A vicious battle among Evangelical Lutheran Church of Namibia (ELCIN) clergy has ensued, triggered by a sermon that questioned the sustainability of the church and those leading it.
Pastors are at one another’s throats following a sermon by the western diocese bishop Veikko Munyika at the late Martin Ngodji’s memorial service, which equated the church to a dead child.
The conversation on a WhatsApp group of pastors is so intense, with one of the pastors asking the church leadership to step down, charging it is being led by ‘mafias’.
Munyika’s sermon has also induced tribal division among pastors.
Those in the know charge that while Munyika’s sermon has caused uproar in and outside the church, the Oshikwanyama-speaking pastors have allegedly come out to defend him.
Those who are not in support of the remarks made by the western diocese bishop have accused him of tarnishing the image of ELCIN.
In a video seen by New Era, Munyika in his sermon at the memorial service of the late Ngodji, said the late bishop-elect was saved from leading a “cracked church”.
He went on to say the late bishop-elect was going to lead a sick, divided and a church with people who are not afraid to sin.
“Among us, there are people who do not want to stand for the truth and justice. Justice is being done away with; the truth is swept under the carpet and where rules are not respected,” Munyika said. He metaphorically referred to the status quo in the church to a dead child,
stillborn – and said the Lord saw it befitting to take away the bishop-elect to prevent him from carrying and nursing a dead child.
“The Lord does not want Ngodji to be made to carry a dead child and then make it seem like the baby died in his carrier or
that he killed the baby,” he said
metaphorically. A pastor, who chose to remain anonymous, said the remarks by the bishop not only tarnished the good name of the church, but it is also embarrassing.
“If the church is dead as it is being said, how do we move on and convince – let alone have people come to a dead institution. The platform was wrong. If the status quo is what it is, the problem should have been addressed in-house,” the pastor said.
Another pastor said the remarks by the bishop are unpleasant and driving the existing tribal division in the church even further.
ELCIN secretary general Alpo Enkono did not want to dwell on internal matters with the media.
Enkono said preachers are guided by the Holy Spirit. “And if that is what the bishop was given by the Holy Spirit, what else do you want to hear from me?” Enkono queried.
Bishop Munyika’s cell phone went unanswered despite several attempts to get hold of him.
Deep-seated divisions within ELCIN played out at its elective synod in August this year. At the Ongwediva gathering, the late Ngodji prevailed as bishop-elect for the eastern diocese, while there was no clear winner for the western diocese.
Instead, Gideon Niitenge was chosen as the diocesan moderator.
Ngodji had won in the second round after defeating Enkono by getting 54 votes, compared to Enkono’s 21. Although scoring the highest points in all three rounds, Niitenge failed to meet the two-thirds majority of the votes required for the bishop position.
For this position, the winner was required to obtain at least 51 of the 76 votes in the first three rounds. According to the ELCIN constitution, once the candidates fail to obtain two-thirds of the votes in the first three rounds, the winner in the fourth round is only accorded the diocesan moderator position.
The diocesan moderator is only required to obtain at least half (39) of the votes.