Introduction of Bishop Innis at a recent gathering in Liberia
I am indeed honored and I feel privileged to be the one selected among astute academicians and theologians to introduce a man who needs no introduction. To do justice to this task, I am going to break from the regular. Instead of reading out our guest preacher’s curriculum vitae—for which I refer you to his autobiography titled “For the Goodness of God,”—I am going to tell of what makes him an iroko tree among shrubs.
Our speaker ascended the highest office of the United Methodist Church in December, 2000, being the fourth indigenous bishop after Bishops Stephen T. Nagbe, Bennie D. Warner, and Arthur F. Kulah in that order.
He took the reins of leadership of our conference when the country was still in the throes of self-destruction. From then to date, he has braved and overcome every storm that rose in his path as he orders the affairs of our beloved conference.
He is a practicing Christian. Our guest preacher is from humble beginnings and this informs and under-girds his approach to ministry. Though widely-traveled and very educated, the Holy Bible is still the standard by which he lives. He is unaffected by the veneer-type Christianity practiced by many world-renowned leaders who are his peers.
He is not clannish. For him, everyone is a VIP because he sees people—irrespective of color, creed, or pedigree—as created in God’s image and likeness and so persons of worth. Humility is a way of life for him and this makes him approachable.
He is a team player. His work ethic can be summed up in one word; “TEAMWORK”. When I served on his immediate team as executive secretary, we called him “the coach”. One of the things I love about the coach is his caring attitude. He will always ask after our spouses and children. Rev. P. Nicol Boyce can attest to this. Sometimes during the early afternoon hours, he will stop by my office, call me from behind my desk and tell me in fatherly tones; “Yatta, walk around a bit and exercise your joints and muscles. You’ve been in this position for a long time. If you continue like this, you will develop joint problems.” My answer always was, “Yes, Bishop, I will after clearing my desk of these urgent letters.”
He is a mentor. While serving as principal at the Camphor United Methodist Mission, he impacted the lives of many youth who are today grown men and serving in positions of trust in our annual conference. The Rev. Dr. Isaac Chukpue-Padmore is one of those shaped by the care and ministry of Rev. Innis.
He is an educator. He describes formal education as light in darkness; and because of the crucial role education has played in his advancement, he is giving back to his people from the grassroots up by championing the cause of education. In his bid to raise disciplined Christian leaders for the church in West Africa, our guest preacher scouts for scholarships during his episcopal travels to Europe and America. One of such scholarships gave ministers from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia the opportunity to study at the prestigious Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. The Rev. Dr. Eric M. Allison, a prelate of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, Rev. Dr. John Pena Auta, provost of the Birnyiam Theological Seminary of Nigeria are beneficiaries of this scholarship. Because of his efforts, the United Methodist Church in Liberia can boast of more doctorate degree holding ministers than any other denomination in Liberia!
His dream of leaving a United Methodist Master’s Degree-granting institution as the legacy of his episcopacy became a reality when the United Methodist University Graduate School of Theology commenced classes on Monday September 7, 2015. The UMU-GST is open to all ministers and church workers with under-graduate degrees and are desirous of advancing their theological education to the Master’s level.
He is a father not only to his own biological children but to the many children who he has mentored and continue to mentor.
He is tender-hearted and not ashamed to shed tears. This is the quality that endears him to many. A man that cries goes beyond sympathy; he is empathic. He is kind-hearted; I know his lovely wife, Mother Irene Innis can attest to that.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that:
“The measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and adversity.”
Our guest preacher has proven his measure as that of an iroko tree; a giant that makes other trees in the forest look like mere shrubs. He is a leader of many qualities: a practicing Christian, a team player, a mentor, an educator, a father, and a loyal friend.
UMU Administration, Faculty, student body, First United Methodist Church Family, people called United Methodists, and sons and daughters of the Most High God, our guest preacher for this auspicious occasion is the Rev. Dr. John G. Innis, Resident Bishop, the Liberia Area of The United Methodist Church. Let’s welcome him with a hearty round of applause. Thank You.
Pastoral Letter to the People called
United Methodists of Liberia
By Bishop John G. Innis
Greetings and Introduction
To you my fellow United Methodists and friends of the UMC called, loved, kept, and saved by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Mother Irene J. Innis and our children extend their warm and sincere greetings to you in the name of the highest God.
Please remember that you are in our prayers every day for the Lord to watch over you, keep you healthy, peaceful and faithful in your commitment to serve and worship God always with a gracious, kind and generous heart. Also, this will help us demonstrate and increase our love and meet the needs of the needy, the broken hearted, children and their parents who desire the love and protection of God daily in their lives. By this, others will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ committed to transforming Liberia in the Lord’s name.
