Hundreds of United Methodists from around Liberia gathered at the James E. Marshall United Methodist Church in Gardnersville, a suburb of Monrovia on April 14, 2015 to set the agenda of the 182nd Session of the Liberia Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church. At the two sessions (Clergy and Laity) held April 14, the Clergy voted 90-1 to uphold the long standing decision of the Liberia Annual Conference barring divorcees from nomination to the position of Bishop in the conference. In its six page report, the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) outline five counts dubbed “Reminders of the Conference Major Decisions (1985)” among which count five clearly stated that “No divorce Clergy allowed to be nominated as a candidate for the office of Bishop our conference.” The BOM said it was affirming the decision of the 1962 Resolution and were now calling on the 182nd Session of the LAC/UMC to do the same.
The clergy also affirmed several reminders including the prohibition of clergy persons from holding and appointed position in government or political party. They further affirmed that no photograph and any individual or group of individuals beside that of “Jesus, the Christ,” will be allowed to be hung in the Church edifice. “All ministers must abstain from gambling and the use of alcohol and other dangerous drugs,” the report concluded.
At the Laity session, delegates voted 116-0 for a petition calling for the Liberia Annual
Conference to annul the decision barring divorced clergy persons from being nominated by the conference for the position of Bishop of the LAC/UMC. The delegates are calling on the conference to uphold paragraphs 4, 403, and 604 of the 2012 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. “We encourage officials of the conference, all pastors, lay members and delegates of conferences to allow the 2012 Book of Discipline to prevail, especially, paragraphs 4, 403, and 604 in all its intents, unhindered, and undisturbed in the nomination process for the episcopacy in 2016,” the affirmed.
The petition which is sponsored by Cletus Sieh and James Armah Massaquoi and cosigned by ten other lay persons said the LAC/UMC should uphold the decision of the West Africa Central Conference (conference rule #4) and the Judicial Council decisions (#311 and #1278). “We petition the Liberia Annual Conference in the Spirit of unity, peace, reconciliation, understanding, justice, the rights of individuals and the church to declare the provision of the conference rules which seeks to bar a divorced elder from being nominated as bishop null and void,” the petitioners concluded.
Meanwhile, the decisions coming out of the two sessions are expected to be discussed on the main conference floor. The Clergy session is the regular gathering of the clergy prior to the official business session of the conference. It is the session at which characters of clergy persons are passed for another conference year. The Laity session is the gathering of lay delegates prior to the official business session to review some of their activities and decide on crucial issues to take to the conference floor.