; facilitate more effective worship as an evangelism tool; and help engender increased vision in children’s ministries.
In conclusion, it is our fervent hope that our respective Episcopal Areas integrate this partnership into the fabric of all of its ministries, and that we will indeed be one church with one mission, being true partners in making the Kingdom of God a reality in the entire world. This covenant is informed by Scripture that says, “There is one body and one spirit, just as [we are] called to the one hope of [our] calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in all (Eph. 4:4 NRSV)” And the covenant which we make together on earth let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
The term of this covenant agreement extends until December 31, 2012, and may be adjusted and renewed as agreed by the Bishops of the ZEA and WEA.
Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa Bishop John R. Schol
Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Washington Episcopal Area
Signed this 30th day of April, 2008.