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Aug 22

Gabriel Unda Yemba elected bishop in Democratic Republic of Congo

By Tafadzwa Mudambanuki and Heather Hahn

KOLWEZI, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — The Rev. Gabriel Unda Yemba of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, has been elected a United Methodist bishop by delegates of the Congo Central Conference.

When he realized he was about to be elected, “I felt a huge responsibility landing on my shoulders,” he said through an interpreter.

Gabriel Unda Yemba

“Indeed, it is a huge responsibility to assume the episcopal office. Because of my election I have become a good or bad father of my episcopal area depending on how people judge me.”

Unda, 61, will lead the new East Congo Episcopal Area in the Democratic Republic of Congo where The United Methodist Church is growing rapidly. The recently completed General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, approved the new episcopal area, and Congo Central Conference delegates chose its name.

The area will encompass the Maniema Province and the Kivu region. It borders Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Central African Republic. It will be based in the city of Kindu, the capital of Maniema Province.

He knows it will be a challenging appointment. The area has impassable roads, and his only reliable mode of transportation will be an airplane.

“I see people travelling with loads on their heads and shoulders across the episcopal area, and these are the people I have been elected to serve,” he said.

“My plan is to reconnoiter the entire episcopal area and ascertain the needs of the various ministries of the church and then find ways of creating an effective delivery system for the development of East Congo.”

Unda was elected Aug. 22 on the fourth ballot with 227 votes of the 263 clergy and laity delegates from the three nations that form the Congo Central Conference — Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Tanzania.

A consecration service for the new bishop is scheduled to be at 2 p.m. local time Aug. 23.

In the Congo Central Conference, a bishop is elected to a four-year term. With re-election after four years, a bishop is elected “for life” and serves until retirement.

Unda, whose mother died when he was 8 months old, was raised by missionaries and his extended family. Ordained in 1971, he has served as a pastor and a chaplain of United Methodist schools, sometimes facing the threat of violence to do his ministry. He lost his wife, Omba Charlotte Unda, on Feb. 1, 2007, to malaria.

He is an outgoing board member of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. He knows five languages — Swahili, Lingala, French, Otetela and some English. He is no relation to Bishop David Kekumba Yemba, who leads the Central Congo Episcopal Area.

As in the United States, local United Methodist churches around the global are organized into increasingly larger groups: numerous districts, dozens of annual conferences and many central conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe.

With Unda’s consecration, four active bishops will lead 14 annual (regional) conferences that form the Congo Central Conference.

“My prayer is to see the children of God unite and build the Kingdom of God in East Congo,” Unda Yemba said.  “It is my sincere hope that by the grace of God, to see this episcopal area develop from its ashes to a livable and peaceable area.”

The United Methodist Book of Discipline directs each bishop to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” and to “lead all persons entrusted to their oversight in worship, in the celebration of the sacraments, and in their mission of witness and service in the world.” Bishops also are to be “prophetic voices and courageous leaders in the cause of justice for all people.”

12 comments

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  1. Arnalia G.

    Has Tanganyika become a country too in Africa? In your article you mentioned the Congo central conference has four nations “D.R. Congo, Zambia, Tanzania and Tanganyika.” I m an African and never knew when Tanganyika became a nation. I always know that Congo central conference has only three countries (D.R. Congo, Zambia and Tanzania)…But several annual conferences, South Congo, North Katanga, Tanganyika, Zambia-provision, Lukoshi-Provisional, Central Congo annual conf. etc..

    Thought I would mention this correction

  2. Heather Hahn

    Thank you so much for alerting me to this error. I am going to fix it right now.

  3. Flavier K.

    Nice article Heather, So many countries in Africa, so the Tanganyika part is not that big problem, at least correction was done. By the way Arnalia, Congo central conference has indeed three countries like you mentioned but it doesn’t include several annual conferences like South Congo or North Katanga that you mentioned, these two are separate bodies on the same level as the Congo Central and the South Congo also has a part of Zambia in it area of operation. I’m from the DRC in the South and I’m African LOL.

  4. obed aying

    felicitation

  5. REMIGIO P. PANLAQUI

    I personally congratulate Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba as the newly elected bishop of the Congo Central Conference. He is a good friend of mine. We are both members of the Committee on Older Adult Ministry under the GBOD. He is soft-spoken person, very loyal to the church, very much in tune to the needs of the older adults in his area of responsibility, namely in the Democratic Republic of Congo,and as one who comes outside continental America like me, we both share the experiences of sufferings, poverty, economic disparity among our people especially the older adults whom we are sworn to serve through our committee. I pray that Bishop Yemba will be able, by the grace of God, to assume and bear the huge responsibilities of being an episcopal leader in Congo, “at such a time as this.”

  6. Tom Albin

    Congratulations to Bishop Yemba. Our prayers will be support him as he begins to serve the people and the cause of Christ.

    tom

  7. Rev. David Miner

    Congratulations and prayers for Bishop Gabrielle Unda Yemba. The needs in his episcopal area are great as are all the regions in the D. R. Congo.

  8. Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, Ph.D.

    I just spoke with Bishop Unda and shared with him your kind words of congratulations (since he has not had a chance to access the Internet). He thanks you for your kindness and asks for your prayers. Thank you Heather for your great work. The Congo Central Conference now counts four episcopal areas in the Congo, DRC, which comprise 12 annual conferences and 2 provisional conferences.

    Kabamba

  9. Pierre Omadjela

    “Despite the security concerns in eastern and northeastern of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I will go and serve my God” said Reverend Gabriel Unda Yemba when I was interviewing him after his consecration as the New Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Congo.

    We pray that God leads him while accomplishing his ministry as the needs in his episcopal area are great.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03hOta2ULwQ

    Pierre Omadjela

    Director of Communications
    Central Congo Episcopal Area

  10. Sabine Dimandj'Omoy

    Wishing the best to Bishop Gabriel Unda for this huge responsability.I know “WE CAN”by the Grace.Remember”TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE IT”Be Blessed

  11. Boobs

    sup homes

  12. canda kawambwa

    Thank you to Bishop Unda

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    [...] In August, the United Methodist Congo Central Conference elected the Rev. Gabriel Unda Yemba as bishop for the East Congo Episcopal Area. [...]

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