Five bishops elected in Germany, Congo
Four new members are joining the United Methodist Council of Bishops. Their elections came during central conference meetings in Hamburg, Germany, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A current bishop was re-elected and is a bishop for life.
Bishop Harald Rückert is the new episcopal leader in Germany. Now a bishop for life, Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda serves the East Congo Area. Other bishops elected in the Congo Central Conference and their assignments are Daniel Onashuyaka Lunge (Central Congo), Kasap Owan (Southern Congo) and Mande Muyombo (North Katanga). The new bishops were consecrated on March 19.
Bishop Harald Rückert
Germany Central Conference delegates elected Rückert, 58, March 15 on the fourth ballot in Hamburg, Germany. He had been senior pastor at United Methodist Church of the Redeemer in Reütlingen. He will succeed Bishop Rosemarie Wenner as bishop of the Germany Area on May 12. Wenner is retiring.
"We are a church together," Rückert said. "I am very pleased to be able to shape and carry on the way of the church together with you."
Rückert was born in Nuremberg, Germany. First a student of food technology, after an internship with the South Germany Annual Conference, he studied at Reütlingen School of Theology. During 10 years as superintendent for the Reûtlingen district, he chaired the Committee for New Mission and played a major role in setting up and organizing the Youth Church Karlsruhe.
His pastoral work included redeveloping The United Methodist Church Hof-Stammbach.
Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda
Now bishop for life, Unda was re-elected March 18 on the first ballot during the Congo Central Conference meeting in Kamina, Democratic Republic of Congo. Three Congolese bishops have retired: Bishops Kainda Katembo (Southern Congo), Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo (North Katanga) and Bishop David Yemba (Central Congo).
In his first term, Unda concentrated on rebuilding sanctuaries destroyed during war. He will now focus on building a skills center for women and on "Congo Women Arise," an initiative with the Tennessee, Memphis and California-Pacific conferences to address the needs of rape survivors in a location often called the "rape capital of the world."
"Women suffered the most during my area's civil war and the center would equip them with training to improve their lives. When you heal a woman, you heal children and the nation, too," Unda said.
He is also working to evangelize the indigenous people known as pygmies and provide them better access to education and health care.
Unda oversees the East Congo Conference, the largest part of the Congo that has experienced recurring violence since 1998, with millions dead or displaced from their homes. Some parts of the conference remain unsafe for travel. Mostly recently, United Methodists were among the dead in an August 2016 massacre in Beni that has been linked to the rebel Allied Democratic Forces, a partly Islamist armed group of Ugandan origin.
Unda is a widower with eight surviving children.
Bishop Daniel Onashuyaka Lunge
Delegates elected Lunge, 59, dean of the faculty of theology at Patrice Lumumba University, on the third ballot. He was the second bishop elected by the conference.
Born in Emongo village in Sankuru province, Lunge was a teacher before studying theology. He served as pastor in Katoka, Kananga, and as treasurer for the Congo Central Annual Conference. He has also been a district superintendent and assistant to the bishop in Kinshasa.
"Improving evangelism will be a priority for me as an episcopal leader. We need to revive the spiritual life of the church," Lunge said. "We also need to renovate and build new sanctuaries and parsonages. In some areas, they are still using the old houses built by missionaries many decades ago.
He expressed gratitude to the General Board of Global Ministries for sponsoring his studies for a doctorate in Yauonde, Cameroon, and his practical theology thesis in Switzerland.
Lunge is married to Julianne Dembo, and they have seven children.
Bishop Kasap Owan
President of the Katanga Methodist University in Mulungushi, Owan, 62, was elected March 18 on the third ballot during the Congo Central Conference meeting.
"In the 1980s, one old man prophesied that a bishop would come from our village in Mwaji," Owan said. "Today, that prophecy has come true."
Owan was born into a Christian family. His grandfather, Chief Kasap Owan, started the first church in Mwaji and "encouraged me to study and become a pastor," the new bishop said. "He was the traditional leader but was unable to read or write."
Owan taught at a United Methodist school in Kapanga before attending Mulungushi Theological College. He has a master's degree in theology and a doctorate. Owan, who is widowed, has a daughter and three sons.
"I intend to improve evangelism, education and agriculture in my episcopal area. We also need to establish an English school in Kolwezi and provide scholarships for women and youth. I am concerned that we do not have many women who study up to doctorate level," he said. He also dreams of a university for the South Congo Area, which includes the Zambia Annual Conference.
Owan said he will encourage pastors to study other fields and intends to establish a scholarship to train doctors.
Bishop Mande Muyombo
Muyombo, 44, an executive of the General Board of Global Ministries, was elected on the fourth ballot during the Congo Central Conference. He is the first graduate of Africa University to be elected bishop and the youngest episcopal leader in the central conference.
"I am committed to working towards the unity of The United Methodist Church because I am a product of the UMC connection," said Muyombo, who has been executive director for Global Mission Connections with responsibility for the mission agency's regional offices.
"The UMC enabled me to go to school, and my ministerial training unfolded at Africa University and Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas, U.S. After working as president of Kamina Methodist University, I was called to serve as executive secretary for Africa at General Board of Global Ministries and later promoted to assistant general secretary in the mission evangelism department," Muyombo said.
He expressed appreciation to Ntambo and Global Ministries General Secretary Thomas Kemper for shaping his ministerial experience.
Muyombo was born in a poor family in Kambove village in Haut Katanga province. His father had two wives and 16 children.
He is married to Blandine Muzhinga. They have three daughters and a son.
This article is adapted from stories by Eveline Chikwanah, communicator in the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference, and the Rev. Klaus Ulrich Ruof, a communicator with The United Methodist Church in Germany.