END OF A COMPLAINT AGAINST AN AFRICAN BISHOP
This matter has been dealt with in JCDs 1238, 1241, 1275, and now here. The Council decided it had no jurisdiction over the way money was sent between Western Pennsylvaniia and the East Africa Annual Conference. The money sent for a particular pastor was returned to the Western Pennsylvania Conference so it can be sent by other channels to its rightful recipient. And word has finally come that the College of Bishops acted on the complaints against the bishop in question and dismissed them.
So ends the trust which once existed between an American conference and an African bishop and conference.
So may end enthusiasm for donors here in the United States to send gifts through foreign bishops. My retired African missionary colleague is saddened by that prospect because she is well aware of several African bishops who are strict in abiding by good bookkeeping standards and the rules related to funding for mission purposes.
A concurring opinion expresses annoyance at the amount of time that the Council spent on this case when he figures it should have been handled by the Council of Bishops and the African Central Conference College of Bishops.
That opinion is unmerited. The Council accepted breaking new ground with respect to reviewing the handling of complaints related to apparent misuse of mission funds. Trying to be sure it operated in an effective way with respect to what was obviously a serious issue (money handling is always significant when it comes to the matter of trust), the Council was open about its limitations and the difficulty of sorting everything out.
I’ve registered in commentaries on related decisions where I disagreed with the Council. But in the course of their efforts, they did clarify some lines of accountability and limits of authority.
To me, the most important aspect of this case is that people on one continent have the right to bring complaints against someone on another continent. While other efforts by General Council on Finance and Administration (dealt with in JCD 1298 – this commentary is written after the April, 2015, session) to sanction lack of financial accountability as well as General Board of Global Ministries’ efforts along similar lines have been sorted out to some extent, it took awhile and a lot of correspondence for the Council to get assurances that a Disciplinary action did actually occur (decision by the College of Bishops in the African Central Conference).
Now the issue of rebuilding trust is in those bishops’ hands because they all face possible backlash bacause of the pattern of behavior of the bishop in question. His own stature has diminished greatly here in America. It will be interesting to see what it does among his own colleagues in that College.
An old preacher friend once observed that preachers are very much like manure: putting them in one place ends up with what others smell as terrible. Spread them out all over the place, and they do some real good.
The same applies to bishops. Every bishop that has spoken with me has come across as of great good will. But I am most often just appalled by what happens when you put several of them or the whole group in one place.
I will continue to spell that out as I see it. The good thing about the Judicial Council . . ., it has laid aside the role it played for many years as “the bishops’ best friend” and frequently now holds them accountable. I’m sorry the Council didn’t see a way to assure accountability in this case.