Our World Wide Church Family
The World Methodist Council is made up of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 40.5 million members in 138 countries1. To find a member church in your area please use the A-to-Z guide located below. To view a member church’s contact details, click the blue arrow button. * denotes churches under the Central and South Europe Central Conference of the United Methodist Church ** denotes churches under the Northern Europe Central Conference of the United Methodist Church
Methodism came to Sri Lanka on June 29, 1814. The mission was led by Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke who died on his way to this country near Bombay. Five others, however, landed on our shores. Many other missionaries have come from Britain and Ireland and made a rich contribution to the life of the church. Missionary teachers and principals have left an indelible mark on the history of education in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Church became autonomous in 1964.
The oldest Methodist Church in Asia is in Colombo and it celebrated its 180th anniversary in 1995. The Methodist Church in Sri Lanka consists of 3 districts and 32 circuits. It has 75 active ministers, 54 evangelists and 20 lay workers in full time ministry. Three missionaries of our church serve in England, Germany and the West Indies. Nine missionaries from Germany, Korea, England and Holland work in the church. The total Methodist community in Sri Lanka is 28,000.
The ministers receive their theological education at an ecumenical theological college in Pilimatalawa. Two evangelistic training centers have been established for training evangelists in Tamil and Sinhala. The church manages two schools, Wesley College and Methodist College. The church has been actively involved in education since 1814. There were over 120 Methodist schools managed by the church when the government took over mission schools in Sri Lanka. It has now gone into pre-school education and has set up 150 pre-schools, nurseries and day care centers. More are for the poorer children and include nutrition programs.
The church runs 17 children’s homes for about 1,000 children, assisted by Kinder Nothilfe in Germany. With the country in a state of civil war the church has been challenged to care for the victims of violence. Churches in the combat zone have organized refugee camps, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, and counseling of those who have faced trauma of war.
The Church has training programs for electronic technicians, motor mechanics, mechanical engineering, pottery, sewing, agriculture, a center for training in the printing trade and training in its City Mission for carpentry, metal work, catering, and janitorial services. About 400 young people benefit from these projects.
Over 50 evangelists are trying to establish a Christian witness in frontier areas. Last year new work was begun in 30 village communities. The church is experimenting with new forms of worship, introducing creative, indigenous models of worship.
The peace and reconciliation committee of the church is involved in a peace education program to educate the youth to understand the need for multi-ethnic co-existence. Exchange programs for young people belonging to different ethnic communities are being organized as a contribution to peace education. It has tried to mediate between the conflicting parties in the war and has urged them to take steps towards a negotiated settlement to the ethnic crisis.
The first Wesleyan congregation in Switzerland was founded in Lausanne in 1840. The Methodist Episcopal Church began its work sixteen years later in Lausanne and Zurich. And finally, the Evangelical Brethren Church founded its first congregation in Berne in 1866. Thus today’s UMC in Switzerland was formed from three different Methodist movements.
In the early days, missionaries from Germany, Great Britain, and America worked to build the Church. Local preachers soon cared for a growing number of congregations. However, this period was a time not only of growth, but also of resistance and oppression. Any religious movement that belonged neither to the Catholic nor to the Reformed Protestant Church was treated as a sect, and proselytizing was viewed as «stealing members». Violence against preachers and lay missionaries was not uncommon.
But the spread of Methodism in Switzerland was not to be stopped, and soon Switzerland was itself the source of missionary work. Members of the Church, especially women, were sent out to nearly all continents to do good works, to teach people about God, and to help build new congregations. Today, eleven men and women work in the service of Connexio, the mission and service network of the UMC, in Argentina, in the Congo, in Algeria and in Croatia – in projects for development cooperation, emergency aid, missionary congregation building, and inter-church aid.
In Switzerland as elsewhere, the UMC’s field of activity includes much more than pure congregational work. The Church maintains close ties with various social and missionary institutions:
– Bethanien Charity in Zürich
– Bethesda Charity in Basel
– 8 homes for the elderly
– 1 group living facility for mothers and children
– 1 day nursery
– 1 home for the mentally handicapped
– 2 hotels
– 1 backpackers villa
– 5 retreats
In many places, the congregational efforts emphasize work with children and youth and the organization of worship services in a contemporary style. Music also plays an important role, just as in the early Methodist movement. In addition to numerous choirs and vocal groups, many congregations also have their own bands, brass choirs, or other instrumental ensembles.
