By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson
The United Methodist Church family is in deep shock and grief at the report of the sudden death today of Bishop John Yambasu, the episcopal leader of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference. He died tragically in a road accident on his way to a funeral.
Bishop Yambasu was President of the Africa College of Bishops of The United Methodist Church and the newly elected Chancellor of Africa University. Like me, he was elected to serve as bishop in 2008, and thus, we were in the same bishops “class.” Many times bishops have “class” dinners together during Council of Bishops meetings. We share about our ministries at these dinners; and I was always impressed with his heart for missions and his service in youth ministry.
He supported the Rev. Dorcas Kamanda, of the Eastern PA Conference, as she established an orphanage in Sierra Leone in the wake of the Ebola epidemic there. He always asked me about Pastor Dorcas and her work. And he was always appreciative of the help given to schools in Sierra Leone by the Rev. Jim Todd and other clergy in the former Southwest District.
Bishop Yambasu performed an extraordinary feat by gathering a group of diverse United Methodists last year and leading them to craft the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation in December. The team worked to find a way that we as a denomination can end the impasse around paragraphs in the Book of Discipline that determine the legality of homosexual pastors and weddings/holy unions.
His leadership skills and ability to work with all of the bishops in our connection helped produce the agreements that led to the proposed plan. The resulting legislation is still pending, with the postponement of General Conference until 2021.
Bishop Yambasu leaves us to carry on his legacy of faithful service and visionary leadership. We mourn his passing at this time, and I call on our leaders and churches to lift up his family and his conference in prayer at this difficult time.
Please Note: One of our clergy members, the Rev. Dorcas Kamanda, has been developing an orphanage for children of Ebola victims in her native country of Sierra Leone, along with a medical clinic. Bishop Yambasu has been supportive of her work and authorized the establishment of a new United Methodist church in that region where Rev. Kamanda serves. Here are comments Rev. Kamanda shared with me tonight, in mourning her friend Bishop Yambasu’s death.
Bishop Yambasu has been a strong supporter of all our ministry work. When he visited the clinic in Kabala, he stayed at the clinic guest house. He recently asked the Sierra Leone United Methodist Conference to take full responsibility of our UMC Heritage High School. He also provided a pastor for the church we built in Kabala. It's is identified as one of the major churches in the Sierra Leone Conference.
Bishop Yambasu loved our MamaLand orphans; and he spends time with them whenever he comes to visit. His office is always an open to me. At the last UMC Sierra Leone Annual Conference in Kono he poured out so much praise for our work in Kabala, especially for developing a UM church in a place where the Conference had great difficulty in penetrating. Kabala residents, in the Koinadugu District, are predominantly of the Islam faith. Bishop Yambasu was excited about having a second UMC in this huge District, and through his encouragement, I am able to preach and participate in duties as an Elder.
Bishop Yambasu will be missed greatly. He transformed the UMC in Sierra Leone into an institution of great respect. The churches are growing in attendance, and new churches are springing up.