Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, b. 1956, was the first – and so far, the only -- woman elected a UMC bishop in Africa. She was born in the Gaza Province and reared in Mozambique. Although she was baptized and confirmed a Catholic (her father’s religion), she also attended the Methodist Church with her mother and joined it as a youth. She and her husband were both accepted for theological studies at the 1985 Mozambique Annual Conference. When the civil war in Liberia disrupted their studies, they moved to Ghana and she completed her diploma in theology at Trinity College. Nhanala was ordained a deacon in 1989. She speaks five native languages, plus Portuguese and English. In 1998, she graduated from Nairobi (Kenya) Evangelical Graduate School of Theology; she also served as a teacher and dean of students there. She coordinated women’s projects for the Mozambique church and in 2004 was named World Relief’s HIV/AIDS Program Director in Mozambique. She was elected to the episcopacy in 2008, at the age of 51. Her episcopal area encompasses the Mozambique North and Mozambique South Annual Conferences as well as the South Africa Provisional Annual Conference. In the Africa Central Conference, United Methodist bishops are not elected for life but for a four-year term (then until retirement if reelected), so Nhanala was reelcted in 2012. She serves as vice president of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s board.
Want to know more?
A video of Bishop Nhanala speaking about children in the church
A report on her election, priorities, by United Methodist News Service
Information on the UMC in Mozambique