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United Methodists elect bishop for Sierra Leone


Newly elected Bishop John Yambasu receives hugs and greetings from delegates to the 7th session of the West Africa Central Conference.
A UMNS photo by Phileas Jusu.

By Phileas Jusu*
Dec. 22, 2008 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

The Rev. John K. Yambasu, 52, has been elected bishop of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone by delegates of the denomination's West Africa Central Conference.


Bishop John K. Yambasu

During the Dec. 20 election in Monrovia, Yambasu was elected on the first ballot, garnering 45 of the 68 votes cast, or 66 percent of the votes. The two other candidates, the Rev. Anthony J. Braima and the Rev. Alfred A.N. Karimu, polled 18 and 5 votes, respectively.

Yambasu, a regional missionary with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, will succeed Bishop Joseph C. Humper on Jan. 1. Humper is retiring on Dec. 31 after 16 years of service.

The West Africa Central Conference has four annual conferences Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, each with up to 20 delegates. At this year's meeting, Côte de Ivoire was represented by 11 delegates and Nigeria by 17, while Sierra Leone and Liberia had 20 delegates each.

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany Annual Conference, who presided over the election, declared Yambasu the new bishop amid cheers and ululations from supporters.

"When I get back to Sierra Leone, the first thing I want to do is to engage in the peace-building process," Yambasu told the gathering. "First of all, I want to begin building a new relationship with my bishop, whom I am succeeding, and then the two of us will work together to make sure that the whole church is reconciled."

Tension before election

Yambasu's comments referred to tension that had arisen between him and his supporters and the outgoing bishop, and to disagreements over procedures for electing delegates from the Sierra Leone Annual Conference. Delegates were not elected until a Sept. 25 conference call in Freetown, led by Bishop Felton May.

Before the election, interim Bishop Arthur Kulah of the Nigeria Annual Conference asked all three candidates to pledge to work with and support whoever among them won. He prayed for them, asking God to strengthen them in victory or defeat. He told them that it did not mean that those who would not be elected were being rejected to serve God but that "in the end, there will be one who will be elected." He asked the candidate who would win to know that the other two were not his enemies but colleagues.

After announcing the result, Wenner thanked Humper for his leadership, both in Sierra Leone and the church at large.

Ministry to youth

Until his election, Yambasu was a regional missionary for sub-Saharan Africa for the Board of Global Ministries, with support from the Women's Division. His assignment included youth leadership development, education and training, with a particular focus on providing ministry to young people affected by war.

Since August, he had been working in New York -- where the Women's Division and Board of Global Ministries is based -- on building a network in the denomination's African conferences related to ministries with children, including issues of child safety.


German Bishop Rosemarie Wenner congratulates Bishop John K. Yambasu after his episcopal election.

"The Women's Division has been blessed by the service of John Yambasu as a regional missionary, as have the women children and youth on whose behalf he has served," said Harriett Olson, the division's top executive. "We pray for him now as he takes on new responsibilities and offers leadership that continues to bless the church--both in Sierra Leone and around the world."

Born in Bo in southern Sierra Leone, Yambasu received his primary and secondary education at United Methodist mission schools. He was ordained a United Methodist deacon in 1987 and an elder in 1990. He has served as an associate pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Moyamba; acting pastor and circuit minister at Musselman United Methodist Church in Freetown; and acting pastor at Mayenkineh United Methodist Church in Freetown.

He taught in many schools in Sierra Leone, including the denomination's Harford School for Girls in Moyamba, southern Sierra Leone, where he was senior teacher and school chaplain from 1982 to 1990. He also was the Sierra Leone Conference's director for Christian Education and Youth Ministries from 1992 to 1998. He was founder of the Child Rescue Centre in Sierra Leone and served as its executive director from 1999 to 2000, when he became a regional missionary.

Yambasu holds a master of theology degree from Candler School of Theology, Emory Uiversity in Atlanta, and a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Njala University College in Sierra Leone.

He and his wife, Millicent, have five children Rebecca, Adima, John, Emmanuel and Elizabeth.

*Jusu is communicator for the United Methodist Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Board of Global Ministries

UMC in Sierra Leone

All Africa.com

Council of Bishops