SDA church readies for court battle with State

Nairobi Central SDA Church Pastor Jean Pierre Maiywa (left) with other church leaders addresses the Press yesterday. He condemned the closure of the church by Nairobi Regional Commissioner Flora Mworoa. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Controversy-ridden Nairobi Central Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church now plans to move to court to seek orders to open one of its branches that was closed indefinitely by the State.

Through the Central Kenya Conference (CKC) of the SDA, the church has accused the Government of illegally locking out its worshipers from its premises.

Officials of CKC yesterday claimed that a rival faction of former elders were pulling strings within State security to enforce the closure.

“We are concerned that the police action was skewed towards the aggressors. A person’s right of worship cannot be abridged by the threats of other parties,” said CKC president Pastor John Ngunyi Kiragu.

Addressing journalists at the church premises, Kiragu termed the closure of the church as unconstitutional, saying the State never served any notice or court order.  

“There was neither a court order nor a legal notice baring members from worshiping at the designated venue. Although we complied, the church takes exception to this unlawful act by State agencies who ordinarily are supposed to be the stewards and custodians of the law,” he said.

Kiragu, who was accompanied by CKC executive secretary Jeremy Marambii, treasurer Steve Kioko, Central SDA Church head pastor Jean Pierre Maiywa and several elders, hinted at moving to court if the church is not re-opened.

Saturday evening

“We will appeal to the machinery of justice. We have already notified our lawyers,” he said.

On Saturday evening, Nairobi Regional Commissioner Flora Mworoa directed that the church’s premises be closed until wrangling factions reconcile.

“The church will only be re-opened for fellowship after the wrangling factions resolve their differences,” Ms Mworoa told journalists at her Nyayo House offices.

However, yesterday, Kiragu and his team took exception with the administrator’s decision, and denied claims there were wrangles in the church.

“We want to categorically state that we do not have any leadership dispute among members. The purported dispute was with a third party, the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference Ltd (NCC), members, who had until the 3rd of this month been doubling as members of the Nairobi Central SDA church and NCC,” Kiragu told journalists.

“The church is deeply concerned with the suspicious access to State security machinery by the aggressors which they use to curtail freedom of worship. We will seek appropriate intervention to ensure our religious liberties are respected and protected,” he said.

The pastor, however, refused to comment on claims that the wrangles were linked to next year’s church elections, the politics of creating more stations and ethnicity.

“The issue of stations is an ongoing issue and I will not comment about it. However, even the issue of tribal dominance is not genuine,” he said.   

According to Maiywa, 15 deregistered members will not be allowed back in the church.

He accused the group of sparking the wrangles by attempting to throw him out of the church last year.

Maiywa claimed the group was pushing for election of non-members to the elders’ council, and that they took advantage of his trip to Siaya to convene a meeting to eject him.

Ethnic angle

“I then informed them that I am an employee of the conference and that I am seconded here. They don’t have powers to fire me,” he said.

Although the ethnic angle has been fuelled by a list of those who are in the de-registered group, with 13 out of 15 coming from one community, the church leaders claim those expelled were trouble makers.

The wrangles are also linked to the fight to control millions of shillings and other resources.

They have also been blamed on jobs in the church, schools, hospitals and other social amenities run by Adventists.