Desie Heita WINDHOEK – What troubles Dr Shekutaamba Nambala, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (Elcin), is the alacrity with which the millennial generation of members has lost the respect for the sanctity of the church. And to demonstrate his observation, he points at the one case where the church has been successfully sued for N$1,15 million by one of its faithfuls, who felt the medical treatment received from the then Elcin-owned Onandjokwe hospital was not adequate. Separately, the bishop was called to appear in the courts in a divorce proceeding by a couple whose marriage he says he did not officiate, nor whose party he attended. Then there are overwhelming cases of thievery and stealing of funds belonging to church congregations. “Now that the world has changed, there is no longer respect of what is sacred in our society. Sometimes the church wants to help people but the very same people are giving problems to the church,” laments the man who leads the church denomination of the majority of the Namibian population. Elcin has a following of 39 percent of the Namibia’s 2,3 million people, or about 814,483 members as of 2016. The church has seen a steady growth each year since 2012 when the membership was at 730 685 people. Even the second largest church in the country, the Roman Catholic church, is said to trailing behind with the last demographic figures, putting its membership at 21 percent of the population. The demographic figures have been contested by some of churches as over inflated and devoid of accuracy. It is for this reason that Nambala says he does not suffer anxieties over members embracing en masse the new wave of Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Indeed, the annual increase in number gives him comfort. “Retaining members in the church is not under human control. It is God’s business. Our task is to preach the clear and holistic message for human well-being on earth and eternal salvation here and beyond,” Nambala told New Era. He also does not appear to be rattled by the proposed plans of the Ministry of Finance to tax income derived from commercial activities by religious, charitable, educational and other types of institutions under Section 16 of the Income Tax Act, under which the church and its many activities fall. His response was that church members have for years been paying annual dues for the upkeep of the church. “What is expected to be done is not to start paying taxes, but to pay annual dues or church membership in a new format that will allow those living afar from their respective parishes to be able to pay their dues electronically,” he says. The bishop does however make it clear that ditching ethos and beliefs of the church, to embrace same-sex relationships, cultural traditions such as Oshiwambo traditional Olufuko initiation, are an anathema to him. Olufuko is a preparation of girls from childhood to adulthood through an initiation that supposedly toughens and trains them to be ready for what is expected of them in their adulthood.
2018-06-01 09:38:57 3 months ago