The cooperation with other Churches — be it in the context of the Evangelical Alliance or in the ecumenical context — is an important priority of the UMC and is considered to be an active contribution towards a common Christian witness.
There are still a number of women’s groups and missionary societies. In the past 15 years, congregational partnership teams have been established. In all these groups, the participants not only discuss the issues of their own lives, but also follow the work of Methodist congregations in other places (Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, Asia), and make practical contributions.
On the other hand there are several groups and congregations made up by people from Latin America, Africa or Asia which meet in UMC buildings and which have an already longstanding or a rather new but growing relationship with the UMC.
And finally, there are missionary activities and serving ministries at many places (working with drug addicts and the socially disadvantaged; open youth work; lunch projects, support for asylum seekers, etc.). Many congregations are opening themselves to the non-members around them by initiating programs based on the needs of people not affiliated with any church.
Together with the UMC in France and the Methodist congregations in Northern Africa (Algeria/Tunisia), the UMC in Switzerland makes up the Annual Conference of Switzerland/France.
In 1843, British Wesleyan missionary Thomas Birch Freeman who came from Lagos, Nigeria, visited Togo. He gained permission from the Ling of Anecho, Georges Lawson I for preaching and for establishment of schools.
For a long time, the work was developed only in the Anecho area which is inhabited by the ethnic group of Mina and Guin.
At the beginning, the Methodist Church of Togo was under the authority of Nigeria-Dahomey-Togo District which later became Dahomey-Togo District. It was only in 1978 that the Methodist Church of Togo was separated from the Methodist Church of Benin and became an independent district of the British Conference and is presided over by a chairman. From 1978 to 1980, the chairman was Rev. James Lawson. From 1981 to 1990 it was Rev. Gaspard Menoah, and at the present time, it is Rev. Felicien Lawson.
The last Synod (1995) decided that the Methodist District of Togo will become an independent conference in 1999.
The total Methodist community is 38,816 of whom 18,622 are full members in 6 circuits and 25 parishes. The church is served today by two Togolese ministers in full time and two in part time while four are in school. Eight catechists and other lay preachers helped the ministers in this service. Women and youth are given their places in the church and their unions are active and growing in strength. The church also operates 20 primary schools and one secondary school.
The first missionaries who came to Tonga landed in 1787. They were sent out by the London Missionary Society and were not ministers but tradesmen, the plan being to give some elements of civilization and afterwards when the way had been prepared, to give Christian teaching. This attempt failed. The Tongans misjudged the intentions of these men and during war between different factions some were massacred and others left the country.
In 1822 the Rev. Walter Lawry came and remained for 14 months. He met with a great deal of opposition and abandoned the attempt to Christianize Tonga.
On June 28, 1826, Revs. John Thomas and John Hutchinson landed at Ha‟atafu where a monument now stands to mark the spot and commemorate the event. They settled at Kolovai, the largest village in that area. Some months prior to this two Tahitians, Hape and Tafeta, began work successfully in Nuku‟alofa. Soon other missionaries arrived and the work spread to Ha‟apai and Vava‟u groups.
In July 1834 beginning in a service at „Utui conducted by a Tongan, a great work of the Spirit of God brought almost all the people of Vava‟u into the church. By the end of 1834 it was said there were no heathen left in Ha‟apai. The work was slower in Tongatapu but by 1853 all Tongans were at least nominally Christian.
The Free Wesleyan church of Tonga, gained autonomy from the General Conference of The Methodist Church of Australia when the Uniting Church on Australia was established. This was a significant decision on the part of the Tongan Conference to gain this freedom from the Australian Conference and thus lived up to its name of Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga.
Education is a strong feature of the work of the church in Tonga. It is responsible for the secondary education of more than 60 percent of the students in Tonga. It runs five senior secondary schools and two district schools, seven primary schools and three middle schools. Christian education and evangelism have also become high in the list of the church priorities. For the last decade of the century the church adopted the theme of “Witness 2000,” which involved an all-out drive to reach young people who are not yet catechists.
The Department of Christian Education and Evangelism works closely with the Women‟s Department in implementing the theme of the church. The Women‟s Department sees to the welfare of women in the church.
Although free from the General Australian Conference, the church very much values its relationships with the World Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia. At the end of 1991, there were three missionaries from Australia, one from the Methodist Church Overseas Division in Britian, and several Peace corps Volunteers as well as Australian volunteers, mainly in church schools.
