The Resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Nigeria (UMCN), Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna has blamed the Taraba state government for sustaining the continued crisis in the church by its refusal to re-open the Cathedral of the church in the state for six years and for supporting the renegade group of the church.
Bishop Yohanna who stated this in an interview with our correspondent in Jalingo, the Taraba state capital, also noted that the Taraba state government has refused to recognize him as the duly elected Bishop of the United Methodist Church but rather choose to support the other factional group led by Rev. Philip Micah Doppah even after been notified by the Judicial Council of the Church and the Council of Bishop’s of the United Methodist Church that he was the duly nominated, elected and consecrated Bishop of the Church in Nigeria.
He stressed that the renegade group led by Rev. Philip Micah Doppah had left the UMCN since 2013 even though they still use the name of the Church against court orders but the Taraba state government has continued to support and recognize the group as the United Methodist Church.
” Two things I always tell people that is responsible for the crisis of the United Methodist Church are Tribalism and Government, this is what is sustaining the entire crisis.
“People came from Zing local government area of the state and beat up our security guard and occupied the Cathedral in Magami which is the Ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop why did the government not arrest these people? Why did he allowed them to go without questioning them?
“The government was written by the Council of Bishop’s of the United Methodist Church they wrote the governor informing him that I am the duly elected Bishop that he should recognize me but he is not rather he chose to recognized Rev. Philip Micah Doppah led group, he empower them with money, he attends their programs so why can’t I say the government is responsible for the crisis? Every person’s that enjoys the protection and support of the governor at the expense of the truth will not want to do the right thing that is why the renegade group are parading themselves as United Methodist Church which they are not,” he said.
Bishop Yohanna further explained that when the crisis started and the case was taken to court the leader of the factional group led by Rev. Philip Micah Doppah signed an undertaking with the then commissioner of police in the state promising to abide by the outcome of the Court ruling but failed to do so when the ruling didn’t favour him.
“They made an agreement before the commissioner of police to accept the outcome of the Court ruling they filed against me and when the outcome of the court ruling is in my favour they refused to obey the agreement that they signed and they are still paraiding themselves as United Methodist Church and no arrest have been made to stop them, so why can’t I say that the government is supporting them?” He stressed.
Explaining further, Bishop Yohanna, revealed that in several occasions he had met with the governor and advised him as a Bishop of the United Methodist Church on the crisis but he had refused to adhered to the advise.
” I told the governor that in the United Methodist Church one must remain within the Church before he can make a change, I told him that the renegade group he is dealing with are outside the United Methodist Church so they cannot make any influence, let them come back and at the annual general conference where I will presides as a Bishop and I will assign them to different places then they can have a voice and make lmpact in the Church and if they make any demands that is within the constitution of the United Methodist Church I will comply with it and the governor told me that the way he saw those people they are not ready to come back; so since then the governor has been supporting them, giving them money, attending their functions. I ask the governor to tell them the truth that the part they are trending is not the right part.” He revealed.
Reacting to some of the recommendations of the report submitted by the peace committee set up by the Taraba state government headed by the late State Chairman Christian Association of Nigeria late Rev. Dr. Ben Ubeh where the committee recommended that Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna of the United Methodist Church be transferred out of Nigeria and another Bishop replace him and that the factional group be allowed to have their own Bishop while occupying the southern conference of the church, Bishop Yohanna discribed the report as been manipulative to satisfy the interest of the state government and the renegade group.
He said the report which call for his transfer out of Nigeria is an attempt to allow the renegade group and the government to be a judge in their own case.
” how Can they say I should be transferred out of Nigeria just because I have issue with some of my members? when Governor Ishaku have issues with any of his Commissioner why can’t him be transferred out of the state since he can not be a judge of his own case? so why have they become judge over my own case.
” Moreso, who decides for the transfer of a Bishop in the United Methodist Church? the decision to move a Bishop in a country is at the discretion of the West African Central conference of the United Methodist Church, now are they the West African Central Conference to transfer me? Nigeria is one Episcopal area supervised by a Bishop, Bishops are approved by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, it is not even the West African Central Conference, the General Conference which meets every four years approves the seat or position of a Bishop in an area and then tells the West African Central Conference to elect a Bishop; you can see the process; any clargy who knows the descipline of the United Methodist Church will not rebel against the church”
” Just last year November the governor constituted another peace committee and he told us that they will only last for two months but up till date we have not heard anything, why did the governor not call for the report of the committee? Why is he seating on the report?” He asked.
The Bishop added that the renegade group are not recognized by the United Methodist Church globally, noting that they have disassociated themselves from the United Methodist Church and as such they do not have right to request for the position of a Bishop in the United Methodist Church.
He however called on the state government to reopen the Cathedral which is the property of the United Methodist Church for the Bishop to carryout his functions effectively while calling on the renegade group to return to the church as the door is still open for them to do so.
