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Poverty behind rise in dishonest pastors

Poverty and unemployment are luring dishonest Kenyans into setting up churches, adding to the growing number of pastors being caught with their pants down, the Rev Timothy Njoya has said.

The former Presbyterian Church moderator says the commercialisation of the church is to blame for the unholy trend.

“Today, because of rampant joblessness and poverty, many people are starting churches to earn a living, so you get all types of people,” he said.

“The church has ceased to be professional. During my time, people went into gospel because they had a calling; they made a lot of sacrifices.”

The spotlight is on the church, with the number of pastors increasing who are caught in compromising situations with members of their congregations.

Found dead

The latest of such incidents occurred last Tuesday evening when a pastor was found dead in unclear circumstances at a woman’s house in Buruburu.

Police said the former church minister at the Redeemed Gospel Church in Buruburu’s Phase 1 had gone to the woman’s house at around 11 am, and stayed there for the rest of the day.

Taxi operators told police the woman called for a cab, but the driver did not take the pastor to the hospital as he was already dead.

The body, which was found on the bed with no visible injuries, was transferred to the City Mortuary for a post-mortem.

The Bible in Hebrews 13:17 orders congregations to “Have confidence in leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”

But some leaders appear to be submitting more than ordered by the good book.

In another incident on November 15 last year, there was drama in Buruburu after another KAG pastor was caught in bed with a married woman who had invited him for a cup of tea. 

Media reports said the woman and the pastor took advantage of the fact that her husband works outside Nairobi, only visiting once a month.

On the fateful night, the husband was alerted by neighbours and made an impromptu appearance. A fight broke out and the pastor was injured and admitted to hospital.

In July 2012, a woman called Esther Mwende stunned the nation with claims that pastor Michael Njoroge had paid her to fake a miracle at his Fire of God Ministries Church in Nairobi.

Ms Mwende, who said she was a commercial sex worker, further alleged that the pastor made the offer after procuring sex from her. The pastor denied the allegations although TV clips appeared to validate Mwende’s claims.

Last Friday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops secretary-general Fr. Vincent Wambugu downplayed the developments, saying the entire church should not be condemned because of the sins of a few individuals.

He said the entire clergy is supposed to uphold moral standards as expected by society, and those fail to do so must bear individual responsibility.

Interrogate circumstances

“All of us are called to dignity so if people fail they should be seen as individuals and not an institution,” he said, calling on Kenyans to interrogate the circumstances under which the randy pastors were caught.

The priest said he was satisfied with how the Catholic Church conducts the process to priesthood, which effectively weeds out unsuitable people.

He proposed that vetting be left to churches, adding that the church should not be treated as a business. 

Mr Ssemakula Mukiibi, an atheist, says pastors have for long been out on pedestals, which has let them assume they could get away with anything.

“We don’t question church leaders like we question the rest of us, yet they are human just like the rest of us,” said Mr Mukiibi of the Free Thinkers Initiative, Kenya.

“We should stop treating them like they are some higher powers and use the same rules we use on other to judge them.” 

Mr Mukiibi says the government should come up with a way of vetting pastors.

“Today, there are no benchmarks. You can drop out of school and open a church, register with the registrar of societies and, voila, you are a pastor!” Rev Njoya concurs, calling opening of churches one of the most lucrative businesses in Kenya today and recommends that they be streamlined.

“Churches should be made to file tax returns as it will make them less commercial. Control their money, and you streamline their morality,” he said.