WASHINGTON, D. C. – The Council of Bishops (COB) has assigned former president of the Council retired Bishop Warner Brown as the interim bishop for the Sierra Leone Area of The United Methodist Church following the death of Bishop John Yambasu who died on August 16.

Current COB President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey made the announcement today after the full Council voted to approve the recommendation from the West Africa College of Bishops as per Paragraph 407 of the 2016 Book of Discipline. The West Africa Central Conference Committee on Episcopacy and the Sierra Leone Annual Conference Committee on Episcopacy were also consulted.

Bishop Brown will assume the interim responsibility of episcopal oversight for Sierra Leone Annual Conference until the election of a new bishop following the 2020 General Conference that is expected to take place in the fall of 2021.

“We continue to grieve the unexpected and tragic death of Bishop John K. Yambasu and continue to pray for the people of Sierra Leone and most especially for the Yambasu family,” Bishop Harvey said.

Bishop Harvey noted that she has been in close communication with Bishop Benjamin Boni, the president of the West Africa College, as they balance the sense of urgency to recommend an interim and at the same time provide needed space for grief for the Conference and for the family.

“During this time, we have consulted with leaders of the Sierra Leone Cabinet, Committee on Episcopacy and the West Africa Committee on Episcopacy. In addition, we have sought the wisdom of many who have knowledge of the current setting who have provided great wisdom that will be helpful during this in between time,” Bishop Harvey said.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges to the assignment namely the difficulty and impossibility of safe travel to Sierra Leone in addition to the many restrictions that are in place across the United Methodist connection.

Most of the oversight by Bishop Brown will be virtual until it is safe to travel to Sierra Leone. COB Communications Office will assist in providing connectivity by utilizing the best virtual platforms available. Several UMC boards and agencies, including United Methodist Communications, GCFA, and Global Ministries, have agreed to step in and assist.