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Methodist Church rocked by split after Ntombura rejected by synod

 Bishop Joseph Ntombura. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard] 

The leadership crisis in the Methodist Church in Kenya (MCK) widened yesterday after a major synod opposed the leadership of Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura.

At the heart of the fight for the soul of MCK are accusations of poor leadership and mismanagement of church affairs and properties, which include Kenya Methodist University, Maua Methodist Hospital, learning institutions, and parcels of land.

The splinter has caused ripples among church members across the country.

A group of MCK leaders at the Coast who are opposed to Bishop Ntombura’s leadership formed a new conference in 2020. They were swiftly followed by the Nairobi Conference and Mount Kenya Regional Conference.

Church leaders have now aligned themselves either with Bishop Ntombura or his opponents, throwing worshippers into confusion.

In a charged service at MCK Nkubu on Sunday, the Nkubu Synod, which has 172 churches spread across Mt Kenya East counties under the leadership of Bishop Justus Bundi, was the latest to announce its autonomy.

The synod resolved that it would no longer be part of the Methodist Conference and its governing authority unless Bishop Ntombura vacates office.

The decision was approved by Reverend Ruth Mwiti of Githongo Circuit, the chairpersons of churches in the synod led by Eric Kiambi, and other clerics.

Bishop Bundi said that the faithful wanted the church to embrace new leadership to effectively discharge its mandate of spreading the gospel and spiritually empowering members, in addition to other roles. 

“The church is bigger than the presiding bishop, superintendent ministers and stewards,” Bundi said, even as he admitted that some of the bishops who had previously supported him had been won over by Ntombura.

 A section of Methodist leaders addresses the press outside Kileleshwa Police Station, Nairobi, after holding a protest against Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntambura. [Elvis Ogina Standard]

Bundi said he would not be fazed by attempts to remove him as synod head, after the Methodist Church Conference Office, the MCK governing arm, suspended him through a letter dated January 6, 2022.

In the letter seen by The Standard and signed by Administrative Bishop Richard Muguongo, Bundi was accused of being among leaders who want to break away from MCK’s authority.

The bishop was also accused of being part of an “extraordinary Methodist members meeting held on August 21, 2022, chaired by former presiding bishop Dr Lawi Imathiu in Kaaga, where you were among the ministers that appended their signatures approving the formation of a Transitional Adhoc Connexional Committee that was to lead an illegal takeover of the Methodist government”.

Bundi was asked to vacate office and hand over any belongings of the synod in his possession.

But the bishop said he was not going anywhere.  “I will stay put and will not be removed as long as the church members are with me. We will spiritually fight tooth and nail to protect property that belongs to Nkubu synod.”

He added: “We will stand autonomous. We do not want any interference by the conference”.

Bishop Ntombura has accused former Methodist leaders of being behind those rebelling against his leadership.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the Methodist Church are very happy. This is the golden time of MCK since it was founded in 1862.”

MCK, he added, “had done the greatest job of building and improving its existing churches.” 

Ntombura said worshippers who had remained faithful to the church were wealthier, including the ministers, and that the church had more educated people than before. 

MCK’s status, he said, was “very good” and “the young people were no longer running from church.”

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