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Malawi district becomes missionary conference

By Andrew J. Schleicher*
April 27, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)

Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa

A United Methodist district in the African country of Malawi was elevated to the standing of a "missionary conference" by the denomination's 2008 General Conference. Some 990 delegates to the assembly supported the measure by a vote of 92 percent.

"It opens up Malawi for church agencies to empower the local people," said Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, leader of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and the now missionary conference in Malawi. With 18,329 members and 17 pastors, there is a "tremendous level of ministry," he said.

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries endorsed the petition to create the missionary conference. A missionary conference functions similarly to an annual (regional) conference, with some difference, especially with regard to ministerial membership as outlined in Paragraph 586 of the 2004 Book of Discipline. The Discipline states the Board of Global Ministries provides "administrative guidance and major financial assistance" to missionary conferences. The board oversees the missionary aspects of the denomination.

Bishop Nhiwatiwa's excitement was evident as he discussed the new missionary conference, and he extends his gratitude to the General Conference for its decision supporting the church in Malawi.

The vision for this new missionary conference, Nhiwatiwa said, "is really to push the boundaries of what the church is doing in a very positive way." He connects the act of creating the new conference with the 2008 General Conference's theme, "A Future with Hope," adding, "You really have that theme being put into effect by that decision."

*Schleicher is a member of the General Conference communications team for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.

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