The Tongan Church Mission Board oversees numerous Tongan congregations in other countries, notably the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as some congregations have opted to remain affiliated with the parent church in Tonga. Church work centers mainly on evangelism.
Methodist work in Uruguay began in 1836 with explorations and visits among the English speaking population. In 1868, the Rev. Juan F. Thompson who had begun Spanish preaching in Buenos Aires, Argentina, moved to Montevideo and started a very promising movement, especially among the liberal intellectuals and the independent middle class. In 1878 the Rev. Thomas B. Wood organized the Episcopal Methodist church in the capital city and other cities of the country, and founded the first Latin American Methodist publication, “El Evangelista.” In 1893 Uruguay became a district of the River Plate Conference (Argentina and Uruguay), and a Provisional Annual Conference in 1954. Since 1969 the church became autonomous, under a General Assembly every two years, with an Executive Committee of six lay members and three ordained members. The President can be a minister or a layperson.
Educational work began in 1879, with several independent schools under national leadership, that later on converged into the “Instituto Crandon,” one of the most prestigious and influential educational institutions in the country to this day. In 1957 a branch was started in the city of Salto. Good Will Industries was founded in the depression years to help the unemployed, the first of its kind to be founded outside of the USA. The “Good Will Institute” is totally dedicated to specialized education of handicapped young people. Day care centers are offered in some of the most needy areas of Montevideo, in cooperation with government institutions.
In spite of its small number of churches and members, the Uruguayan Methodist Church has been present and active in the intellectual and social life of the country, providing the leadership for Temperance and Defense of Women movements, the formation of the YMCA, the creation of the “Hospital Evangelico,” the National Federation of Youth, and the Federation of Protestant Churches.
Ecumenical relationships and projects are an inseparable part of the church, nationally and internatinally, providing leadership to the world church (i.e., Emilio Castro, former secretary of the WCC). A radio program “La Voz Evangelical,” has been reaching a national audience for 52 years. The church suffered the impact of eleven years of military dictatorship (1973-83), with the subsequent polarization and dispersion of membership. At the moment the total membership is 1,193 and the community served is 5,000. It has 11 ordained ministers, 4 lay ministers, and 478 people working in its institutions and programs. At present a missionary couple from the USA, one pastor from Argentina and one from Brazil are sharing in this ministry. “The Academy of Methodism” has been created to train the lay leadership.
The United Methodist Church traces its origins to the Evangelical Revival of the 18th Century in which John and Charles Wesley were prominent leaders. Methodist societies were organized in North America in the 1762. As the movement grew, American Methodists petitioned John Wesley to send lay preacher missionaries to strengthen and extend their ministry.
One of Wesley’s missioners, Thomas Rankin, called together the American preachers for their first annual conference in 1773.
In December 1784 the Methodist Episcopal Church was created with Wesley’s blessing. Thomas Coke (1747-1814) and Francis Asbury (1745-1816) were named its superintendents. Asbury was an especially important itinerant leader in the earliest years. Within a few years geographical annual conferences were devised as the church continued to grow. Itinerant circuit riding preachers and committed laypeople contributed to an evangelical ministry in the Methodist Episcopal Church which resulted in its becoming a major force in American life.
While the Methodist Episcopal Church was in its infancy, two German-speaking churches were being established. In 1800 Philip William Otterbein (1726-1813) and Martin Boehm (1725-1812) organized the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Seven years later Jacob Albright (1759-1808) formed the Evangelical Association. Over the ensuing years both of these churches effectively ministered to German-speaking and English-speaking people. In 1946 the United Brethren and Evangelicals united to become the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
Painful schisms over race, democratic ideals, slavery in the Methodist Episcopal Church resulted in the formation of new Methodist ecclesiastical bodies including the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1816), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (1796), Methodist Protestant (1830), and Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1845), and Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal (1870) churches among others. In 1939 the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and Methodist Protestant churches reunited to form The Methodist Church.
After several years of discussion and negotiation The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church united in April 1968 to constitute The United Methodist Church. Like its predecessors The United Methodist Church has an episcopal form of government and is organized into geographical annual conferences. The chief legislative body of the church is the General Conference, composed of approximately 1,000 delegates, which is scheduled to meet quadrennially. Church governance is prescribed in the denomination’s Book of Discipline which is revised by General Conference legislation. It also published The Book of Resolutions which includes statements on social issues and other matters. From its origins United Methodism and its predecessors have sought to combine evangelical faith with personal and social holiness. The denomination’s Council of Bishops and its fourteen official boards and agencies implement the church’s policies and programs.
