Church should take lead in Kenya's redemption

‘Mea culpa’ is a Latin phrase that means “my fault”. Though seldom heard in the rarefied atmosphere of the Church in Kenya, it is cardinal to the Christian faith, for it hinges on admission of fault and subsequent repentance.

A recent televised debate featuring clergy from various denominations demonstrated a marked lack of repentance for woes afflicting the Kenyan church.

Three local pastors on one hand, and a Nigerian one on the other argued over the role of politicians in the church and the admission of monies; allegedly from illicit sources, into church coffers.

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The troika of Kenyan pastors waffled on the topic of the relationship between church and money, prevaricating behind ambivalent words like “touchy” and “sensitive”.

The Nigerian pastor, perhaps seeing the Kenyan church from the perspective of an outsider, called to question many practices that had been accepted as “gospel truth”.

His arguments set out some timeless Christian principles.

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The first of these principles is that crowds should not be confused for church. In a country preoccupied with numbers, the person with the biggest crowd is always assumed to be the one who carries the day.

From political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi’s “Tyranny of numbers”, a theory of ethnic arithmetic being the determinant of electoral outcomes, Kenyans have been obsessed with numerical strength to the detriment of reason.

Congregational strength

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Few leaders get elected based on probity. Fewer still because of a good development track record.

And it seems regard for numbers has permeated the church, where pastors boast of congregational strength; where one earns respect from the size of the offertory collected on Sundays and not from the lives that are transformed as a result of right living.

The second principle sets out the definition of church. According to 1 Timothy 3:15, it is “the pillar and ground of the truth.”

The truth is what defined the churches of Bishops Alexander Muge, Henry Okullu, Nding’i Mwana a’ Nzeki, David Gitari and the Reverend Timothy Njoya.

They spoke truth to power in the 1980s and 1990s.

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They spoke with one voice without the encumbrances of ethnicity or denomination and made the church one of the most trusted institutions then. Not so today.

Partisan politics are entertained. Many church leaders are unable to point out the excesses of Government or to hold it to account.

The third principle is that though giving is a central tenet of the Christian faith, the way it is done is prescribed in the Bible.

Matthew 6:3 says “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

This is an admonition against showy giving where large donations are announced to congregants.

Church activities

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It is a warning against those who seek to buy fame through contributions that must be noisily proclaimed.

For a country that is 70 per cent Christian, it is also an indictment on the congregants who do not follow in the practice of tithing.

For the giving of a tenth of once monthly income should suffice to fund most church activities.

Shortfalls for special programmes should be raised through internal fundraising without recourse to the ubiquitous politician-driven harambees that dot the church landscape.

Fourth, not every gift to the church is acceptable.

The biblical account of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver is instructive.

Though he tried to give back the money to the priests in the temple, they would not accept it, calling it blood money, a template of how the church ought to behave emerges.

Receiving donations from people of dubious ethical distinction casts aspersions on the integrity of church leaders themselves and accords them the same standard of venality associated with dishonest types.

One would have expected the troika of pastors to engage in apologetics, the religious discipline of defending religious doctrine through systematic argumentation and discourse.

They did not. Whereas the arguments of their Nigerian counterpart found salience in the Bible, the Kenyan ones came across as conceited, sanctimonious and grounded on nothing more than emotion.

Without a sound biblical foundation, church leaders risk a disconnect between what they proclaim and what they portray.

They risk losing moral high ground and may fail to find resonance with young people looking for answers beyond dysphoria caused by the political class.

The church should lead the way. Let its leaders take responsibility.

Let them proclaim with all honesty, Mea culpa! Perhaps then will true redemption come to Kenya.

Mr Khafafa is Vice Chairman, Kenya-Turkey Business Council

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