In less than a year following his election as the legal representative of The United Methodist Church in Burundi, the Rev. Jean Ntahoturi and United Methodists in the East African nation celebrated a new-found unity and hope for a brighter future.
Ntahoturi, who earn both his MBA and MTS degrees from Africa University, was elected in May 2017. He took on the leadership of a church where two factions had been contending for control since the death of Bishop Alfred J. Ndoricimpa in 2005. One group was led by the Rev. Lazare Bankurunaze and the other by the Rev. Justin Nzoyisaba.
"The election of a new legal representative … changed the political dynamics in the Burundi Annual Conference. Rev. Ntahoturi had a desire to reconcile the sparring factions in the Burundi Conference, (and he) has a keenness for adhering to the Book of Discipline," said Bankurunaze.
A reconciliation team met in Harare, Zimbabwe, in August 2017 for mediationled by West Ohio Bishop Gregory V. Palmer. The result was a memorandum of understanding signed by both parties to operate as "one strong and vital United Methodist Church in Burundi."
A special Burundi Annual Conference session, held Feb. 5-7 in Gitega, sealed the deal. About 1,500 people filled St. Peter's United Methodist Church, and others craned their necks through the windows to witness the event. They applauded when Ntahoturi took to the podium.
"We Burundians had destroyed our own home for 12 years. We are now going to stand up as Burundians and show the world and the general church of the UMC that by the grace of God we can restore the church for the glory of God," Ntahoturi said.
Bishop Daniel Wandabula said he was grateful to God for the new leadership.
"It was very good for the church in Burundi to elect a legal representative who loves the Lord…loves the church, and knows the church," he said. "Rev. Jean Ntahoturi's knowledge of the church paved the way for dialogue with the opposing camp. As bishop of the area, I am very grateful that the spirit of God was and is at work and the church in Burundi will get to greater heights as they continue working together as a team to make disciples for the transformation of the world."
Adapted from an article by Tafadzwa Mudambanuki, senior manager of Central Conference Relations at United Methodist Communications.
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