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South African bishop asks: help transform nation, leaders

South African bishop asks: help transform nation, leaders

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

South African bishop asks: help transform nation, leaders

March 16, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0815}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

The Rev. Peter Storey has a vision for South Africa, and he wants people to know about it. He also wants them to help make it happen.

The Rev. Peter Storey, former bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, talks about the challenges facing his country during a Feb. 4 presentation by the Upper Room in Nashville, Tenn. Storey is chairman of a task force planning the opening of a Methodist seminary in South Africa. The seminary will be located within the Pietermaritzburg Cluster, a center of ecumenical theological institutions including the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. A UMNS photo by Linda Green. Photo #08-0776.

Storey shared that vision and how churches can continue to make a difference in South Africa and the world today during this year’s annual retreat for large-membership churches.

Sponsored by the General Board of Discipleship’s Large Church Initiative, the five-day event was held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando. During that time Storey also spoke at a more intimate gathering of about a dozen people at the parsonage of the Rev. Jim Harnish, pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa.

Harnish said Storey “continues to be one of God’s prophetic voices in our world today.”

Often referred to as a visionary leader for his work, Storey has spent more than 30 years helping his country rise above urban crime and poverty and the shadow of apartheid.

In addition to serving as bishop of the Johannesburg/Soweto area for 13 years and president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Storey served as chaplain to African leader Nelson Mandela during Mandela’s imprisonment and was an associate of Bishop Desmond Tutu. He also founded an anti-gun lobby and a network of crisis intervention centers in South Africa. He became a national leader in the church struggle against apartheid, serving as co-leader of an ecumenical delegation to the United Nations, the U.S. Congress and Europe, where he urged intensified pressure on the apartheid regime.

Despite what he and other leaders have been able to accomplish in South Africa, Storey told the gathering of church leaders there is still much work to be done.

“South Africa needs incorruptible, visionary, transformative leaders. Forming such leaders is what the church should be about,” he said. “The church itself must model transformative leadership.”

Storey said political liberation in South Africa is not enough. The church and its leaders “must unite to overcome challenges of poverty, pandemic disease, crime and corruption, racial prejudice, crises in education, violence and abuse, and environmental degradation.”

To that end he is asking for support of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary being built in South Africa. He says it will “form transforming leaders for church and nation.”

Storey is chairman of the project to open the new seminary, which is scheduled to enroll its first 35 students next January and will provide three years of residential, spiritual and academic training and internships, according to a recent article by United Methodist News Service.
The seminary is named in honor of the late Rev. Seth Mokitimi, who in 1964 became the first black person elected to lead a major denomination in South Africa.

Harnish said it’s a privilege to be part of Storey’s vision.

“Just the way he gave courageous leadership to the church during the struggle against apartheid, he is giving visionary leadership to developing the seminary that will equip clergy and lay leaders for the new South Africa,” Harnish said.

Hundreds of leaders from large churches across the denomination attended this year’s annual gathering, themed “Making a World of Difference.” In addition to hearing Storey speak, they participated in workshops geared toward issues related to ministry in larger churches. Time was also dedicated to networking and sharing with each other about their ministries.

Large Church Initiative is a resource for large membership congregations — churches with an attendance of more than 350. Annual retreats and events for pastors are designed to provide church leaders with opportunities for professional development and growth and resources to help them in their ministries.

Donations to the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in South Africa can be sent to MCSA Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary Fund, Methodist Connectional Office, P.O. Box 50216, Musgrave 4062, South Africa.

The United Methodist News Service article about the seminary is available at


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.