The United Methodist Church has four doctrinal standards. Three of these are attributed to John Wesley: The Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament; his Standard Sermons; and the Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church. The fourth standard is the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. For their theology, United Methodists also utilize a document titled, “Our Theological Task,” published in their Discipline which encourages the use of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience for their faith and life.
There are approximately 35,000 local churches in the United Methodist connection. Worship and liturgical practices in these churches vary from congregation to congregation. However, most congregations use The United Methodist Hymnal for worship and The United Methodist Book of Worship as a resource for worship. Two sacraments are central to the church’s life: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
United Methodism and its predecessors have traditionally supported the World Methodist Council and other ecumenical bodies such as the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and the World Council of Churches.
The United Methodist Church seeks to be faithful to God in its worship and witness.
The Wesleyan Church (TWC) was formed through the uniting of The Wesleyan Methodist Church of America (1843) and The Pilgrim Holiness Church of America (1897) in 1968. The Wesleyan Methodist Church came into existence during the slavery abolitionist movement of the 19th century while the Pilgrim Holiness Church had its origins in the revivalism of the same period.
TWC World Headquarters offices are located in Fishers, IN (The Greater Indianapolis area). One general superintendent, elected quadrennially, provides spiritual and administrative leadership for the denomination. Four executive directors and the chief financial officer assist the general superintendent in the leadership of the various ministries of the Church.
The Wesleyan Church emphasizes scriptural truth concerning the new birth, the sanctification of the believer, the personal return of Christ, and church planting and global evangelism. At the same time the Church speaks to the social, moral, and political issues through a Denominational Task Force on Public Morals and Social Concerns. It joins with World Hope International in providing compassionate ministry around the world.
The Wesleyan Church exists in 100 90 nations of the world. The development of national Wesleyan Churches into fully responsible church bodies is encouraged. All national and regional churches maintain relationship with each other through an International Board and Conference. Two national churches have risen to the level of general conference: The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines and The Wesleyan Church of the Caribbean.
Five college and/or universities are owned and operated by the Church in North America and many Bible colleges and ministerial institutes as well as hospitals and clinics in other countries. The Church operates a publishing house which publishes prints and distributes books, literature, and Sunday school curriculum to many denominations in both English and Spanish.
There are over 5000 churches and/or missions in the world with a baptized membership of over 370,000 and a constituency of over 500,000. The Immanuel General Mission of Japan and Yeon Hap Korean Methodist Church of Korea are affiliate member denominations.
Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, Ind., and a seminary foundation, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY, provide for the ministerial graduate education of ministers along with five other denominationally endorsed seminaries.
The Wesleyan Church is a member of the World Methodist Council, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the American Bible Society.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church through its Fourteenth Episcopal District operates in five nations of West Africa, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. The AME mission to this region commenced in 1820 when Daniel Coker, the founder of African Methodism in Baltimore, arrived in Sierra Leone. Since Coker mounted an independent effort, John R. Frederick in 1886 became the first official AME representative in Sierra Leone. Frederick’s missionary successes, the strides of his colleague, Sarah Corham, and the adsorption of the Countess of Huntingdon Connection enabled Bishop Henry M. Turner on November 10, 1891, to organize the Sierra Leone Annual Conference. A month later Turner launched the Liberia Annual Conference. AME members whom Bishop John M. Brown organized in 1878 emigrated to Liberia from the United States. They eventually became the nucleus out of which Turner inaugurated African Methodism in Liberia. Bishop Edward J. Howard convened the first Ghana Annual Conference in 1936, five years after Mrs. Europa J. Randall, a missionary from Sierra Leone, founded a congregation at Essikadu. Not until the 1960s was the AME church firmly established in Nigeria although formal recognition had occurred in 1956 when the General Conference admitted delegates representing that country. Bishop John R. Bryant and the Rev. Cecilia W. Bryant inaugurated an evangelistic thrust which brought the AME Church into the Ivory Coast in 1989. Within three years five congregations had been founded.
