Understanding the nature of the East Angola Conference…
Our second meeting with Bishop Quipungo (our first being an early Saturday morning wake-up call at our host house) came on our fourth day in Angola. On Monday, January 30th we were invited to the Bishop’s office at 9:00 am for an opportunity to greet the Bishop, review our schedule, tour the conference office, learn about the nature of the East Angola Annual Conference, and learn a bit about their experience of the Yellowstone Conference supplemental salary partnership.
The Bishop shared with us many things that were extremely helpful to us in our quest to understand the east Angola Conference, the impact of our partnership, and our desire to learn about some of the needs of the churches in East Angola. Established in 1988, the East Angola conference has grown to 6 districts, 2 mission areas, 66 churches, and 70 active pastors (54 of which are part of the salary supplement program) and is host to a high level of incredible mission and ministry happening out at the nearby Quessua Mission Station.
I’ll be reflecting on our conversation with the Bishop and gaining insight for weeks to come, but for now, my thoughts are occupied by a portion of our conversation that dealt with the struggle the conference is having with the retention of educated pastors. As we are already well aware of… pastoral compensation is extremely low in East Angola… for many of the pastors, our $40.00 a month supplement is the only compensation they receive. While a number of the pastors in the conference are bi-vocational, nearly all of them still have a difficult time making “ends meet.” The desire for more education for the pastors of East Angola was communicated to us on many occasions… one of the byproducts, however, is that, as the education level of the pastor rises so does their value in other segments of society. One example that the Bishop gave was that the government actively seeks out educated persons and is able to pay $500-$800, or more, per month which is very attractive to pastors making $40-$100 a month and to pastors who are bi-vocational. While we need to do more work investigating and understanding this dynamic, I believe that we can do more for the pastors.
Personally, I would like to see us double our support each year and I would like to see us be a bit aggressive in our quest to find other partners in the United States who would be willing to match our annual contribution to the salary supplement project. In addition, I would like for us to identify a few education oriented partners that could help us to encourage and support the lay and pastoral equipping opportunities available out at Quessua, which will also require some capital improvements to the mission station itself. I fully understand that we have our hands full with the supplemental salary project, but in this case, salary support and lay/pastor education go hand in hand. While we can’t necessarily handle both salary supplement and education on our own… we can certainly be active in telling the story of the Angolan people and we can work assiduously to find additional partners for both. The work we are doing with the salary supplement project is phenomenal for a conference the size of ours and means more to the people of Angola than I could have ever imagined. It took being on the ground in Angola for me to fully understand the nature and impact of the relationship we have with the East Angola Annual Conference.
Here is a bit of information on the United Methodist church in Angola (while the update is dated 1996 it contains valuable historical information)
General Information and History of Angola from GBGM (again, from 1996... but still some interesting information)
A portion of our Interview with Bishop Quipungo…