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Clerics fight to regain control of the pulpit from politicians

By Steve Mkawale and Everlyne Kwamboka | Apr 14th 2019 | 4 min read
ACK Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit speaks to journalists at St Peters ACK in Nyeri on July 17, 2018. (File, Standard)

With their eyes firmly focused on 2022 and blinded by easy access to millions of captive supporters, politicians have transformed Kenyan churches into vote hunting grounds.

The forays made in different churches by politicians have sent worrying signals to the clerics of mainstream churches who now want the vote seekers locked out of the pulpit.

In exchange for their flock’s attention a number of clerics have “auctioned” their congregations by allowing politicians to use their pulpits to pour their vitriol as they take a backseat.

Bishop Mike Brawan Lumbasio of Metro Church in Nakuru says: “It is strange that politicians are now preaching in churches and pastors are now part of the congregation. This needs to change.”

Ironically, Mr Lumbasio once abandoned the church and unsuccessfully contested a parliamentary seat in Nakuru County.

The mainstream churches have also been affected and have passed a resolution to kick out politicians from the pulpit. Sunday Standard has established that a decision has been reached at a consultative meeting attended by top representatives of the Catholic Church, Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) and the National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) appears to have sealed the fate for vain politicians.

Inflammatory statements

“I spoke with John Cardinal Njue two and a half weeks ago and we agreed to give pastoral letters to guide the church by separating the place of worship from where politics and harambees are held. Churches should not be a platform for playing politics,” said the head of ACK, Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit.

NCCK General Secretary Canon Peter Karanja said it is the discretion of a clergy to allow politicians speak in church, but there is need for politicians not to make inflammatory statements.

Canon Karanja said churches have different reflections of altars, adding that some do not even have designated places for the clergy to preach.

“There are no rules, but the clergy and politicians need to be very responsible. The clergy must also correct the record immediately a politician raises different issues inside the church,” he said.

Archbishop Philip Anyolo of Kisumu, whose inauguration a while ago generated some controversy after he was gifted a vehicle by Deputy President William Ruto, defended the church.

He said the Catholic Church does not allow politicians or any suspected individual to give their ill-gotten money to the church.

“The Catholic Church does not condone corruption. We condemn any acts of corruption because it’s against God’s will,” said Anyolo. “If you steal money or anything and bring it to the church you are already condemned and you have lost touch with God.”

Anyolo, confirmed that the Mitsubishi Pajero SUV donated to him by the DP was no longer in his possession, nor does he use it. He said the gift was not rejected because it was from proceeds of corruption but because he had received another car from the church.

Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki agrees that there is need to rectify the situation by everybody “respecting the house of the Lord.”

“We (politicians) are all as guilty as charged for hijacking church services and using them for devisive politics. This is not the time for blame game but for all of us to look for ways to rectify the situation. I am embarrassed and pray that we can correct the mistake,” he said.

But the Senator took issue with the clergy, saying it is them who call politicians to speak to the congregation even when one has gone to church to ‘reconnect with his God.”

“Pastors, priests or even bishops should treat us as worshippers and not make it compulsory for politicians to address the faithful,” he said.

Early campaigns

West Pokot Senator Samuel Pogishio said the trend should be tamed because its is encouraging early 2022 political campaigns. Pastor Javan Chiteri, a religious scholar who has written a book about deception in churches today, says emerging evangelical churches are serving various interests, including partisan politics.

“Most churches which emerged after 2002 are serving various interests including partisan politics. They have no incomes to survive, hence need for donations from politicians,” Chiteri says.

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