The United Methodist Church of Liberia and Sierra Leone signed a partnership agreement with the United Methodist Church of Norway on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at the United Methodist Church Central Office in Monrovia, Liberia. The partnership is intended to establish a United Methodist Church Regional Competence Center (UMCRCC) in West Africa. The three institutions were represented by Rev. Dr. John G. Innis, UMC Liberia; Rev. John K. Yambasu, UMC Sierra Leone; and Rev. Tove Odland, UMC Norway and General Secretary of the Board of Global Ministries in Norway (Metodistkirkens Misjonsselskap). The three church leaders are expected to provide steering leadership for the center.
According to the agreement, the Regional Competence Center will serve as the core entity which will connect the parties and provide practical diaconal assistance to needed communities. It will also engage in academic research, training, and the promotion of best practices among partners, as well as to others who are interested in the services that the UMCRCC will provide.
The Regional Competence Center will establish a relationship with academic institutions such as the United Methodist University in Monrovia, The United Methodist University in Freetown, and with relevant academic institutions in Norway and other parts of the world.
In separate remarks, the two West Africa Central Conference Bishops thanked the United Methodist Church of Norway for their commitment to helping Liberia and Sierra Leone in their development drives after several years of war in their respective countries. “We will live up to the details of the partnership agreement and be a blessing to the needy,” the two Resident Bishops added.
The United Methodist Church in Norway has been in partnership with United Methodist Church in Africa through several Annual Conferences since 2004. Through its mission program called “Partnership in Development,” UMC Norway’s cooperation with LAC/UMC started in 2006, and the progress of the work has been successful with the construction of several schools, clinics, latrines, teachers’ quarters, and hand pumps, among others.
A joint discussion between LAC/UMC, UMCSL, and MM dates back to 2011 to look into the possibility of expanding the work to include UMCSL. A successful feasibility study in Sierra Leone took place early 2012, followed by training both in Norway and Liberia.
The purpose of the agreement is to emphasize the mutual cooperation between the three parties and to jointly create a regional center in order to strengthen the commitment to the continuous development and improvement of the Partnership in Development program.