CONTROL OVER MISSION GIVING AND HANDLING COMPLAINTS
More than a decade ago, Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference entered into a working relationship with the East Africa Annual Conference over projects in Uganda. The one working with them from the beginning was Rev. Daniel Wandabula. When members of the American conference toured the sites of the projects, they found incomplete work at one, no financial payment at the second, and a well bored in the wrong place. During the years of attempting to sort out what happened, Rev. Wandabula became bishop and there was no resolution of the problem over the projects, despite Bishop Wandabula’s promises.
The Judicial Council responded to three issues raised by the Western Pennsylvania group. With respect to the funding of a church building, the Council felt it had no way to resolve the problem under church law, citing that the funds were handled by the annual conference and not through the General Board of Global Ministries. Without saying it, the Council was telling Western Pennsylvania, “Buyer beware.”
There was sharp disagreement as to why so little was done on the church building. The bishop said there was no response from the Americans when problems arose at the site. The Americans said there were no communications about the problems prior to their trip to see what was happening. The Council did not try to resolve that dispute but basically went along with the bishop.
The Council did demand a payment be made to a particular pastor because some records were found that showed the cash had made its way to Uganda and had just not been used for that purpose.
The third issue had to do with whether or not the complaints brought by the Americans had been processed. The bishop said they had been dropped and the Americans said they had heard nothing whatever about what happened to the complaints. The Council ruled that the process was still open until they heard otherwise but did not order anything be done to conclude the process or to have a report forwarded to them about the case. They will wait for an appeal at the conclusion of the process in order to take a look at the matter. In practice, that means that the complaints are dead in the water. If the African Central Conference refuses to act one way or another, the complainants have no recourse. They cannot appeal something that did not happen nor can they appeal since they are being represented by the Church who cannot appeal a judicial decision except in extraordinary circumstances (usually meaning the matter related to homosexuality).
In effect, the Council found no way to hold the Africans accountable in this case other than to be sure a pastor was paid. The two African members of the Council were not involved in the East African Conference in any way so they did not need to recuse themselves in this case.
The upshot is that the enthusiasm of the American church to work hand-in-hand with churches and conferences outside the United States may dwindle. The Board of Global Ministries and the General Council on Finance and Administration are trying to deal with the accountability issues in the financial realm just to minimize discouragement of our desire to help in mission projects. To see more on that, read the side bar to the article written about this case in the UM Communications article at
As a point of disclosure, Associates in Advocacy was asked to provide an advocate for Bishop Wandabula before the Judicial Council’s hearing. We were able to offer an experienced pastor advocate and he was present, working with the bishop’s group.