May we, as United Methodists, be devoted to one another in prayers so that God will open our eyes and minds to see and appreciate how God is working with the leadership of our land in the rebuilding of our country. I therefore encourage all United Methodists to be responsible citizens to help keep our cities, towns and villages peaceful, healthy, clean and protected. This will show our visitors and friends that we are proud of our beloved country, a gift of God to us. Also, I wi
sh to appeal to our youth and young adult population to develop sincere love, appreciation, and respect for the leaders of our nation and church.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I urge every United Methodist to respect and obey the laws of our nation and the church. We are both citizens of our country and of the heavenly kingdom and are to be in total obedience to God’s law and the law of our nation, our church and the Kingdom of God. This will allow us to be loved and respected by others.
Renewing Our Call to Unity
God is watching us to see our deep devotion for our church and nation. It is in this spirit that in early February of this year, 2012, we gathered at our Gbarnga United Methodist Mission Station and asked God to create within us the spirit of unity for our church and nation.
Dear fellow United Methodists and friends of our church, central to the health of our nation and church is UNITY. Because of the importance of unity for the church and nation, we invited powerful church leaders from the United States, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Norway to bless us with what God had to say to us about the gift of unity during the 179th Session of our Annual Conference from Ephesians 4:1-6. Our various speakers reminded us of the importance of unity among believers. They emphasized to us the goodness and pleasantness of living in unity, walking in unity, working for unity, and making every effort to maintain peace and unity among members of the body of Christ.
Fellow believers, UNITY is the key to our mandate of disciple-making for the transformation of Liberia and the rest of the world. But here is the question: Since the conference ended and we returned to our various stations of assignments, how well have we put to practice and how well have we sought to maintain the unity of Christ’s Church as United Methodists?
- Are the district superintendents, ministerial members, lay members and observers to the conference showing and demonstrating faithful signs of unity in their districts, churches, cities, towns and villages?
- In the spirit of unity, are we making effective disciples of Jesus Christ? Are we sincerely and honestly asking God to empower and motivate us to make the Liberia Annual Conference vital in all aspects of ministry: education (elementary through university), health (George Way Harley Hospital, John Dean Clinic at Camphor, the clinic in John Dean Town), agriculture, radio and communication, and evangelism, just to name a few?
- How has the subject of unity impacted our personal lives in our respective congregations and the offices we head and manage?
We are all essential to the Church and must stay bound together in His power and love. Let us do away with hatred evil because it breeds disunity and undermines our ability to do good for all and to stay in love with God. Therefore, Paul warns us in Romans 12:9, to hate any wicked and evil practice in the Church. We must put into action Christ’s teaching to serve one another in love and not to destroy each other.
Call to Financial Independence
We need to do all we can to graduate from our chronic financial dependency. Love your church. Give happily to the programs of your church. Be accountable and transparent in the management of gifts we receive from overseas and from ourselves.
But again, friends, the question is this: Are we committed to teaching and challenging ourselves to become financially independent instead of looking beyond the Atlantic Ocean for help? The more we willingly do for ourselves, the greater joy we will be for Jesus Christ.
To foster our financial independence, I strongly encourage each of you, clergy and laity, to support the Liberia United Methodist Empowerment Foundation. Through your prayerful and faithful financial support to LUMEF, we can develop the financial sustainability we need. But to do so, each one of us in all our churches, young and old, clergy and laity, must give faithfully to the extent we are able. Friends, in the name of Jesus Christ, we can and will grow The United Methodist Church of Liberia to the honor and glory of God. We can make it, and we can do all things through Christ who is always there to strengthen us.
Friends, recognizing, encouraging, praising, thanking, giving, smiling, advancing and appreciating what God has done for us in Jesus Christ are all vital signs of our church growth and growth toward independence. Let us take the name of Christ with us and ask Him to empower us to be free from sins and dependency. Therefore, the more we are united, the more we hold each other accountable, the more we protect the property of the church, the more we care for the elderly, the more we care for our retired pastors, the more we take care of our pastors and district superintendents, and the more we recruit and empower young women and men and discipline them for Christ’s Church, we shall and will be free at last. Let us make the church of God a good and pleasant place to worship, and at last, the power of the Holy Spirit will dwell in us so we will be the light of the world.
