STAMFORD (Connecticut) – Churches in Cambodia, Honduras and the Cote d’Ivoire have been formally approved as “mission churches” by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
A welcoming service concluded the presentation at the board’s Oct 21-24, 2002 annual meeting, marking the initial entrance of the three church bodies into the United Methodist Church.
The fledgling congregations in Cambodia and Honduras have sprung from the mission agency’s work in those countries. But the Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is an autonomous, 1.4 million-member Methodist communion that grew out of the British Methodist tradition.
The General Board of Global Ministries first became involved in Cambodia in the 1980s, through refugee assistance and rehabilitation and reconstruction work with the help of international and ecumenical organisations. In 1983, the agency established the United Methodist Church Indochina Caucus to help nurture expatriate Christian faith communities and to explore mission outreach in Cambodia and other parts of Indochina. By the end of that decade, Cambodian United Methodists living outside their country began returning to share their faith.
In 1990, the first United Methodist congregation within Cambodia, at Tek Thia, was started with assistance from the Central United Methodist Church in Stockton, California, a Cambodian congregation. By then, proposals were being shaped for launching a mission in Cambodia that would encompass community rehabilitation, education, health care, evangelism and building faith communities. During the same period, Cambodian United Methodists living in Switzerland and France began their own mission outreach to Cambodia.
In the mid-1990s, United Methodists began discussing collaboration in Cambodia and Vietnam with The Methodist Church in Singapore and the Korean Methodist Church.
A coordination board of the Cambodia Methodist Mission was formed in 1997. The first United Methodist missionaries were dispatched in 1998, the same year that land and a building were purchased in Phnom Penh for a United Methodist Mission Centre. A Bible school, founded by the Korean Methodist Church, and supported by all partners, opened in 2000.
The United Methodist Mission Initiative in Honduras began planting new congregations in 1998. Currently, 11 churches and two communities of faith are in operation, with an average worship attendance of more than 1,250 people. The Initiative works collaboratively with the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas and has received support from the Latin American Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches (CIEMAL) and the Christian Commission on Development.
Methodists in the French-speaking West African country of Cote d’Ivoire are divided into three districts – Grand Bassam, Dabou and Abidjan – and the two missionary districts of Bouake and Daloa. The denomination has 853 local churches, with 89 active pastors, including four women, and 38 evangelists. It runs a number of schools as well as an orphanage and the Protestant Methodist Hospital in Dabou. – United Methodist News Service.