Liberia: Did Methodist Bishop Prostrate Before God, or the President?

analysis

Mixed reactions to viral social media video of the Methodist Bishop Quire and priests lying prostrate opposite the seated President Weah

A video of Bishop of the Liberia Methodist Conference, Samuel J. Quire, offering a "special prayer" for President George Manneh Weah at the Georgia Patten United Methodist Church, by prostrating with the church's clergy opposite the President, who was seated behind the altar rail, also praying, caused quite a stir on social media on Sunday, October 6, with mixed reactions from Liberians about the true intent of the bishop.

The event was a special thanksgiving and intercessory worship service in observance of the 53 birth anniversary of President Weah, which actually occurred on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.

Top "religious leaders and clergymen" within the Methodist Province have remained silent on the issue. Some clergymen said it is so difficult to speak to the issue due to the individual involved and that this would have a negative impact on the Methodist denomination.

During the "special service," Bishop Samuel J. Quire, along with senior pastors of the church, prostrated for several minutes, offering prayers for President Weah, while the President sat in a decorated chair facing the clergies. The President, also, was bowed in prayer.

Present at the special service were some government officials, including Liberia's Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley; National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) executive director Tolbert Nyeswah and Special Economic Advisor, Emmanuel Shaw, among others.

Some Liberians have expressed annoyance about the situation, describing Bishop Quire and senior "pastors" of the church as "worshipping President Weah", suggesting that the Weah should have been the one prostrating before the "clergies" for prayers.

"This is unacceptable, senior clergies prostrating before Weah. We hope that religious leaders will come out to openly condemn the action of the Methodist Church," a commentator Liberians said. According to him, President Weah, who celebrated his birth anniversary and attended the church for a thanksgiving service, needed to prostrate, and not the Bishop, along with other pastors of the church.

Despite the chair being decorated for the president, Bishop Quire is seen cleaning the chair for the president to sit, which many Liberians have described as a sign of seeking favor from the Liberian leader.

Efforts to reach Bishop Quire did not materialize, as a spokesperson for the United Methodist Church in Liberia said he had traveled out of the since the incident. The spokesman also declined to comment on the Bishop's prayer position, saying that it would be better if the Bishop addressed the issue himself.

Prostrate before God or man?

However, a former Methodist, who is now a minister of the Gospel in a Pentecostal church and who asked not to be named, had this to say: "It depends on what the Spirit of God led the men to do, but there is nothing wrong with a pastor or Bishop prostrating in prayer. As a Christian and a pastor, I don't have any problem with Bishop Quire and other pastors prostrating in prayer; as long as they were praying to God and not to the President," the Pentecostal minister said.

However, many of the mixed reactions to Sunday's incident are products of previous instances in which the President is seen on live social media video footage, in a semblance of worship. Many have debated as to whether or not the context of the President's religious activities is genuine.

It can be recalled that one of Liberia's Nobel Peace co-Laureates (2011), Leymah Roberta Gbowee, speaking as this year's Independence Day Orator, said truth has evaded Liberians to the extent that some of them, including the "clergies," have become desperate for anything.

"We lie to gain prominence, to gain positions of authority. Let us stop lying. Truth will bring unity. From generation to generation, our leaders have been fooled by religious and traditional leaders," Madam Gbowee said in her speech.

She said that bishops have become partisans, while "pastors and imams have become praise singers."

According to her, "traditional leaders repeatedly twist our cultural practices to please a powerful few, giving unmerited traditional titles."

She added that it is time for us to bring truth back into national history.

Reactions on social media

"Do not misunderstand anything here dear. Nobody says the President was in any error. We are saying that those pastors should not have bowed down before Weah once they are worshipping God. That is out of order!" said Lawrence Siryon

Another person, identified as 'Political Commentator' said: "Sometimes I can wonder whether Weah is using juju on us or it is our own stupidity killing us in Liberia. I have not seen this before in my entire life where a group of religious leaders will prostrate before the biggest sinner in a country for blessings."

"These people have desecrated the sacredness of their churches. This is absurd. My blood is hot right now," poster said.

Zangar David says: "Wow! Humans bowing down to President Weah. God have mercy."

"I bow down to no man besides God," Morris Grear said.

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