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Liberian newspapers carried big headlines about the proposal to amend the constitution to declare Liberia a Christian nation. Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Liberian newspapers carried big headlines about the proposal to amend the constitution to declare Liberia a Christian nation.

Bishop John G. Innis, right, talked about problems with the proposal to pass legislation making Liberia a Christian nation after he preached at First United Methodist Church Monrovia on Easter Sunday. Also shown are the Rev. Julius Williams, left, associate pastor of the church, and the Rev. Erlene Thompson, pastor of First United Methodist Church Monrovia. Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Bishop John G. Innis, right, talked about problems with the proposal to pass legislation making Liberia a Christian nation after he preached at First United Methodist Church Monrovia on Easter Sunday. Also shown are the Rev. Julius Williams, left, associate pastor of the church, and the Rev. Erlene Thompson, pastor.

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United Methodist leaders oppose legislation to make Liberia Christian nation

By Julu Swen
April 10, 2015 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

United Methodist Bishop John G. Innis opposes a proposal approved by a recent constitutional review committee to make Liberia a Christian country.

“Liberians, especially Christians, do not need any legislation to practice or expand their faith in Liberia,” Innis said in an interview after delivering his annual Easter sermon at First United Methodist Church. Other United Methodist leaders agreed, calling for tolerance and evangelism to promote Christianity.

The decision was one of several approved during the four-day constitutional review conference held in Gbarnga. The committee has been charged with reviewing the country’s 1986 constitution. The proposal has sparked debate in the country among Christians, Muslims, and civil society organizations.

The conference recommendations will be presented to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a member of First United Methodist Church Monrovia, who would then send them to the national legislature for approval. If approved, the recommendations would to Liberia’s elections commission for a national referendum.

Innis: 'Christ did not force people to follow him'

Innis noted that Liberia was built on Christian principles.

“We don’t need constitutional provisions to practice our faith and expand our denomination in this country,” he said.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ did not force people to follow him, so Christians should not advocate for legislation that will create conflict for our nation.”

Baptist, Catholic and Muslim leaders have also expressed opposition to the proposal according to news reports.

The Rev. Julius Williams, a United Methodist elder, said Christians can “intensify their evangelistic strategies” to increase the number of Christians in Liberia.

“The more we evangelize, the more Christian nation we will become, we don’t need any constitution to help us fulfill our Christian mandate,” Williams added.

Togba-Nah Tipoteh, a United Methodist who was also a presidential candidate in the last three elections, said religious tolerance is a “peaceful pillar” on which Liberia has thrived.

“Any law that interferes with that tolerance is simply a recipe for trouble,” he said.

*Swen is editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa and assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.