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Leadership wrangles threaten to tear apart Seventh Day Adventists

Sunday January 21 2018

Seventh Day Adventist churches

Establishment photo of one of the Seventh Day Adventist churches (Maxwell). Three Seventh Day Adventist believers are calling for an overhaul of church leadership at the conference level. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

TOM OSANJO
By TOM OSANJO
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It is a doctrinal truth among Seventh day Adventists (SDAs)  that the book of Revelation chapter 14 tells of important messages of three angels to the world.

Commonly referred to as the three angels’ messages in the church setting, the messages ensure that everyone has had a chance to choose between the Kingdom of God and that of Satan – the messages form the cornerstone of the church’s foundation.

To its credit, the Adventists have always presented the picture of the church as Jesus Christ himself would have wanted it – a quiet community that eschews controversy and busies itself in spreading the gospel.

So much so that in parts of the former South Nyanza - where it has a bedrock of support - the church is nicknamed ‘Adwen Wes gi Sura’ (The Adventists of chapter and verse. Since Dholuo alphabet does not have the letter V, it is usually collapsed into a ‘W’). The chapter and verse moniker is an admiration for the church as a stickler to the scriptures.

However, it seems that beneath the veneer of tranquility is a church sailing in choppy waters, if murmurs coming out of the church are anything to go by.

OVERHAUL

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At the heart of the disgruntlement are accusations that those charged with steering the ship are not having clean hands, as it were.

A group of three members - who claim to speak on behalf of hundreds of church members and leaders – are now calling for an overhaul of the church leadership. The group lays a litany of charges against the church leadership, ranging from nepotism to breaking the laws of the land as well as looting of property and misuse of powers through the police.

The group includes former university don Dr Charles Maranga Bagwassi, former politician Geoffrey Asanyo and retired media executive Sammy Masara who have written several petitions arguing that unless urgent remedies are instituted, then the SDA church is on the path to self-destruction.

Swirling around are claims of ‘Church Capture,’ borrowed from the now infamous ‘State Capture’ allegations raised against South African President Jacob Zuma.

“Right from October 2015 when the petitioners wrote to the General Conference up to this point, the church leaders have not admitted that the church has problems which need to be addressed.

Instead, the leaders have allegedly used every opportunity to malign the petitioners and thousands of supporters who are desirous of returning “the church of God to its core mission of winning souls for the Kingdom of Heaven,” Maranga said in an interview.

FIGHTING BACK

According to the trio, the problem in the church has its roots in the Central Kenya Conference (CKC) election at Karura (conference headquarters) in 2015 in which they claim most of the delegations complained of a manipulated process.

However, through a top official, Pastor Samuel Makori, the church is fighting back accusing the trio of having a hidden agenda against the church.

“They have been making these allegations year in year out and they have been answered satisfactorily each time they do so. We have nothing to hide as a church and this matter has even gone to the courts where they have lost,” he says.

Early in 2012, the church was reorganised into the Kenya Union Mission which further split into East Kenya Union Conference (EKUC) and West Kenya Union Conference (WKUC), and the two conducted their respective elections in September 2015.

SPECIAL GENERAL MEETING

EKUC had Samuel Makori as executive director, Alfred Marundu as executive secretary and Nehemiah Maiyo as treasurer while WKUC had Mr Ken Maena as executive director, Mr Japheth Ochorokothi as executive secretary and Mr David Sande as treasurer.

Contention arose when Mose Nyambega & Company Advocates representing Geoffrey Asanyo, an elder in the church, reported to the Registrar of Societies that some officials were planning to hold a special general meeting on September 20 in Nairobi. Mr Asanyo sought to know whether the officials were recognised by the law. 

On November 17, the registrar declared that all current officials were in office illegally.

“We have observed that the Seventh Day Adventist Church East Africa Union does not have office bearers and is in contravention of its constitution,” wrote the registrar. 

When the upset officials went to the Registrar’s office they discovered several anomalies including delayed filing of annual returns; uncertainty over the sharing of property worth billions of shillings between EKUC and WKUC.

ELECTIONS

But the group’s main grouse is that when elections were called for December 17 last year, most of those voting were not bona fide delegates but people picked for their loyalty to the church hierarchy.

They further claimed harassment was meted out against them by the police who were allegedly acting under the orders of Central Kenya Conference Executive Secretary Jeremy Marambii.

“Marambii told the police that Masara was a criminal and the documents he was carrying were seditious material. The police asked Marambii to provide a vehicle to take Masara to Gigiri Police Station,” Maranga claims.

Pastor Makori denies this and states that the three gentlemen were not delegates and so they had no locus standi to attend the Karura meeting.

“The meeting was only for bona fide delegates and since the three were not delegates they were requested to leave, a request which the police carried out,” he stated.

Also annoying to the petitioners is what they call tribalism where members of the Abagusii community are being sidelined in the church’s leadership.

“It is a fact that SDA has its main support among the Abagusii and Luo of Southern Nyanza. It is unimaginable that a community that has given so much to the church can thus be sidelined,” said Maranga.