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Agency wants bishop to account for use of funds

By Heather Hahn
May 2, 2014 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

May 9, 2014, Update

The United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration issued a press release noting that progress was made this week on the review of the use of theological education funds sent to the denomination’s West Angola Episcopal Area.

Bishop Michael Coyner, the finance agency's president, called a meeting with West Angola Bishop Gaspar Domingos “very productive.” The Board of Higher Education and Ministry will provide a further update to the finance agency by May 30.

May 2, 2014

The United Methodist Church's finance agency announced May 2 that it is asking West Angola Bishop Gaspar João Domingos to account for how he used $100,000 in general church funds designated for theological education.

The General Council on Finance and Administration board has given Domingos a deadline of May 30. If he does not provide a full accounting, the board warns it will recommend church entities withhold funding from the West Angola Episcopal Area until further notice or until the board determines funds are being used for their intended purposes.

Indiana Area Bishop Michael Coyner, president of the finance agency’s board, said that the board took its action at the request of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and Board of Global Ministries.

“Standing with those other agencies as a fiduciary agency, we have passed a resolution asking Bishop Domingos and the West Angola Episcopal Area to provide the information that appears to be lacking,” Coyner said.

Coyner later told United Methodist News Service that Domingos already had responded by email to say “I want to comply,” seeking more information about what is needed.

Domingos did not immediately respond to a UMNS request for comment. Some bishops are already en route to a retreat for active bishops, which begins Sunday, May 4.

African Theological Education Initiative

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry distributed the funds to the West Angola Episcopal Area, which Domingos leads, from the 2009-12 African Theological Education Initiative. General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative assembly, approved the initiative in 2008.

The boards of Higher Education and Ministry and Global Ministries, along with United Methodist Communications, agreed to provide $2 million to support the initiative.

The initiative called for each of the then 12 African bishops to receive $100,000 for scholarships and logistical support to educate clergy in each episcopal area. The 2012 United Methodist General Conference added a new bishop’s area in Africa.

During its May 1-2 meeting, the finance agency board approved a resolution to send a letter to Domingos, saying he must provide an accounting of those funds.

He must provide:

  • A project summary
  • A detailed accounting for the budgeted amount and actual amount spent for buildings
  • Photo of the building
  • Building completion certificate from the architect or building contractor

Joseph Tunda Museu, a finance agency board member and lay leader in the West Congo Annual (regional) Conference, told UMNS he supported the board’s action. He is the treasurer’s coordinator of the Central Congo Episcopal Area.

“I am a treasurer by training,” he said through a translator. “When money is given to someone to do something, that person must give reasons or proofs of what has been done with that money. So, it’s totally normal that a request has been made.”

Action against East Africa Conference

The finance agency board previously has recommended that general agencies, conferences and local churches cut off funding from an area in Africa. The finance agency’s board took that action Sept. 27, 2012, against the East Africa Annual (regional) Conference, led by Bishop Daniel Wandabula.

The board made its earlier decision after the report of its Committee on Audit and Review. The committee, after consultation with representatives of Global Ministries, told the finance agency that the East Africa Annual Conference has failed for several years to provide complete and accurate financial audits of general church funds it has received.

The board the following November issued the further sanction of setting Wandabula’s salary at $1,000 per month. In 2013, the board 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.

Coyner said the finance agency board is trying to “catch this one early” so Domingos’ situation “does not drag on and on like Wandabula’s case.”

The finance agency board will review the status of the West Angola accounting after May 30 and determine if any further actions are needed.

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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