The AME Church has had a broad impact on education. Mainly in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana the denomination has operated numerous schools at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels. In Sierra Leone the Rev. H. M. Steady, who joined the denomination in 1890, founded the AME Boy’s Seminary and the AME Girl’s Industrial and Literary School. In 1960 the Sierra Leone Annual Conference sponsored eight educational institutions. In Liberia in 1902 Bishop Cornelius T. Shaffer purchased 100 acres near Arthington for the Shaffer Boy’s High School. Monrovia College and Industrial Institute, however, became the leading AME school in that nation. Founded in 1921 by Bishop William S. Brooks, the institution continued to grow under his episcopal successors who built additional facilities and attracted able faculty. Bishop Eugene C. Hatcher, for example, dedicated the new Hatcher Hall in 1955 and installed the Rev. John F. Little as the administrator of the school. The AME Church also supported numerous other institutions in the Liberia Annual Conference, including facilities in Cape Palmas, in the Gedebo Interior, and other areas. In the Ghana Annual Conference the Payne Collegiate Institute in Accra, which the Rev. J. P. B. Richards started in the 1930s, was an early venture in this jurisdiction. During this period 10 AME schools mostly in Accra were in operation. Other facilities impacted people in Essikadu, Essaman, Takoradi, Kumasi, and Sekesua.
The greatest growth in West Africa occurred during the 1988-1992 tenure of Bishop John R. Bryant. Phenomenal growth continues under the leadership of Bishop Adam J. Richardson who has undertaken an extensive building and renovation program, as well as the maintenance of fifteen primary schools, six secondary schools and one college with a collective enrollment of 9,000 students. The total number of churches now stands at 108 and nearly 13,000 members.
Church unity in Zambia dates back to the country’s first General Missionary Conference held in Livingstone in 1914. But even more significant, as far as church unity is concerned, is the 1931 General Missionary Conference held at Kabwe (Broken Hill). This conference approved the formation of United Missions in the Copperbelt which would provide pastoral services to Christians flocking from rural churches for work at the emerging copper mines. Thus the Union Church of the Copperbelt was virtually initiated by mine workers themselves. Missions involved in the United Missions on the Copperbelt were: The Church of Central Africa Mission, represented by Rev. R. J. B. Moore; the Church of Scotland; The Methodist Church; and The Baptist Church, represented by Rev. A.J. Cross.
The Church of Central Africa Mission, the Church of Scotland and the Union Church of the Copperbelt formed the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia. Further groups joined in the formation on July 26, 1958, of the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia.
Continued union negotiations with the Methodist Church eventually led the Methodists and the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society to join the UCCAR in 1965 to form the United Church of Zambia. Rev. Colin Morris became its first president with Rev. Doyce Musunsa as the Synod Clerk.
The United Church of Zambia is the largest Protestant church in the country and despite short-lived schisms it has continued to grow numerically. The United Church of Zambia, among other tasks, seeks to create more awareness in the nation of the presence of the church as a missionary and prophetic institution.
The African Methodist Church in Zimbabwe was founded in May 1947 by Rev. Dr. E. T. J. Nemapare, a teacher who turned theologian and was later ordained in the British Methodist Church. Beginning as a small church at Ngezi Missionar Station near Mvuma, it soon spread to the rural areas. Branches were established in the city of Bulawayo, Gweru, Harare and Masvingo.
Today the church works in the ecumenical environment through the Zimbabwe Council of Churches but maintained its roots in the areas where it has constructed schools and clinics.
The church is an indigenous independent organization which relies on the contributions from its members. The structures of the church are continuously being examined so that they remain open to spread the good news of the Gospel in a complex society/ community.
We have 21,000 members and a constituency of about 30,000 people who rally from the wider brotherhood in which we serve. The golden anniversary of the church was celebrated in 1997.
The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe which originated in Wesleyan British Methodism came to Zimbabwe under the leadership of Rev. Owen Watkins and Rev. Isaac Shimmin, who arrived at Fort Salisbury on September 29, 1891.
The first mission stations were established at Fort Salisbury (1891); Hartlyton (1891); Nenguwo (Waddilove) (1892); and Kwenda (1892). The work at these stations was made possible by the arrival of the Rev. George H. Eva and eight African evangelists and teachers from the Transvaal and Cape colony of South Africa in August 1892. Rev. Isaac Shimmin welcomed these evangelists and teachers because he believed that the evangelization of Africa could best be done by the Africans witnessing to Africans. A new mission station was established in Matebeleland in the western part of the country in 1894 at Makokoba in Bulawayo.
