Lately, the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church has been marred by controversy in what some commentators have attributed to tribalism and corruption.
But a section of the church’s believers are now coming out to question the calibre of pastors who make it to their pulpits.
“Did they join the ministry as a calling or because SDA is an equal opportunity employer?” posed one faithful.
“Today, performance of the pastor is not about the soul; it is about how much you surrender to the conference (church’s respective headquarters),” said Joshua Square, a member of Nyabimwa SDA church in Bonchari constituency — South Kenya Conference (SKC).
He adds that “the preaching itself is tilted with an emphasis on tithes and offerings”.
The advent church is also in a period where youth have been trooping to theology schools, more so to Bugema and Baraton universities, and other colleges such as Nyanchwa Adventist.
Evangelist Joyce Mwango did not attend any theology school yet she has been ministering in the SKC.
“It doesn’t matter whether I studied theology or not. It is always about letting the word sink and touch the hearts of God’s children,” she says.
According to a source in the Kenya Lake Conference, who is privy to the goings-on in the SDA, graduate pastors are paid by respective conferences salaries.
But money paid is determined by how much believers in a pastor’s territory (church or district) are able to collect and deliver to the headquarter.
Concern is also being raised as to how SDA church title deeds have since left the villages and found their way to the headquarters where they are ‘kept’.
Mr Isaiah Ondari was the first elder at Nyabimwa SDA. He donated land in the 90s and the title deed could be accessed locally. However, his grandson, Mr Square, explains that the document was taken to Nyanchwa.
“What if it turns out that somebody used the title deed as collateral to acquire loans from banks? Should we, the donors, revoke the generosity?” he posed. At Nyanchwa, the Conference’s Youth Director Earnest Nyakina continues to stay “abroad” even as more than 170 people are in the dark over Sh3.3 million that they raised in anticipation of participating in the International Pathfinders Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA.
“We are not happy with the way pastor (Nyakina) handled us … he had issues with his passport and delayed booking us at the Embassy for an interview. Most people were denied visas. He totally abandoned us,” a letter signed by the complainants addressed to the East Kenya Union executive director reads in part.
The SKC president, pastor Julius Bichang’a, dismissed any questions, stating that “God’s issues are not put in the media”, and that “there will always be issues before Jesus comes.”
At Gendia in Homa Bay County, where the First SDA church was established in 1906, there is also Gendia Adventist Mission Hospital and Gendia High School, which are ‘sponsored’ by the church but patients and students say there is no subsidy or waiver.
“We complain of corruption in government but our taxes normally circulate back to support projects. In SDA, once the money leaves the church to the headquarter, you never get to hear of how it was spent,” Mr Square says.