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WCC condolences on the passing of Bishop John K. Yambasu

Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC central committee, and Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC interim general secretary, sent a letter of condolence to the Methodist Church Sierra Leone on the passing of Bishop John K. Yambasu.

21 August 2020

Bishop Mark NGOBEH
Presiding Bishop

Administrative Bishop

Methodist Church Sierra Leone

Geneva, August 20, 2020

Behold a great priest, who in his days pleased God, and was found just; and in the time of wrath was made a reconciliation.”—Sirach 50

To all the people and churches of Sierra Leone, whom Bishop John Yambasu served as Resident Bishop, to his brother bishops in the Sierra Leone Conference and in the whole West Africa Central Conference of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, on behalf of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches (WCC), we convey our prayers and condolences on the occasion of his death.

We write in mourning, to share your grief over Bishop Yambasu’s sad and untimely passing. We send our condolences to all the people he served as bishop of Sierra Leone, and most especially to his wife Millicent and their five children. May God give you solace and strength in face of this tragedy, and may you be surrounded by love from all those who loved Bishop John.

But we also wish to join you in celebrating Bishop John’s life, his lifelong Christian faith, and his consequential work toward reconciliation in and among the churches. All of us in the whole worldwide church stand in his debt.

Bishop John Yambasu was ever a pastor dedicated to serving his people and serving others who minister to them. But he was also a great educator in the Christian tradition, giving decades of his life to learning and teaching the Christian faith.

He was a pioneering missionary, keenly aware of the needs of this age. His espousing united mission truly helped the churches. By all accounts, Bishop Yambasu’s calm, uniting presence and diplomatic leadership allowed him to negotiate the end of a 12-year schism within the Burundi church in 2018. He was also instrumental in rallying faith communities from all across Sierra Leone to help prevent the spread of Ebola as it moved across West Africa in 2014–2016.

John Yambasu was also a true African, lighting the path for Christian churches, and especially the United Methodist Church, in the post-colonial continent. As he wrote recently to Thomas Kemper, “No one needs to teach us about colonialism. It was brought to Africa from the West. It died and was buried in Africa. It will never resurrect in the Church of Jesus Christ in Africa.”

And he was a true leader in a global church, a man whose efforts have brought together leaders from all factions to resolve the decades-long battle over LGBT members in the church. His strong faith, coupled with a truly reconciling spirit, enabled him to forge a very promising protocol that, all parties agree, might well lead them to overcome their strife and heal their wounds, allowing all to follow their consciences in mutual respect. The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation was offered, he said, “in the hopes that it will help heal the harms and conflicts within the body of Christ and free us to be more effective witnesses to God’s Kingdom.”

Christian, churchman, educator, missioner, African leader and reconciler: John Yambasu has been all that and more. With Christians everywhere, we salute him. May God embrace him in love in that kingdom of heaven he served so well.

Dr Agnes Abuom
Moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee

Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca
Interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches