Provided to Newsline by Zakariya Musa
Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) held its 69th General Church Council (Majalisa) from April 12-16 at the Annex Headquarters in Jos, Nigeria. The Majalisa issued a communique noting official actions of the conference, including the naming of new top leadership for the denomination.
The General Church Council is the highest decision-making body of EYN and meets annually to discuss matters affecting the church. The membership of the council includes but is not limited to the National Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, all ordained ministers in good standing, legal advisers, Local Church Council delegates, district officers, heads of departments and institutions.
The theme of the conference was “Building EYN for Better Future” from Nehemiah 2:17-20. The guest preacher was Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren.
Other guests included Annual Conference secretary Jim Beckwith, Mission and Ministry Board chair Don Fitzkee and his wife Carolyn Fitzkee, Mark Lancaster from the staff of Bethany Seminary, and Uli Bachmann and Yakubu Joseph representing Mission 21 in Switzerland.
The conference included about 1,200 participants. Besides adopting resolutions, having elections, and receiving reports and presentations from different directorates and committees, it observed the second anniversary of the Chibok abductions. Of the 219 missing Chibok schoolgirls, 178 are from EYN.
EYN names new leadership
The conference elected and appointed new principal officers as follows: Joel Stephen Billi was named president elect; Anthony Ndamsai was named vice president elect; Samuel Birma Shinggu was named spiritual adviser elect. Principal officers appointed by the conference are Daniel Y.C. Mbaya as general secretary and Zakariya Amos re-appointed as administrative secretary.
Bili will take over the mantle of leadership from Samuel Dante Dali, whose term of office as EYN president was to expire in 2015 but was extended because of the insurgency that hit the church. Bili is a renowned clergyman who has served larger congregations such as Local Church Council (LCC) Biu, LCC Maiduguri, LCC Utaku, and LCC Michika, where he has been most recently.
The Majalisa also named new leaders to fill the three top positions in the president’s cabinet, replacing the following who also have been in office for some years: vice president Mbode M. Ndirmbita, general secretary Jinatu L. Wamdeo, and spiritual adviser Musa A. Mambula.
In pursuance of the theme, the conference also inaugurated a Planning Committee for the proposed Brethren University, a Resource/Investment Mobilization Committee, and a proposed Micro Finance Bank Board of Directors.
The election was presided over by the chair of the EYN Board of Trustees, Matthew Abdullahi. The electoral committee includes the EYN legal adviser, members of the Board of Trustees, and Church of the Brethren and Mission 21 representatives.
The outgoing president declared the event as “peaceful.” “I am relieved of trouble years,” he said. Dali also prayed for the new leaders.
Outgoing president’s speech
Dali, who has been a prominent leader for the Nigerian Brethren, centered on the need to rebuild the church for a better future, He gave an overview of the past bitter experiences of the church in which over 70 percent of the church buildings have been destroyed and their members displaced.
However, despite these horrible experiences, the church by the grace of God has recorded some progress. This includes but is not limited to establishment of the Directorate of Disaster Ministry, the Directorate of Women’s Ministry, and construction of resettlement centers for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in safe areas.
While expressing his disappointment with the lukewarm attitude of the Nigerian government and its agencies toward victims, mostly in the Church of the Brethren region, he was quick to appreciate the enormous support from international mission partners. Through the generous contributions of these Christian organizations and the resilience of the members, the church has been matching forward.
The following summarizes a number of the many resolutions adopted by the Majalisa:
-- The conference resolved that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency respond to the appalling condition of the returning IDPs and make the areas safe for the people to go back to their normal life so that they can cultivate their farms this season.
-- The Federal Government should sustain the tempo in reclaiming the towns where the insurgents (Boko Haram) are still in control.
-- NEMA [the Nigerian equivalent of FEMA] should as a matter of urgency move immediately with basic supplies to the returnees who are starving and homeless.
-- The Victim Support Funds Committee should move in to the reclaimed areas and directly embark on the reconstruction and rebuilding of the communities.
-- The church leadership--more especially EYN as the denomination that is worst hit--must be involved in any rebuilding and reconstruction.
-- The conference resolved to construct a Retreat Center at Jimeta-Yola, the state capital of Adamawa State.
-- The conference acknowledged the giant strides being made by the new Nigerian administration in tackling corruption.
-- The conference expressed its concern over the increasing violence in the recent elections.
-- The Conference urged all members and Christians across the nation to remain resolute, hopeful and to pursue justice, peace, and righteousness to help rebuild the church for a better future.
“In conclusion,” said the communique from the Majalisa, “the peace heritage of the church is still the only way consistent with the gospel of Christ which we uphold.”