Liberian president to address United Methodists|
United Methodist Bishop Peter Weaver presents a Bible to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during a prayer service on the eve of her 2005 inauguration as president of Liberia. Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist, is scheduled to address the 2008 United Methodist General Conference on April 29 in Fort Worth, Texas.
A UMNS file photo by Joseph Zeogar.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Sept. 27, 2007
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, will speak to the United Methodist General Conference during its meeting next spring in Fort Worth, Texas.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Johnson Sirleaf, who is a United Methodist, is scheduled to address the denomination’s top legislative body on April 29. She accepted the invitation to speak in a Sept. 8 letter to L. Fitzgerald Reist II, secretary of the General Conference.
"As a strong and proud Methodist and in recognition of the work that the United Methodist Church has done in Liberia, particularly in providing education and medical services to our rural population, I am pleased to accept and look forward to joining you in Fort Worth on that day," she wrote.
Johnson Sirleaf also will accept the Bishop James K. and Eunice Mathews Bridge-Building Award from the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
The award will be presented during an April 29 dinner in Fort Worth and is connected with the agency’s Bridges of Unity Endowment. The endowment was created as a way of developing future generations of ecumenical and interfaith leaders, according to the Rev. Larry Pickens, the commission’s chief executive.
Johnson Sirleaf "has worked to heal her war-ravaged nation" through dialogue and community-building, Pickens noted, modeling "the commitment to peace and community building" that symbolizes the Mathews and their lives.
"As a strong and proud Methodist and in recognition of the work that the United Methodist Church has done in Liberia, particularly in providing education and medical services to our rural population, I am pleased to accept and look forward to joining you in Fort Worth …"
-Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
At age 67, Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman elected as head of state in modern African history after the Liberian presidential election in November 2005. The Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official is an active member of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, the capital, and spoke of her faith several times during her Jan. 16 inaugural speech.
Bishop Peter Weaver, then president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, presented her with a Bible signed by the bishops of the church. First lady Laura Bush, who is also a United Methodist, led the U.S. delegation at the inaugural.
In a January interview with United Methodist News Service, Johnson Sirleaf praised The United Methodist Church’s contribution to the peace process in Liberia, which was torn by civil wars beginning in 1989 and ending in 2003.
"The church has just been instrumental in promoting peace," she said. "On an individual basis, those who go to church for prayers and for comfort — that has all contributed to the peace. Our nation is a very religious one, so the church has played a dominant role."
Johnson Sirleaf said United Methodists in the United States and elsewhere "should recognize the important role, the historical role, (that) The United Methodist Church has here that is so profound. They should know that fact that it has continued and continues to grow in importance and in service to the nation."
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
Liberia's new president vows to work for change
Liberia needs church's support, new president says
Liberian president seeks help with schools, finances
Church stands with new Liberian president, bishops declare
2008 General Conference
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns