AME Church in Final Split

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By Da’oud Vries Windhoek This Friday marks the official final split in the ranks of the Namibian chapter of the AME Church. What started as a protest walk-out during a church conference early this year and which was presided over by Bishop Samuel Green, the head of the 15th Episcopal District, has now led to the 58-year old church’s to split right down the middle. The New African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Republic of Namibia will be launched this Friday during the first chartering conference in Windhoek from December 9 to 11. Following the walkout that is said to have been prompted by the Bishop’s apparent unwillingness to sit around the table and thrash out long simmering differences, especially the American dominance in the church, two priests were fired from their positions. The two groups, one a proponent of what is termed in the church as “connec-tionalism” and the other pro independence from the American epicentre, have been at each other’s throats for the past nine months. The two opposing church groups have also been calling each other names and threatening court action. The two pastors who led the walkout Petrus Kooper and Hendrick /Gariseb have been on a crusade for the past 10 months to inform congregations about the need for self-determination of the Namibian members of the church. In a statement issued by the group, 10 villages and towns throughout Namibia have heeded the crusade and have decided “time has come for us to stand up and charter our own destiny with our own leadership at whatever cost”. They further say they are justified in their action, especially after being in existence for 58 years. They contend that the move by their forbearers to the AME church from the Rhenish Mission, then under the control of Germany, was only meant for five years. It was over similar disagreements with the Rhenish mission that the initial group joined the American based church. “The delayed response on the part of our Namibian AME Church leaders is viewed by many as tantamount to betrayal of our forefathers’ honest dreams and of our own members’ aspirations towards spiritual independence,” the breakaway group asserts. The New African Methodist Episcopal Church would be an “independent Methodist church with its own denominational character”. The charter conference marking the launch of the new church would be held at the Windhoek College of Education.