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Row threatens to split ACK diocese

Retired Archdeacon Paul Okinyo (centre) and other faithful who are calling for the split of the Maseno West Diocese, at the Odera Akango College Campus in Yala on Thursday. [Olivia Odhiambo, Standard]

A controversial election, scramble for resources, alleged greed and thirst for power could be the reasons behind the endless wrangles that have rocked Maseno West Anglican Church of Kenya.

Church leaders have been embroiled in a protracted leadership tussle that now threatens to bring the church to its knees as a push to split the diocese into two continues to gather momentum.

Yesterday, a number of church members who sought anonymity for fear of being discriminated against, told the Sunday Standard that the church resources have been the bone of contention.

"Some of us just want to pray but it is not the same anymore.

"Leaders are scrambling for power and the resources that we contribute. It is nothing else," said a worshipper.

The acrimony started early last year during campaigns to elect a new bishop. Church leaders and members broke into two separate camps in a bid to clinch the seat.

Following the election of John Godia to head the diocese, one faction of leaders and their flock started a campaign to break away from the church.

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Tensions intensified early this year after almost 70 priests were transferred, with a number of them questioning the rationale behind the move and alleging bias.

A number of christians and the clergy from Ramula and Regea deaneries lodged a petition with Godia seeking a split.

After their prayers went unheard, the faction has lodged a fresh petition with the national leadership of the church stating their intention to leave the diocese by the end of this year.

In a letter dated December 9 and addressed to Archbishop Joseph ole Sapit, the group claimed they have been persecuted by the church for their stand.

Early retirement

"A number of priests and staff from the diocesean headquarters have been dismissed from work, forced into early retirement or rendered redundant," read the letter signed by Paul Okinyo, Japheth Okumu, Daniel Ofula and Jane Rogo.

The group is accusing local leaders and officials at the ACK headquarters in Nairobi of frustrating their attempts to form a new diocese.

Early this week, the faction told journalists that the national leadership of the church will ensure their demands are met.

Okinyo, a retired archdeacon and the chair of the coordinating committee tasked with agitating for the creation of a new diocese, said the diocesan synod had approved the split.

Ms Rogo, the deanery treasurer, said: "We further wish to reaffirm that our timeline for this split is December 31 2020, beyond which all the 22 parishes that form Regea Archdeaconry shall not participate in Maseno West Diocese activities."

But members of the group that is against the split have claimed that the clergy behind the move are retirees.

About two weeks ago, the faction led by Simon Ochieng' said there was no need to create a new diocese.

Bishop Godia declined to comment on the controversy, saying the matter could not be addressed through the media. 

"I will not talk about those issues because we will not solve anything in the media. We behave like people airing our dirty linen in public."

Efforts to reach Archbishop Sapit were futile as he did not answer our calls.

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