On Monday, the troubled Nairobi Central SDA church convened a press conference to demand the unconditional opening of its church after the state shut it.
As journalists gathered and cameras rolled, officials of the Central Kenya Conference (CKC) had one more request; give us just 10 minutes.
Reason? Our pastor is just at the corner en route here, they said. The venue was Nairobi Central SDA Church popularly known as Maxwell.
After a few minutes, Pastor Jean Pierre Kibiisyo Maiywa walked in paving way for Pastor John Kiragu Ngunyi (CKC President), Jeremy Marambii (CKC Executive Secretary), Steve Kioko (CKC Treasurer) to start the address.
After Kiragu’s speech, he introduced Maiywa, the head pastor, to field questions. He appeared composed and firm, taking time to give the background of the squabbles that have come to mark his reign at the church.
Maiywa was first posted to the church in June 2018. Four months later, squabbles pitting him against a group of elders opposed to his leadership style emerged.
The soft-spoken but tough pastor told journalists that his demand that the church manual be followed to the latter caused the rift with the said elders.
The elders accuse Maiywa and his counterpart Peter Nyaga of polarising the church along ethnic lines and want them out.
The squabbles were sparked after the pastors and elders differed on the names to serve in the nomination committee that is mandated to pick officials who will lead the church in 2019.
The dispute took a dramatic twist when the elders locked the offices of the pastors situated along Jakaya Kikwete Road in Nairobi on December 23, 2018.
“The matter was reported to police but no action has ever been taken. In fact, the investigating officer and OCS were transferred. The same people assaulted me two weeks ago,” Pastor Maiywa said.
In a letter to the Karura based CKC by First Elder Enock Kinara and copied to the General Conference of SDA based in the US, the elders claimed efforts to reconcile have failed.
“...the special Church Business Meeting of Sabbath December 22, 2018 resolved with immediate effect recalling of the current pastors by CKC,” the letter dated December 23, 2018 reads in part.
However, Pastor Maiywa says the failed attempt to eject him was irregular since he is not an employee of the elders but the CKC.
He claims the elders who wanted him out took advantage of his absence and some elders who had travelled with him to Siaya on an evangelism mission to pass the resolution.
“I then informed them that I am an employee of the conference and that I am seconded here. They didn’t have powers to fire me,” he said.
The smear campaign against him, he says, was commenced after he insisted that the election of elders follow due process. According to the pastor, two-non members had been incorporated to the nominating committee, a move he questioned.
In 2012, the CKC accused him of insubordination when he served as the conference secretary and thereafter demoted him to serve as a district pastor.
“With effect from December 3, 2012 you will be expected to report to your new station of wok as a district pastor,” then CKC President Franklin Njeru Wariba wrote on November 16, 2012. The pastor received the letter three days later.
The move followed a complaint by Pastors Kennedy Onchana, Charles Kamutu, Paurice Opnay, Ezra Okioma, Shadrack Kamundi and Samuel Kyyanguti as well as Rose Museo (Now Makueni Women Rep) and Dr Mark Mwathi on September 5, 2012.
Maiywa would later be sacked by the CKC but moved to court and was reinstated. The CKC then posted him to Karengata SDA church where he served shortly before taking a Sabbatical to go and study abroad.
He re-emerged last year to be appointed head pastor of Maxwell where he is battling a fresh storm to his evangelical work.
Enock Kinara, who served as first elder last year, accuses Maiywa of sowing seeds of division when he faulted the composition of a nominating committee for being dominated by one tribe.
“On Thursday, October 11, 2018, Pr JP Maiywa convened the special organising committee and communicated that he had received complaints from church members (whose names he did not disclose to the committee) to the effect that the proposed names for the nominating committee contained in the special committee were skewed towards one tribe,” Dr Kinara says in court documents.
The head elder says he could not understand how the details of the special committee’s report got circulated to church members. “To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time in the church’s history that the tribal angle aspect had found its way to matters pertaining to the election and appointment of church officers,” he said in an affidavit.
The elder in the affidavit says even though church appointments ought to reflect diversity of the congregation at large; Nairobi Central SDA church being cosmopolitan, election and appointment of church officers has never been based on tribe.
Elders Humphrey Nguma Macharia and Gerald Kireki Ongoro moved to court on February 1, 2019 on behalf of the other elders to sue pastors Maiywa and Nyaga of presiding over what they called a flawed process.
But the case has since been dismissed after Justice John Mativo said last month the warring parties did not exhaust internal dispute resolutions mechanisms before heading to the courts.
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