By Bonginkosi Bango-Moyo
Communications Director for MCSA
Covering a land area of 28 square kilometres, Equatorial Guinea is home to approximately 1.2 million people including a Methodist Church started in the 1800s by British Methodist Missionaries. Colonised by Spain, Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish speaking country in Africa which has made association and collaboration with other African countries difficult.
Rev Prospero David Sharpe, the Superintendent of the Methodist Church of Equatorial Guinea was part of Africa Council of Churches Head of Churches and Coordinating Secretaries that took place in February. Below he shares the history of the church in the country.
The British Methodist Missionaries used Equatorial Guinea as a missionary launch pad into neighbouring states including Nigeria. This came with many challenges because the Roman Catholic Church was considered the official denomination and the Spanish government did not want any Protestants in the country. Government plans were made to force the missionaries out but it so happened that a British Governor, one John Biicrof was elected in Malabo, the capital city and he happened to be Methodist. To solve the problem, the British came on board and offered to protect the space occupied by the church by turning it into a British protectorate.
When Equatorial Guinea gained its independence on 12 October 1968 and the first president Franscisco Macias Nguema was elected president, he gave all foreigners 24 hours to leave the country and this included all the missionaries.
The only Methodist minister, one Rev Thomson, was among those given 24 hours to leave and before he left he quickly ordained 3 of the catechists to make them ministers so that the work of the church could continue. However, after Thomson left, President Nguema closed all the churches in the country. The government actually took over and used the Methodist Church sanctuary in Malobo to store ammunition.
1979, after the coup de tat that put the current president Mr Theodoro Obiang into power things changed –the churches were allowed to reopen and the Methodist church started up again but there was no minister. The church ‘borrowed’ a minister from the Presbyterian Church but this led to complications with Methodist property being registered under the Presbyterian Church. An elderly lay leader decided to go to Spain to seek help from the Anglican Church there.
“The Presiding Bishop of the Anglican church in Spain found a scholarship for me and my family we went to Madrid for my 3 year theological training between 1997-2001. In 2001 we returned home- it was a big problem to get the church from the Presbyterians- we applied to the Methodist church in Ghana to support us for my ordination and a bishop was sent to conduct my ordination in 2009. I was the only minister in charge of three congregations with about 500 members. We have since grown to approximately 5000 members since then,” Sharpe said.
“The steady growth of the church demanded that we get more ministers and we appealed to the church in Nigeria and they agreed to train three young ministers who will be ordained in June 2018 They would like us to send two more student minister whom they will train.”
With a membership that is 75% youth ( between the ages of 15-35) the Methodist Church in Equatorial Guinea is growing in leaps and bounds and is grateful for the opportunity to associate and partner with member churches of the African Methodist Council. They also hope to join the World Methodist Council soon. For a long time they have felt isolated because of Spanish, their medium of communication and preaching. They however use English hymn books which they would like translated into Spanish. This here is their Macedonian call.