Jokomo, former bishop of Zimbabwe, dies at 64

April 11, 2007

By United Methodist News Service

Bishop Christopher Jokomo, 64, former episcopal leader for The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, died April 7 at his home in Harare.

The current episcopal leader, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, was working with the family on arrangements for the funeral, which was scheduled for April 11.

Jokomo was elected to the episcopacy by the denomination's Africa Central Conference in 1992 and became bishop for life after being re-elected four years later. He served the Zimbabwe Area until retiring in 2004 because of health problems that included a stroke several years ago.

Jokomo "was the right person for the right time" in the Zimbabwe United Methodist Church and had a major impact on Africa University, said Jim Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement for the United Methodist-related school in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

"He was integral in the development of Africa University and provided leadership on the finance committee," Salley said.

"When you look at … the Zimbabwe Annual Conference and the Africa Central Conference, he provided stellar leadership with his focus on empowering people to be all that they can be. His focus on evangelism and partnerships with other annual conferences can be a model which all other annual conferences could emulate. He will be greatly, greatly missed."

A lifetime of ministry

Born on Dec. 27, 1942, in Murewa, Zimbabwe, Jokomo was ordained deacon by Bishop Roy Nichols in 1976 and elder by Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa in 1978.

He served congregations in Zimbabwe and was headmaster and chaplain at the Mutumbara United Methodist Mission School and the United Methodist mission school in Murewa. He earned a Master of Theological Science degree from United Methodist-related Perkins School of Theology in Dallas and later received an honorary doctorate from Morningside College in recognition of his leadership and educational service to the denomination.

His work on behalf of Africa University led the school in 2001 to name its library the Jokomo/Yamada Library – also named after Ken Yamada, a staff member with the denomination's Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, served with Jokomo on the university's board of directors and saluted his leadership abilities.

"Bishop Jokomo had the distinction of presiding over the 100th anniversary of The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe," Day said in a statement. "He was also the episcopal leader who helped to bring Africa University to maturity as a church-related institution of excellent reputation throughout the continent."

That leadership extended throughout Zimbabwe, according to Day. "The bishop also showed vision and courage in his determination to provide HIV/AIDS education to the people of Zimbabwe," Day said. "Despite both cultural and governmental coolness to the idea, Bishop Jokomo set up AIDS education programs through United Methodist congregations across Zimbabwe.

"He also worked with the General Board of Global Ministries in initiating a landmark program in the care and education for children who lost their parents to AIDS."

Missionary leadership

Under Jokomo's leadership, the Dendera Mission in eastern Zimbabwe grew from a center providing basic services for needy people into a laboratory for economic and educational development. The denomination supported a church building, a medical clinic, an ambulance and a school at Dendera.

Through Methodist Rural Industrial Development, a ministry of the Zimbabwe Annual Conference's Council on Ministries, Jokomo opened a sunflower oil-processing plant, a demonstration farm and a reforestation project at Dendera Mission. The projects boosted the local economy and brought new jobs to the area.

In 1997, Jokomo and Bishop Felton May, then leader of the Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference, announced a formal partnership between United Methodists in their areas to deal with issues such as poverty and drug addiction in Zimbabwe.

Jokomo is survived by his wife, Edith Munjoma Jokomo, and two children, Runyararo Pennelope Verna, 19, and Rutendo Grace, 17.

May was to represent the United Methodist Council of Bishops at the funeral. Bishop Ernest Lyght, who was en route to the Africa University board of directors meeting in Zimbabwe, also was to attend.