God’s Gift and Call to Educating Leaders
Education is also a gift from God that is important to the growth of the Church. Employing the gift of our education, we must also go where Christ will send us. A few weeks from now, 21 of our pastors will be receiving their Masters of Theology degrees from the Cuttington University Graduate School in Monrovia. What a gift! And this is a gift for service to all God’s people as we are sent forth to grow God’s Church. We are grateful to the 2008 General Conference for making available funds for the Theological Education of African church leaders. The Board of Higher Education and Ministry, in collaboration with the Bishops of Africa, must be commended for being instrumental in the distribution of the gifts to the various conferences in Africa. Praise God for blessing us in this special way. The continued education of African Church leaders to advance the Kingdom of God is indeed an imperative.
Words of Thanks and Praise
We are extremely grateful to Rev. Erlene P. Thompson, senior pastor of First UMC Monrovia, Rev. Albert Barchue, all District Superintendents, the Lay Leader, Bro. Merab, the Conference Chancellor, Bro. Tweh as well all members of the Management Team for providing profound and spirit-filled leadership for the Conference in my absence on duties for the Church in the United States for these four months. The cooperation of the young people and the entire membership of the Conference have been uplifting and rewarding for us all. My heart is filled with joy for their participation and leadership. Praise the Lord!
People of God, let me be quick to mention the other thing God has done for the Church in Africa. For the first time ever, the General Conference elected the first African directly from the Continent, Brother Oswald Tweh to serve on the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is the Supreme Court of the United Methodist Church. Oswald is a fine Christian, and his life is entirely given to Christ. He is a generous supporter of our Church. May God bless his leadership and the others on the Council to adjudicate cases in the interest of the Church and to foster our unity moving forward.
Words of Condolences
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I end this pastoral letter with a heavy heart because since the beginning of the 2012 Conference Year, we have lost several of our pastors and members. Friends, the deaths of these people will never erase the reality of death as long as we live. But hear what the writer of the gospel of John says in Chapter 16: 20: “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” Indeed this is true. Among the many that died in recent months is the wife of Rev. Morrison Wleh. Rev. Wleh is the District Superintendent of Nana Kru District, and his wife was Mary. She was a good servant of Christ and her family. The others include: Rev. Gaye Glay, retired Elder- St. John River District, Rev. Moses Yarkpawolo, retired Elder-Gbarnga District, Rev. Myers Glasso, retired Elder-Rivercess District, Bro. Stanley Bedell, Bro Charles Johnson, Bro Emmanuel Lewis, Sis. Elizabeth Quire, Bro. W. Nyamah Keah.
Bereaved staff members, individuals and churches
- Joe Z. Malleh Uncle
- Tamba Markou Sister
- Sarah Quire Nah-Burns-Phelps Sister and uncle
- Elsie Massaquoi Mother
- Christiana Harmon Grandson
- Eugenia Gippleh-E.J.Goodridge Son
- Annie Miller-E.J.Goodridge Son-in-law and Nephew-in-law (car accident)
- Rev. J. Joel Gould Niece
- Barbara Ogunti Daughter
- Rev. Ben Korpelleh Father
- Cormassa Brown -Secretariat Father
- Vivian Cooke – Communications Father
- CODEVPRO Staff Member
- St. Matthew UMC Shadrick Gbayah
- Christine Gibson Husband – Joe Gibson – McIntosh Grove
- Monrovia District Men Stanley Bedell
But the most recent of our losses is the Rev. Herbert Zigbuo. Herbert was a strong, devoted, committed servant of God. He was a good man. Irene and I visited Mary, Herbert, and their children in early July in Creedmoor, North Carolina. About a month later, we heard of his death. What a blow to our church and to the Zigbuo family as well as to the Missionary Community.
We, as a Church, must keep Mary and her children as well as the entire Zigbuo family in our prayers. On June 16, 2012, Sis. Irene and I will travel to North Carolina to memorialize him. Hundreds of sympathizers, family members, United Methodist pastors from Liberia and the United States will be in attendance. The district superintendent of the district in which he and Mary had lived will be at the service as well as the pastors of the Resurrection United Methodist Church where the service will be held. Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue will serve as the liturgist during the memorial service. Herbert’s body will be brought to Liberia on June 20th and will be taken to Ganta Mission where his funeral rites will be conducted at the Miller McAllister United Methodist Church. Bishop Kulah will deliver the sermon. May Sister Mary and the children and all family members be comforted in the Lord and May the peace of God shine on Herbert’s face as he goes to be with His Lord. He was a good man, and God will receive him with open arms.
