When greed takes over, causing church to split over money, power

Nakuru West Church of Christ members conduct a church service outside after they were locked out. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

On March 17, members of Nakuru West Church of Christ conducted a church service outside after one of the officials locked them out of the premises.

The dispute seemed to have escalated and could not be resolved, forcing the church elders to drag one of the officials to court with the matter pending before Justice Heston Nyaga of Nakuru High Court.

In the court papers, 13 church elders want Peter Warutere removed as a church official, as he has been fronting his interests instead of those of the congregation.

Further, they claim that he unlawfully changed the constitution of the church, removed elders who were part of the officials, giving himself leeway to be named the sole trustee of the church.

The elders want the court to quash the decision by the Registrar of Societies that registered Warutere as the sole trustee of the church.

According to the elders, Warutere has been making decisions without consulting them. The elders aver that they appointed Warutere the Principal of the institution, while they managed the church.

“He was the pastor, he led the prayers and songs and headed the offering, which was contrary to our norm where we shared responsibilities,” they submit.

They say that since he assumed responsibilities, the church population reduced from 500 members to 150 faithful.

But in his response, Warutere has denounced the elders, saying he does not know them. He says he is the sole proprietor and wants the case dismissed as an abuse of the court process and a waste of time.

The Nakuru West Church of Christ dispute is not in isolation, raising questions about why disputes now rock churches.

In most cases, the church leadership fights over property, salary, and even positions. The churches split and they start pointing fingers at each other before a row begins.

On October 24, 2005, officials of the Church of Christ in Africa (CCA) led by Archbishop Dr Abednego Mathew Ajuoga moved to court and sued 12 individuals, among them John Henry Tulu.

The CCA officials in the suit claimed Tulu and 11 others were initially members of the church (CCA) before breaking away in 2005 to form the Evangelical Church of Christ in Africa (ECCA), which was duly registered by the Registrar of Societies.

The 12, after breaking away, allegedly started interfering with the activities of CCA and their properties by disrupting their worship. 

During the hearing of the case, CCA Archbishop Habakkuk Onyango Abongo said the 12 started interfering with the churches and buildings and disrupted their services by entering and praying there by force.

Meshack Mbasa, who testified on behalf of the 12, stated that ECCA Church delinked itself from CCA Church due to its violation of the constitution and nepotism. 

The court, while determining the case, noted that the issues were not just ownership of and use of land but also the claims by the 12 that they have to worship from the church, which they broke away from. 

After 18 years of being in court, Judge Roselyne Ekirapa Aburili said the evidence of ownership of the properties produced by the CCA entitled them to the ownership of the subject properties. 

The judge said ECCA Church and its members, having ceased to be members of CCA church, have no right to use any of CCA’s facilities, properties or amenities. ECCA members were permanently restrained from interfering with the CCA’s properties and activities. 

On April 30, the Environment and Land Court in Nakuru delivered a judgment on a petition by Peter Muiruri, Josephat Ngugi, Meshack Karanja, and Joab Mariga. 

Muiruri, Ngugi, Karanja, and Mariga as the registered trustees of Disciples of Christ Foundation Fellowship Church named Joseph Kamau, John Mwangi Kabicho, and Gilbert Ndirangu as the registered trustees of New Covenant Disciples Church and the Registrar of Societies as respondents in the case. 

Muiruri, Ngugi, Karanja, and Mariga, in the suit, wanted the court to declare that the church was the lawful owner of parcels of land in Mau Summit, Mau Narok, Bahati Kabatini, Maji Mazuri, Thika, Naivasha, and Eldoret among others. 

The court, they said, should also order for cancellation of title deeds of various properties registered in the name of New Covenant Disciples Church and the same be registered in the name of Disciples Of Christ Foundation Fellowship. 

New Covenant Disciples filed their defence and a counterclaim. They asked the court to issue a declaration that registration of the Disciples of Christ Foundation Fellowship in 2011 was bad in law.

At the end of the case, the court noted that New Covenant Disciples Church is the lawful owner of the suit properties. 

Bishop Abraham Gitu of the Apostolic Faith Church and Njoro Bible College says the church belongs to the congregation and without them, the leaders or preachers are nothing. 

He said many church wrangles between committees, leadership, and management are caused by a lack of education, ignorance, greed, and love for earthly things. 

“If congregation and church leadership are led by God, wrangles will be minimal and you will not see violence, court cases and Christians being locked out of church,” said Gitu. 

He said most pastors ignore the constitution claiming they are not aware of the repercussions, or they feel they own the church. 

“Some pastors preach for a day and start churches believing the congregation belongs to them. These leaders have not gone to study what pertains to the clergy and their role. They are bound to fail and start wrangles,” said the bishop. 

Gitu insisted that all churches must have committees and departments to manage each sector and not depend on their leader or the clergy. 

He noted that if people are left to manage everything, they become greedy and make decisions without consultations.