Church on the cross: Allure of power, cash splitting faithful

Neno Evangelism Centre in Nairobi which has experienced wrangles. [File, Standard]
Driven by money and trappings of power, church leaders have found themselves at the forefront of inter-sect wars that threaten to bring down the walls around the body of Christ.

Several churches in the country are embroiled in leadership wrangles that have sparked physical fights, courtroom drama and unprecedented mudslinging among parishioners, mostly for control of the organisations.

From bitter verbal accusations to trading blows and throwing chairs at those perceived to be blocking their paths, some of those in leadership have managed to build their power base as congregants, who are not drawn into the wrangles, watch in dismay.

They have forgotten their role as servant leaders who need to give voluntary service to followers as required of them based on the Bible and instead replaced humility with tyrant tendencies over junior clergy.

In some churches, so fierce is the jostling for leadership positions that some resort to employing uncouth methods at ungodly hours to capture power.

On March 22, the government gave Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) a week to sort out their differences and report back by April 2.

Vihiga County Commissioner Susan Waweru made the order after an election for the general superintendent that was marred by chaos. Reverend Patrick Lihanda had been elected for a five-year term garnering 1,370 votes beating Rev Wycliffe Ganira (a former general secretary) and Rev Moses Godia.

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The church, which is headquartered in Nyangori, Vihiga County, defied a court order and held the elections at 3am. Justice Jesse Njagi had issued an order that not only stopped the elections but also urged the factions to negotiate.

At the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), a sharp division is looming following the decision by the Kitale Diocese Bishop Dr Emmanuel Chemengich to transfer 42 clergymen without consulting the Kapenguria church.

Appointed leader

This has seen those supporting Kapenguria Suffragan Bishop Samson Taliapus call for the creation of a diocese in the area to enable them carry out their operations independently from the diocese in Kitale.

ACK Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit is said to have formed a team to investigate the genesis of the differences between Kitale and Kapenguria and ways to save the church from splitting.

Sapit, who plans to hold a major meeting in West Pokot today, told the Sunday Standard that the issue of personality is the root cause of the problem being faced in the area.

“We want to find out whether it is an issue of some people who don’t want to work and respect an appointed leader,” Sapit said.

Kapenguria Bishopric Secretary Musa Kariakamul accused the Kitale bishop of transferring the clergy perceived to be working well with Taliapus who was appointed by retired Bishop Stephen Kewasis.

Sapit who heads the Anglican Church in Kenya, said every generation has its challenges with the current one having hyped leadership in controlling resources and wielding power.

“The church in Kenya has been trapped in resources and power when it comes to making decisions and this has led to us losing the sense of servant leadership as a calling. There is need for churches to tighten the constitution and policies that deal with human resource and financial management,” he added.

In ACK, he said, it is difficult for the clergy to fight over resources since the bishops and are not allowed to be the sole bank account signatories.

The church provides that the bishop and two other officials manage the diocese resources.

In Mbeere diocese that was carved off Embu 22 years ago, a faction wants the church split into two (Mbeere North and Mbeere South) on the grounds that one area is being marginalised.

Retired cleric Rev Timothy Njoya said marginalisation is also affecting the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) where the clergy serving in rural areas feel those in urban set up are better off than them.

“In PCEA, they do not fight over tithe because the clergymen are not signatories to bank accounts. They only have issues to do with marginalisation, politics and the women ordained to serve as ministers feeling discriminated,” he added.

Some of the PCEA clergy working in hardship areas feel they are not taken care of by the church, an issue Njoya said has led to wrangles when it comes to transfers.

Due to lack of training on how to manage such places, majority of those moved from urban areas to serve in rural or marginalised areas resist the move.

He took issue with evangelical bishops who live larger than their congregation, adding that this trend is a “revolutionary explosion” in waiting.

“Before an aeroplane takes off, it uses the runway. The Church in Kenya is also on a runway and it will crash here on earth if urgent measures are not taken. People who go to those churches will wake up one day and demand for their properties,” he warned.

Njoya who has seen the transformation of the church in Kenya from colonial time to date, said it is not logical for followers to walk to church and live in shanty homes when their bishops drive fuel guzzlers and live in big homes in expensive areas in the counties.

Just like Sapit, Njoya said there is need for churches to educate those appointed as clergymen on issues to do with human resources and financial management.

He added that the government needs to come up with legislation that sets the minimum academic qualification requirement for one to be allowed to work as a pastor, priest or bishop in the country.

Opportune time

In Mount Kenya region, there is a simmering row in African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) and Africa Independent Pentecostal Church of Kenya (AIPCK) which currently have three archbishops.

Two of the archbishops – Samson Muthui and Fredrick Wangombe – have buried the hatchet but left out Julius Njoroge who insists that he is still waiting to meet the two for talks.

“We have not met and concluded and that is all I can tell you because I believe solutions come at the opportune time and it is not yet that time,” Njoroge said.

In January, Methodist Church of Kenya (MCK) faced its biggest test yet when two bishops from the Coast Region announced that they had severed links with the church.

The situation quickly headed south when the two bishops, Michael Simba and Peter Karisa, went ahead and visited Ribe Methodist Church in Kilifi County only for the faithful to walk out.

When contacted for comment, Bishop Simba said such matters can only be commented upon by Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura.

Bishop Wellingtone Sanga from Mombasa had announced the formation of a coastal conference. Rev Dr Munga Chidongo, the secretary of the conference, says that the region has for a long time wanted to have its conference. 

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Church LeadersNeno Evangelism ChurchJames Ng'ang'aChurches