From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Former bishop of Liberia chosen to lead Arkansas district
23 Oct 1998 14:39:58
Oct. 23, 1998 Contact: Tim Tanton*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: A photograph is available with this story.
By Jane Dennis*
LITTLE ROCK (UMNS) - The Rev. Bennie D. Warner was in the United States
on church business when he learned that a revolution had occurred back
home in Liberia.
The year was 1980. Warner and his family were in Indianapolis at General
Conference, the top legislative gathering of the United Methodist
Church. Meanwhile, forces led by Samuel Doe, an Army sergeant, had taken
over Liberia's government. Warner had served as vice president of the
West African country, in addition to being bishop of the Liberia Central
Conference since 1973. Fearing retaliation for Warner's role in the
government, friends warned him not to return.
"I was on the wanted list," Warner said in a 1990 interview with the
Arkansas United Methodist. He later learned that, after a mock trial,
the deposed president of Liberia and 13 other officials were executed.
Warner continued his ministry in the United States. The next step in his
career will occur Jan. 1, when he becomes the newest district
superintendent in the Little Rock Conference.
Today, happy with his new life in America, Warner no longer harbors
fears for his life.
"It's been almost 18 years since that happened. The people who feared my
presence there are all gone," he said. "The threats are not any longer
However, those experiences "definitely" affected his ministry and his
faith in God, he said. "The things that have happened in our lives are
by the grace of God, and they have strengthened our faith, our resolve
and our trust in God." He, his wife, Anna, and their four grown children
"have grown deeply in the understanding of God's providence," he said.
With the United States as his new home, Warner joined the faculty of
Oklahoma City University and served as pastor of Quayle United Methodist
Church in Oklahoma City. He also was pastor of Faith United Methodist
Church in Syracuse, N.Y., and an instructor at Syracuse University.
An invitation from then-Arkansas Area Bishop Richard B. Wilke to "come
see Arkansas" brought Warner to the state in 1990. For the past eight
years, he has served as pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in
Maumelle. The 63-year-old pastor has also been an instructor of
education at Philander Smith College in Little Rock and a volunteer with
the Seniors Day Out program at Camp Aldersgate, both United
In his youth, Warner was educated at the Methodist Mission School in
Gbarnga, Liberia. He is a graduate of Cuttington University College in
Liberia, Syracuse University and Boston University School of Theology,
which honored him with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985.
Since joining the Little Rock Conference, Warner has served on the
conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the Little Rock District
Council on Ministries. He has also been a member of the Council on
International Interests at Oasis Renewal Center in Little Rock.
"I think Bennie will bless us with not only a sensitivity for making
disciples in Arkansas but with his global vision," said Arkansas Area
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. "He has both experience and commitment to
making disciples in all nations."
He also "brings a sense of compassion and humility that models the gifts
of the spirit," Huie said.
The timing of the appointment was prompted by the selection of Chester
Jones as general secretary of the denomination's Commission on Religion
and Race. Jones is leaving as superintendent of the conference's Pine
Bluff District to begin his new job Jan. 1.
Fred Arnold, currently Camden District superintendent, has been
appointed to the Pine Bluff District. Warner will serve as
superintendent of the Camden District in southern Arkansas, which
includes 63 local churches and 8,750 members.
Meanwhile, nearly two decades after Warner left Liberia, the African
country continues to struggle. Warner's successor as Liberian bishop was
Arthur F. Kulah, who made a difficult and dangerous journey out of the
country to attend the 1996 General Conference in Denver. Kulah's
triumphant arrival at the conference was one of the most memorable
moments of the meeting.
Other than a couple of nephews and some extended family, Warner and his
have few connections to Liberia now. They have no plans to return;
Arkansas is home.
"There's really no reason to go back, at our age and stage," Warner
said. "We're just going to grow where God has planted us."
# # #
*Dennis is director of communications for the United Methodist Church's
Arkansas Area and editor of the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper in
United Methodist News Service
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