Bishop Yemba Re-elected in the Congo

September 19, 2008

(UMNS) Bishop David Kekumba Yemba has been re-elected to oversee the UMC’s Central Congo Area after four years of service. With his re-election, he is now a bishop for life. Yemba won Aug. 26 on the third ballot by the Congo Central Conference, meeting in Kananga in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yemba is the third UM bishop elected or re-elected in Africa this year. In July, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa was re-elected to lead the denomination's Zimbabwe Area, and the Rev. Joaquina Filipe Nhanala was elected to oversee the Mozambique Area. On Sept. 1, Nhanala will become the first female UM bishop in Africa. One more bishop is expected to be elected in Africa this year. In December, balloting is scheduled to replace retiring Bishop Joseph Humper of Sierra Leone.

The Central Congo Area, where Yemba leads the church, is one of the church’s largest episcopal areas, with four annual conferences and two provisional annual conferences. Together, they cover 10 out of 11 provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yemba said it is a challenge to serve such a large area. “The Congo has just gotten out of repeated wars and we need people trained to deliver what is needed,” he said. “We need district superintendents, lay people … all pledging to work together with the bishop.”

When he was first elected in 2005, Yemba was a professor and founding dean of the faculty of theology at UM-related Africa University in Zimbabwe. He replaced Bishop Fama Onema, who had served the area for more than 30 years. Since his election, Yemba has been an outspoken proponent of changing the denomination’s structure in an effort to make the UMC less U.S.-centric and more global. Yemba and his wife, Henriette, have five children.