Because we love them today, we are grieving with the Zigbuo family and the many others who have died. Our deepest sympathy and condolences are extended to all these family members. These faithful servants whom we have lost lived among us. They worked among us. They attended church conferences and meetings among us. The pain and loss of death can linger. However, let me assure all of you that God will reach out to us in our hurts and pain. God will comfort us in the darkest hours of our life. The Psalmist says to all who are in pain and hurting, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” God is with us in Jesus Christ as our loved ones walk through the darkness of death. But the joy and promise of our Lord is real! Brothers and sisters, we shall overcome death as we are prepared to be with the Lord in one mansion that God has prepared for all of us.
May all those who mourn be blessed for they shall be comforted by God in Jesus Christ.
May the peace of God that passes all understanding bless and be with us all.
May we continue to live in unity, in the bonds of peace, as we serve the Lord, one another, and our communities.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop John G. Innis
by Bishop John G. Innis
to United Methodists and
the People of Liberia
December 28, 2011
Brothers and sisters of The United Methodist Church Fellow Liberians and our beloved friends of Liberia Political leaders and their supporters Members of the Diplomatic Corps UN Special Representative to Liberia Heads of International Organizations
I am Bishop John G. Innis. As spiritual head of The United Methodist Church and a leader within the Christian Community, it is befitting that I extend Pastoral Greetings to our President-elect and Vice President-elect, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, His Excellency Joseph N. Boakai and Mrs. Boakai, Officials of Government, as well as heads of Churches and other religious groupings, to all of you in the spirit of exceeding joy, divine reconciliation, peace and goodwill which God, our Creator, has generously made available to humankind through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth anniversary on December 25 has become a glorious day of celebration throughout the world.
Another important aspect of that Christmas Tradition is to wish United Methodists, our compatriots and those within our borders that the ensuing year brings with it good health, happiness, employment opportunities, success, prosperity, among other positive expectations.
So, I want to use this moment leading to the celebration of the birth anniversary of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our expectation of a blessed New Year, to wish all United Methodists, members of the Religious Communities, as well as Liberians at large, a Wonderful, Christ-centered, Peaceful and Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year full of renewed vigor and opportunities for the realization of our many dreams and aspirations.
There are three important issues that I want to briefly discuss in this Pastoral Season’s Greetings. First, I am exceedingly grateful to God for what we, as a nation and church, achieved in 2011. It was the grace and abundant blessings of God that enabled the State and Church to experience appreciable levels of growth and development. This is in fulfillment of God’s promise to heal our land if we do those things that God wants us to do.
Second, I want to say thanks to all Liberians for what we did achieve together in 2011, most especially for the peaceful and successful conduct of the just-ended elections. I am equally grateful to all friends of Liberia and the international community for their support in helping to make the electoral process violence free and commendable.
My brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and fellow Liberians, the third and final issue has to do with our devout concern about the young people of this nation. The Church and State must rise up to the challenge of working to mold the minds and attitudes of the younger generation to enable them to continuously acquire and maintain a positive outlook of the present and the future. The Bible warns us in II Timothy 3 that terrible times shall come in the last days before Jesus returns to this earth. And one of the many things the Apostle Paul mentioned is that of disobedience of children and young people. And this is happening before our very eyes. Brothers and sisters, all of us, particularly the young people must be reminded of the only commandment, with promise and hope, which states that we must not forget to obey and respect our parents and those in authority. The promise of this commandment is that our lives will be prolonged, productive and pleasant.
But notwithstanding, the Bible makes it a moral obligation for parents, guardians and all those responsible for the up-bringing, supervision and the exercise of authority over young people to do so in ways that will make them to become humble, respectful, trustworthy, law-abiding and to exhibit all the positive characters that are required for service to the nation and church. By this, the world will know and appreciate that Christ is truly born in our hearts, that is, in our being and doing.
It is therefore my prayer that the Church, in particular, will work more assiduously with the young people in the local churches and communities, as well as partner with Government and other groups to guide the young people of Liberia in becoming respectable citizens and leaders of tomorrow. I also pray that the young people will humble and submit themselves to the process of becoming the kind of children God wants them to be in our land and the world at large.
Fellow Liberians, it is also incumbent upon us as adults to demonstrate positive characters that our children will emulate for their spiritual, moral and psychological growth and development. This will qualify them to take their rightful places in the nation and church.
I therefore appeal to all of us to love, protect and lead our nation and church in the spirit of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and unity. Let us remember the inspiring and motivating words of our national Anthem, which says that, In Union strong, success is sure and we cannot fail! This implies that we must first admit the wrongs that we have committed which have led us to the unfavorable situation we have faced over the years. May God grant us His unconditional love and the will-power to move our nation and church forward to the honor and glory of God.
Once again, I say Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
May God bless the nation and church.
John G. Innis
Bishop, Liberia Area of the United Methodist Church