Police move in as wrangles in SDA church turn ugly

A member of the Nairobi Central SDA Church Geoffrey Asanyo (right) argues with Flying Squad chief Musa Yego at the church yesterday. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]
There was drama at the Nairobi Central Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church in Nairobi, yesterday after two splinter groups nearly engaged in a fistfight.

The Saturday service was stopped by the police who ordered the presiding pastor from the pulpit and directed worshipers to leave the church following a public spat of the senior church officials.

GSU, regular police as wells as officers from the Flying squad were deployed to the church to separate the warring parties.

Hell broke loose after a group opposed to the running of affairs at the church took to the pulpit to express their anger and blocked the pastor from delivering the sermon.

The group shouted down the preacher and even attempted to grab the microphone from him.

At the centre of the protracted battle is millions of shillings offered as tithe by the faithful who include senior government officials and top businessmen.

At one time, Flying Squad officers had to force the protesting members from the pulpit to stop the verbal confrontation from degenerating into a fist fight.

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Flying Squad chief Musa Yego, who was among the senior officers dealing with the matter, threatened to have all parties arrested and locked up if the confrontation continued.

Worshipers watched in disbelief as the confrontation unfolded. Some walked away while others remained behind in the church compound.

Jerry Magutu, a church elder said the division in the church has taken a tribal angle. The church has been divided as two ethnic groups that have traditionally dominated the membership of the church engage in supremacy battles.

Mr Magutu, who was among the worshipers who spoke at a meeting convened to reach a  truce, blamed the church’s top management for failing to deal with grievances that emanated from election of the church leaders.

He claimed that a certain pastor had introduced a new system of elections that saw the faithful divided along tribal lines.

Magutu said the new system, that requires that leaders come from certain communities was to blame for the wrangles witnessed yesterday.

He added that efforts by a group that was opposed to the system to reach out to the church leadership failed after they were ignored and blocked by the pastors. “We feel alienated and we cannot air our grievances.”

However, Lias Ochola, an elder in the church, defended the pastor accused of introducing the contentious election system.

He said the election of new officials followed the laid down procedures as prescribed by the church’s constitution.

Resorted to violence

Ochola blamed the rival group for failing to follow church regulations in resolving the stalemate.

He claimed that the rival group resorted to violence after a court case challenging the decisions of the church flopped.

“The church guidelines provide a mechanism of addressing all these problems but the same has not been followed,” he said.

On July 30, the senior pastor Jean Pierre Miywa and the clerk Samuel Oyombra wrote to DCI chief George Kinoti to probe four members of a rival group.

They asked Mr Kinoti to also investigate three cases of assault that have been reported to the police.

In their letter Maiywa and Oyombra said past meetings to reconcile the two groups have failed and accused the four members of sabotaging peace deals in the church. 

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Seventh-Day AdventistSDAFlying squad