” The clargy of the United Methodist Church who have broken away need to know that they have broken their vows as clargies of the United Methodist Church, they need to know that at the moment they are not in good standing with the United Methodist Church, they should know that they have made a mistake and I have it open as the grace of God is upon me, if they come back I will welcome them back and walk them through the process and restore them as United Methodist Church clergymen, for those of them who are not properly trained, we will train them on what they need to know about the United Methodist Church, and for the members they are free to return even today we will welcome them and allow them to join any congregation of their choice.
Responding to the allegations by the Bishop of the United Methodist Church Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity Mr. Bala Dan-Abu said the accusation by the Bishop against the governor is frivolous and untrue as Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku have no interest in the crisis of the church and can not play a divisive role in the body of Christ.
” Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku has no interest what so ever in what is happening in the church, he is a Christian from the family of a prominent clergy in the state, so he can never play a divisive role within the Body of Christ and for the Bishop to come out and say that the governor is playing divisive role is very wrong and unacceptable and we reject that kind of allegations”. He said.
He noted that since Governor Ishaku became the governor of the state he has ensured that Christian’s remain United in the state and during his campaign there was no church that the governor did not visit all in the bid to work with all the people.
” The governor has no role to play in the affair of the church so how can he implement the recommendations of the peace committee, what lead to the closure of the Cathedral at Magami was that the governor received a security report that the church members were going to fight and kill themselves so the governor asked the security personnel to take charge and ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order that was the role the governor played as the number one Chief security officer of the state, does that now amount to taking sides? So should the governor allow them to kill themselves? that would be a disgrace to the church so the governor have no role in the crisis in the church”. He stressed.
He called on the religious leaders in the state to organized for intervention within the church to solve their internal Crisis.
On his part the Council Director of the United Methodist Church Southern Conference and leader of factional church of the United Methodist Church Rev. Philip Micah Doppah said his church refused to accept the election of Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna because the election that brought him was froudelent and was characterized by over voting.
He noted that various attempt has been made to reconcile the church but was frustrated by Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna.
” Blaming governor Darius Dickson Ishaku for the crisis of the church is very wrong, since the crisis started even before governor Ishaku came into power, Johnwesley who was a rebel leader in the church since 2003 until his purported election was conducted knows that the crisis was on for twelve years before the coming of governor Darius Dickson Ishaku so how can he blame the governor?, In the past governor Ishaku set up a peace committee to look into the crisis and they submitted a report with three major recommendations that Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna be transferred outside Nigeria and another Bishop replace him because he can not be a judge on his own case, and that the Northern and Central conference of the United Methodist Church be given to him while my church be given a Bishop and take the Southern Conference but he refused even though my church have the largest membership we were ready to accept the Southern Conference but he refused.
“He has frustrated every peaceful dialogues, because he knows what he is gaining in the crisis since he is getting all the money from the Global Board of General Ministry and he is giving boys the money to recognize him as Bishop, but for us we are doing the work of evangelisim by the special grace of God we are okey this way and If our regional bodies will not come here and do what will please God, we on our own we will elect our Bishop with or without them and continue with the work of our evangelisim because Jesus is the only way to the father”. He stated.
Reacting to claims that his Church is using the United Methodist Church name illegally, Rev. Doppah said, the Southern Conference of the United Methodist Church is a dully registered organization with the Cooperate Affairs Commission of Nigeria and as such can not be describe as a factional group of the United Methodist Church as claimed by Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna.
“When the case of the church was taken to court and the judge said they lack jurisdiction that is not a judgement, declining jurisdiction doesn’t imply ruling, we are not a factional group; the Southern Conference of the United Methodist Church is a dully registered organization, the name Southern Conference of the United Methodist Church we are not only claiming it, is a registered organization with the Cooperate Affairs Commission it is a legal entity; so calling us a renegade group is baseless.
” What happened that made him have access to some of our properties was that during UTC administration Bishop Johnwesley Yohanna lured the governor then because UTC was his tribal man from Karim Lamido that they will give him the governor seat of the state if he seize the Cathedral, the Secretariat and the guest house from us, so UTC as the governor then organized the military, Police, DSS and all the security outfits in the state and forced our members out of the Cathedral, Secretariat and our guest house and gave it to Johnwesley, and during his struggles two of our Bishops died within 18 months under the watch of Johnwesley Yohanna”. He revealed.
Investigation by our reporter revealed that Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo had intervened in the crisis and had asked the state government to reopen the Cathedral but nothing has been done on that regards.
It was also gathered that the crisis of the United Methodist Church in Nigeria have been on since the last thirteen years and the Cathedral in Magami which is the Ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop has been locked for six years with successive government making effort to resolve the crisis but to no avail.