MONROVIA, Liberia (UM Newscope) - The United Methodist Church in Nigeria has a new bishop, Kefas Kane Mavula, who was elected and appointed on his 40th birthday. The March 3 election was held during a special session of the West Africa Central Conference in Monrovia, Liberia. Mavula garnered all 74 votes cast.

The church in Nigeria has been led on an interim basis by Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda (North Katanga Area) since the death last August of Bishop Done Peter Dabale. Dabale, who died of cancer, was elected the first UM bishop of Nigeria in 1992.

A major challenge for the new bishop will be to unify a church that has been fragmented for several years. Mavula, an experienced teacher, is expected to use his leadership skills to bring reconciliation.

"Acknowledging our shortcomings is a very good step towards achieving peace," he said. "We must humble ourselves and accept our shortcomings. These will take us a very long way in achieving peace and solving some of the problems if not all."

The UMC in Nigeria is large. Bishop Janice Riggle Huie (Houston Area), president of the Council of Bishops, noted last August that, under Dabale, the church in Nigeria had grown from about 10,000 to more than 400,000 members.