Church regulation ideal, but must involve all players

Kangema MP Muturi Kigano has kicked up a fresh storm over regulation of churches.

He argues that more stringent laws are required to tame rogue preachers and churches. While it is an undeniable fact that all is not well in the House of God, it is not true that all the apples have gone stale.

It is undeniable that some religious quacks have invaded the holy place. Thus, various kinds of scandals have become a serious blight on the already scarred body of Christ. This is a sad reflection of a society that has lost every sense of reverence and is degenerating rapidly – especially in matters of values, ethics and morality.

Therefore, as God’s agent, the government has the divine and social mandate to ensure order and sanity obtain in all sectors of society.

The hard truth, however, is that matters religion are both sensitive and emotive. It would be an exercise in futility to attempt to regulate worship without the involvement of key religious stakeholders.

One of the key tenets of the new constitution is its provision for participatory approach to policy making.

Unfortunately, various arms of government have often sidestepped or deliberately ignored such engagement. Key stakeholders have often been ridden roughshod in favour of predetermined positions. The result: the very people who could have been allies of government in its transformational agenda, have risen up in near adversarial opposition. Sadly, this is a universal reality.

In South Africa, the government got legitimately concerned about the abuse of congregants by some pseudo pastors – some of who even persuaded gullible church members to eat grass to find salvation. The Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency moved to push for laws to deter such practices.

However, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP, Cheryllyn Dudley, disagreed, arguing that the proposals were unsuitable for the religious sector: “We note the cautionary reminder that any intervention must be within the confines of the constitution, bearing in mind that it enshrines freedom of religion for all South Africans.”

Furthermore, South Africa’s Bishops came out quickly in opposition to the plan.

“The Catholic Bishops of South Africa are concerned about the recommendations of the commission that priests, ministers of religion and pastors will, by law, have to register with government as ‘practitioners,’” he said.

What the South African clergy seemed to decry is the total lack of engagement of the religious leaders when critical pieces of legislation are being formulated or enacted.

Such moves are often taken with the presumption that the religious community is either unwilling or unable to provide any useful input into the process. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To the contrary, the religious community, and especially the Church, is as concerned as the rest of society about the proliferation of Christopreneurs, whose only objective is to peddle the gospel for personal gain.

It is for this reason that the Church in Kenya has previously called for a sober engagement with the government to come up with a robust framework for managing the religious sector, without violating any person or persons’ constitutional rights.

Indeed, both the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) have previously presented draft proposals to the government for due consideration. Unfortunately, several years down the road, there has been no tangible movement on this front. Instead, people like Muturi Kigano, in their legitimate quest to restore sanity in the sector, have come up with a noble idea, but with proposals that are clearly unpalatable to the Church.

Jesus once gave a parable of a man who planted wheat. His servants, however, found that lots of tares had also grown in the field. The servants asked whether they should gather up the tares.

But the farmer replied, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together, and at the time of harvest we will first gather up the tares and burn them, then we will gather the wheat into my barn.”

For sure, care must be taken that, in its attempt to regulate the Church, the government does not uproot the wheat with the tares.

- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]