The first Synod was in Harare in Mashonaland in 1895 under the chairmanship of the Rev. George Weavind – Chairman of the Transvaal District of the Methodist Church in South Africa. By this time Synod noted that already 3,000 adults regularly listened to the gospel and 700 children attended Sunday School.
From Owen Watkins and Isaac Shimmin a succession Chairman of District under the British Conference followed – namely John White, Frank Noble, Herbert Carter, Jesse Lawrence and Andrew M. Ndhlela (1965). Andrew Ndhlela marked the end of white leadership in the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe but the church only got its autonomy from the British Conference in 1977 – Andrew Ndhlela becoming the first President of an Autonomous Church. He was succeeded by President Crispin Mazobere, Caspen Makuzwa and Farai J. Chirisa who became the first bishop in 1989. Rev. Cephas Z. Mukandi came after Bishop Chirisa and was the first Presiding Bishop. He retired from this office in 2004 and Reverend Margaret M. James was the Acting Presiding Bishop in 2005. She was succeeded by the current Presiding Bishop, Reverend Simbarashe Sithole.
Over the period of now 115 years the Methodist Church has been involved in preaching the gospel throughout the country involving Men’s Christian Union, Women’s Fellowship organization, Boys Christian Union, Girls Christian Union and a vibrant Youth Department to cater for work among young people and children. The church has been involved in agricultural work, primary and secondary education. The church runs eleven primary schools, two secondary schools and eight high schools. It is planning to establish a Southern African Methodist University in the Mashonaland Province.
Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell is associated with the beginning of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). After arriving in Mutare on December 10. 1897, he organized the first congregation two days later on December 12, 1897 and forty people attended this first service which was held at a general dealer’s store, the present site of the Puzey and Payne garage in the city of Mutare at which the bishop preached. After applying for permission to start mission work for the church and subsequent to meeting with Cecil Rhodes, a business man and administrator of the British Colony of Rhodesia, who owned the property, the site for the Old Mutare Mission was donated by Mr. Rhodes.
The first Methodist Church for Africans was built in the town of Mutare and continues with the name of Hilltop United Methodist Church. The church soon began to spread fast in the villages due to the enthusiasm for the gospel and evangelism on the part of the newly converted African evangelists.
Soon after the conference was established here, the church quickly realized that the future and the strength of the church lay in the proper and adequate training of the African preachers. The first African preachers were ordained in 1942 and this move ushered in a new era in which Africans began to participate at the highest level of conference decision making. The first black Zimbabwean woman to graduate with a university degree was a United Methodist, a product of this program. Also a product of the church’s program was the first black Zimbabwean to qualify and graduate from university as a medical doctor. The first comprehensive agricultural
irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe’s poor villages was introduced and developed under the church’s rural development program. The church has been involved in extensive program of evangelization and rural development through comprehensive programs of education, medical and health care services.
From the time of Bishop Hartzell, a succession of bishops followed and great work was done. The appointment of Bishop Ralph Edward Dodge marked a turning point in the Africanization of the church and the Zimbabwean society. The bishop embarked on an intentional policy of sending young men and women to study in the United States, and upon returning home these became leaders in the church and in society. As a climax to this Africanization, Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa was elected the first African bishop in the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. He espoused the concept of salvation for the whole person and became an avid critic of the colonial racist regime in the country. With a rapid turn of events the bishop became the first black prime minister of the nation of Zimbabwe.
The church currently runs three hospitals, several clinics, two nurses training schools, numerous primary/elementary and high schools (three of which offer junior college-level courses) and a teachers’ college. All are run by Africans except the hospitals which rely heavily on missionaries or doctors from overseas. The establishment of Africa University at Old Mutare in 1992, is a landmark achievement for all of Africa.
During the protracted war for liberation which ended in 1980 in Zimbabwe, the church was hated and its leaders were detained and harassed by the Rhodesian security agents. It was (ironically) during this period that the church grew very rapidly, mainly as a result of the new secret house churches which emerged and began to meet underground in vans as members traveled to and from work and in homes for prayer and fellowship and Bible study and holy Communion.
Because of continued growth and expansion the church is always short of adequately trained pastors for the fast expanding work. Membership continues to grow as there are more areas which must still be reached by the gospel. The present generation looks back and commends the faith of the founding fathers and mothers, and rejoices in what has been accomplished and hopes for more blessings to come. Year-long celebrations of its centennial in 1997 focused on personal holiness and the desire to spread the same throughout the land.