New bishop to focus on education

The Bishop of the Central Methodist Church Peter Witbooi says education and community development are the key areas he will focus on.

Witbooi delivered his first sermon to over 800 members of the Women's Guild (Umanyano) at Ramosa Community Hall in Mohlakeng, Randfontein yesterday.

He has replaced Bishop Paul Verryn, who has retired, after serving as his assistant for a decade.

The church has given refuge to a number of Zimbabwean immigrants and has been at the centre of controversy involving the situation of woman and children at the church in central Johannesburg.

It is believed that the controversy lead to the suspension of Verryn in January.

Witbooi was inducted in November last year and resumed office on January 1.

Under his district are 26 church circuits stretching from Ivory Park in Gauteng - to Lichtenburg in North West.

He is married with three children.

One of the biggest challenge faced by Witbooi is the homeless people who have been living at the Johannesburg church.

The Johannesburg high court has appointed a curator to oversee the rights of the minors living at the church.

Allegations of sexual abuse to children made headlines resulting in a curator being appointed.

"We are having a series of meetings with the Department of Social Development and the City of Johannesburg on the relocation of the people still living in the church," Witbooi said.

"I would like to see our church taking an active role in education - making our churches available for extra lessons.

"Members of the church could even go and clean schools or become part of the schools' governing bodies," Witbooi said.

"We should also find ways for providing skills to our communities so that people can be employed.

"I would also like to see church ministers being well taken care of and those who have retired to have good homes."

He added that the church should be a friendly place for God's children.