The Wesleyan Covenant Association’s (WCA) plan to assist some United Methodists, mostly in Africa, with getting COVID-19 vaccinations has been denounced by Central Conference bishops.
January 17, 2022 — The leadership of the Central Conference bishops of The United Methodist Church is appalled by the action of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) to assist some United Methodists, mostly in Africa, with getting COVID-19 vaccinations for the sole purpose of making sure that those United Methodists who are delegates to the postponed General Conference would be able to travel to the United States.
The entire process, the bishops said, has all the marks of colonialism which African countries went through some years ago. “The tactics of divide-and-conquer have created chaos and division on the African continent and should not be allowed in our churches. … We the people called United Methodists from the Central conferences promote unity and we treasure our connectional spirit but we deplore any form of colonialism.”
“While we understand that vaccines are not easily accessible to all people in many parts of the world, we are dismayed that the WCA would choose to help provide vaccines to only a few people and not the community as a whole. If the WCA’s motives are pure, why not provide vaccines for the entire family of that delegate or the entire church or the community in which the delegate lives?” the leadership said in a statement.
In the statement released yesterday on what is Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States, the bishops noted that the Connectional Table has called the church to consider vaccine equity a missional priority of the church and that the Council of Bishops supports this effort.
“Offering vaccines to General Conference delegates or covering the cost of delegates to travel to places where they can be vaccinated is not an expression of vaccine equity. Rather, it appears as an attempt to benefit those who have been given a special responsibility, and who the donor wishes to fulfill a certain purpose.
“Furthermore, the official organizer of the General Conference is the Commission on General Conference, and when individual interest groups begin to offer benefits to delegates, they jeopardize the integrity of (the) General Conference,” noted the statement signed by Bishop Harald Rückert, president of the Central Conferences College of Bishops and Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, president of the African fellowship of Bishops and Bishop Rudy Juan of the Philippines College of bishops.
On January 19, the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church announced that they are standing with the statement from the Central Conference bishops concerning the WCA’s plan for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to General Conference delegates in Africa.
The Executive Committee said: “We stand with our Central Conference colleagues and urge all to read their letter and hear the concerns. These matters impact the entire church and undermine the integrity of the work of the General Conference delegates. We are grateful for the leadership of our Central Conference colleagues.”