An Honest Accounting of “Missing” African Delegates

There are as many as 100 International Delegates not at United Methodist General Conference this year, many of whom are from Africa.

This has caused many questions. Allegations have been made that General Conference failed to communicate with them quickly, or the American government failed to issue visas quickly. Calls have been made to investigate.

This should no doubt happen, and any failures on the part of the organization should be named.

Photo: UM News Service

But friends, I’m going to name one more ugly and hard reason we must factor-in, if we are to honestly evaluate this:

SOME African delegates are likely missing because their Evangelical/Conservative American “handlers” are are no longer in the room or part of the United Methodist Church.

Do not fail to recall what I have been writing for sixteen years now:

That there was then (At least 2008 through 2019) clear manipulation and collusion between African delegates and the so-called “Renewal” “Good News”…or whatever they are calling themselves now…caucus.

(I honestly don’t know what to call the former “Renewal Caucus” any more, since they keep changing their names. I’m going to refer to them as “Evangelical/Conservative Methodists” (ECM) going forward here, understanding that there are many faithful Evangelical United Methodists who would reject their tactics. It would help us all if they would just keep one name so we can keep track of them…but…that may be the point…)

A quick review:

1. 2008, the ECM’s were caught red-handed, handing out 150 burner phones to African delegates. (Please DO read at the link, if you don’t remember this…) They also passed out slates of candidates for the Judicial Council. It was a clear attempt to tell them how to vote during the session.

These technologies were new, then. Yes, everybody communicates by cell phone/messenger now. (In fact, the Moderates and Progressives learning how to fight back…how to organize and caucus on their own…has been a delightful development this past decade…)

But their collusion went far beyond “burner phones.”

The ECMs bought airline tickets for African delegates…they “wined and dined” them (ok, probably not wine…) at pre-Conference retreats…all in an effort to insure that they (an ECM minority of American Methodists) could cling to power in the votes casts.

2. In 2012, immediately following another disappointing General Conference, I challenged the UMC to truly investigate how we “count” our numbers, and how we apportion our delegates. To my knowledge, this was never really done in an organized way.

It’s water under the bridge now, of course. But I’m just reminding us all, that some of us have questioned the fairness of the vote, the integrity of the process, for many years now.

3. Then 2019, following the “shocking” acceptance of the Traditionalist Plan (and defeat of One Church) the New York Times stepped in. They asked the questions that should have been asked years before, and found “improper voting” on the seminal vote for the Traditionalist Plan.

From their story:

…at least four ballots were cast by individuals who were not authorized to vote, according to interviews and a review of the church’s records. The individuals were from African delegations whose votes were critical to restricting the church’s rules on homosexuality…the voting irregularities raised questions about the process behind the divisive decision…”

Was it enough illegal voting to change the outcome?
No it was not.
Important to say.

But did it indicate the likely continued existence of collusion between the ECMs and Africans?

Some might ask, “Aren’t you blaming Africans here?”

No, I am not. I am suggesting that politically-minded American Evangelical/Conservatives USED the African vote for DECADES…in ways that can be documented and accounted.

I have deep sympathy for our African siblings here, for the lies they were told, over many years, by their ECM handlers. It’s a symptom of on-going paternalism and White Supremacy, if we are being honest.

American Christians have continued to fight their proxy-culture wars in Africa. We see this in horrific legislation that was passed in some African countries over the past few years. Again, this is yet another horrific way in which the UMC always “mirrors the culture.”

So, to be clear, I have deep sympathy for our African siblings. They have their own faith, culture experience, and witness…which I hope we honor, going forward, in the NEW UMC through a new regionalism framework that makes space for us all.

But, to return to the issue at hand…the absence of close to 100 African delegates:

If and when we do an accounting of why 100 are missing, we must factor-in some number being due to their former American “handlers” no longer being in the room….or even being “United Methodist.” This must be accounted for, alongside any additional reasons folks weren’t able to come.

This is not an easy thing to say.
But it’s an honest thing to say.


I keep going back to 2008.
Because that was the year when the scales fell from MY eyes.

That was the year when I realized that the ECM caucus was “playing for keeps.”
That was the year I realized they would stop at nothing to cling to power.
That was the year that a Conservative first called for a split in the UMC…Bill Hinson, from Houston, called for some kind of amicable split following General Conference in Fort Worth.

What we know now, what others have documented, is their long-game strategy between then and 2019 to either take-over the United Methodist Church, or force an exit of progressives….or find an exit for themselves.
(It now seems clear they were playing three dimensional chess on all three options…).

Given what we assume may well happen this week at General Conference, the proposals to create a new regionalism that honors ALL of our cultural differences no matter where we live…
Given the genuine HOPE I am hearing is in that room….
Given the respect for walking “Hand in Hand” that I expect will emerge from this gathering….

I also remember one final thing about General Conference 2008.

What was it those ECMs fought so hard that year, back in 2008?
What “issue” pushed them to give out those cell phones and wine/dine those Africans?


I kid you not.

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