Mandela was the leader of post-apartheid South Africa who led the country down a peaceful path after the movement he led helped bring an end to the white-led government and decades of minority rule. Abrahams was the bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa when he was chosen to lead the World Methodist Council two years ago, the first person of color to hold that position.
On the podium with world leaders who gathered for the event, Abrahams called Mandela a “true patriot” who “transformed our nation and changed the world.”
Mandela was, he said, a “colossus amongst world leaders, a friend to all and an enemy to none.”
Later in the sermon, Abrahams recalled the story of Elijah, the prophet recognized by Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Elijah is taken away by a chariot of fire that rises out of the river Jordan, and his disciple Elisha asked Elijah to leave a “double portion of your spirit.”
“The mantle is passed on and it is in your hands,” Abrahams said. “People like Madiba do not die, rather they continue to live in people’s heart.”
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa, which Abrahams led, is a transnational church covering six countries spanning the southern portion of the continent. Abrahams was appointed presiding bishop in 2003. Mandela was a member of the church. He was appointed general secretary of the World Methodist Council in 2011.