New leadership strengthens mission initiative

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Key points:

  • The ordination of the Rev. Aquilas Soronaka and his wife, Deacon Cynthia Priscillia Soronaka, marks an historic moment for The United Methodist Church in the Central African Republic.
  • The church currently has 2,012 members in 17 parishes. The goal is to reach 48 churches and train 24 new pastors with some 6,090 faithful members by 2028.
  • Launched in 2016, The United Methodist Church’s mission initiative in the Central African Republic aims to plant viable churches in the country.

The United Methodist Church’s mission initiative in the Central African Republic is gaining momentum with the ordination of the Rev. Aquilas Soronaka, Ecclesiastical Districts superintendent, and his wife, Deacon Cynthia Priscillia Soronaka.

Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, Eastern Congo Episcopal Area, ordained Aquilas Soronaka a United Methodist elder, making him the only elder in the Central African Republic’s mission initiative. Cynthia Priscillia Soronaka, ordained deacon, is the first woman pastor in the church in this country.

The two new servants of God are nationals in mission who receive support from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. They were ordained in Kibombo, Congo, during the 11th session of the Eastern Congo Annual Conference.

Aquilas Soronaka is Ecclesiastical Districts superintendent for the United Methodist initiative in the Central African Republic. He is the third ordained pastor in Central Africa. The other two, the Rev. Lucien Dockpa and the Rev. César Gazza, have left the church.

Cynthia Priscillia Soronaka holds a doctorate in medicine, a master’s degree in leadership and management and a theology license.

The ordination of the Soronakas, an historic moment for The United Methodist Church in the Central African Republic, recognizes their commitment and dedication to the church’s mission.

“I was already giving myself to spreading the good news and planting churches on behalf of The United Methodist Church in the Central African Republic,” said Aquilas Soronaka, adding that ordination gives him “much more power, confidence in ministry and a certain dignity … as a servant of God.”

He described Cynthia’s ordination as “an honor for him and for the mission initiative.”

Pastor Delmas Kevin Romuald Dongobada, project coordinator with the mission initiative, said Aquilas Soronaka’s ordination has a significant impact on the church and the community.

“This ordination will strengthen (his) leadership within the church,” Dongobada said. “It will enable him to guide the mission initiative effectively and make important leadership and ministry decisions. (It) will bring stability and growth numerically and in productivity. It will also bring unity and cohesion in aligning the visions, mission, values and goals set forth in the mission initiative’s strategic plan.”

“From now on,” said Edith Kilas, lay leader, “we have charismatic … leaders who can validly represent the Methodist community of the Central African Republic with all dignity. This will eradicate the prejudice that the Methodist church has suffered for so many years.”

Yomodo Doris Sephora is youth leader and lay pastor of the church in Bouar, located 186 miles from Bangui. “This ordination,” he said, “is a means of proof for us to dispel any negative imaginations that could play on the advancement of our church. On the social level, the church will be inscribed in the history of the Central African Republic like any other church and represented from now on by a consecrated and guarded leader.”

The United Methodist Church’s mission initiative in the Central African Republic was launched following the 2016 General Conference. “It aims to plant viable churches,” noted the Rev. M. Sachou, a Global Ministries missionary.

To date, the initiative has some 2,012 members in 17 parishes across the country. The goal is to reach 48 churches for a total of 24 trained pastors with some 6,090 faithful congregants by 2028 as part of a six-year church-development.

“We had planned (annually) to plant eight churches, train four pastors and evangelize some 1,015 faithful a year,” Aquilas Soronaka recalled. The church-development plan also provides for structuring the church, setting up agencies and departments, training pastors, evangelizing and planting churches to turn the mission initiative into a provisional conference in 2028.

Cynthia Soronaka said it was a joy for her to be ordained the first woman pastor.

“Many evangelical churches in the Central African Republic do not accept the pastoral consecration of women in ministry,” she said. “Thank you for this opportunity. … A woman like me can become a pastor. It’s a weapon of evangelism. It’s a challenge for me and for the initiative.”

Sachou expressed delight in Cynthia Soronaka’s ordination. “It’s a great step forward for our church and shows that we value women in ministry. I’ve noticed that women are very determined when they get involved in something. They do everything from the heart.”

He believes that women will be of great help in evangelizing the country. “If we can sensitize women to the ministry, it will be very beneficial for the church,” he said. “They will spread the gospel and plant churches.”

Dr. Philippe Okonda, conference lay conductor, said, “The ordination of (the Soronakas) is a sign of hope for The United Methodist Church in the Central African Republic. It shows that the church is determined to grow and serve the Central African people, despite the challenges they face.”

Londe is a news editor and communicator in the Congo.


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