Monday, August 20, 2007

It is Done! The United Methodist Church of Venezuela is Born!

Newly Elected and Consecrated Bishop Juvenal Perez

What began as a conversation between two United Methodist Bishops, a Venezuela pastor attending school in the US and a United Methodist pastor over 12 years ago became reality on Friday, August 17, 2007 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The first conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela was called to order, Dr. Warren Lathem, presiding. In the absence of a bishop present and with the full knowledge of his bishop, Warren called the meeting to order.

The Conference began in the chapel of the Assembly of God Bible Institute with a worship service marked by singing led by Alfonso Riveria, a young adult leader of the Lugar Altissimo United Church and student in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. Dr. Lathem preached on the “Required Attributes of a Bishop” citing the 13 requirements outlined by Paul in his first letter to Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 1-7. He then stated an additional 13 attributes needed in the first Bishop of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela.

Following the worship service and a short break, the conference reconvened and Dr. Lathem explained the process that would be followed in the election of their bishop. Forty-two lay and clergy delegates were pre-qualified to vote. While many guests observed, an orderly and peaceful process began. The first Ballot was taken and declared invalid as many of the ballots contained only the first name. Three subsequent ballots were taken and tallied, the third resulting in the election of a Bishop.

Juvenal Perez, pastor of the Rey de Reys (King of Kings) United Methodist Church in Punto Fijo was elected. On the announcement of his election, the congregation erupted in applause and Bishop-elect Perez bowed his head as the weight of the episcopacy descended on him.

Dr. Lathem called Bishop-elect Perez to the front where he was joined by his loving wife and co-pastor, Nohely. The Bishop-elect and Nohely knelt and the pastors, then the lay delegates, then the guests gathered around them for a time of commissioning prayer. In the absence of a bishop, the conference consecrated its own Episcopal leader.

Bishop and Mrs. Perez were then joined by their three wonderful sons as he gave his first remarks as the leader of this new conference. His words were marked by gratitude and true humility at the confidence placed in him by his fellow United Methodists as well as his willingness to execute the duties of the office of the Bishop.

The Conference adjourned for the dinner break and pictures of the new Bishop and his family. An hour later Bishop Perez called the Conference back into session and began the work of perfecting the external Discipline. This document had been before the United Methodist Leaders on at least three other occasions and had been over a year in composition and editing. After some nominal perfections to the document were approved, the document was adopted to be sent to the Venezuelan government for legal organization of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. The Conference adjourned for the evening about 9:00 to reconvene at 8:30 on Saturday morning.

Bishop Perez called the conference to order at approximately 8:40 on Saturday morning. Dr. Leroy Lindsey gave the opening sermon of the day from the Book of Ephesians and great time of worship and celebration was experienced. There was a contagious joy that spread throughout the room.

Following worship, Bishop Perez led the conference in the election of the officers required by the External Discipline adopted the previous evening. They are:

Vice President Jeremias Lopez

Secretary Jose Codero

Treasurer Yolanda Caicedo

Pastor Representative Victor Ramirez

Lay Representative Rafael Baez

Lay Representative Eliana Morales.

These leaders come from five different cities of the country of Venezuela. They represent the remarkable leadership being given to the work of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. Bishop Perez led the conference in a prayer of dedication of these leaders.

Bishop Perez then called all the pastors to come forward and the conference prayed for them as Seminary Dean David Cosby, Professor Dan Dunn, and President Warren Lathem laid hands on each of them and consecrated them to the task of pastoral ministry. Orders of Ministry are still be established in the Internal Discipline, but these pastors, all of whom are currently enrolled in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela, were commissioned to the work of pastoral ministry.

A motion was made putting the rest of the business before the conference into the hands of the newly elected Bishop and executive committee to be brought back at a later conference to approve the Internal Discipline and other items of business. Bishop Perez adjourned the conference at noon on Saturday, August, 18, 2007.

This author cannot express the joy that accompanied the privilege of having a hand in leading the work in Venezuela to this historical step. I now look forward to supporting the Venezuelan leadership as they lead their country to faith in Jesus Christ, building on the work of Wesley and reaching out to the world. Praise God for all His bountiful blessings! Please pray for this new United Methodist expression in Venezuela and newly elected Bishop Perez and his family.

(Editor’s Note: The requirement of the “External and Internal Disciplines” is a state requirement peculiar to Venezuela. The two documents combined would constitute the Discipline of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. However, they must remain separate due to church and state laws in this country.)


Lindi said...

The word of our Lord, spreading all over the world.
What an incredible testimony to everyone's talent, drive and willingness to obey our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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