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PCEA ban on Kikuyu rite sparks big storm

Thursday May 24 2018

The Agikuyu council of elders

Kariuki Kabui waves to the crowd after he was installed as the King of the Kikuyu cultural association- Kiama Kia Maa at Mugwathi hotel in Nyeri town in 2016. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A decision by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa to bar its congregation from Kikuyu traditional rites has sparked a row among worshippers across Mt Kenya region.

The church told its members to keep off a Kikuyu cultural practice referred to as “Mburi cia Kiama”, which involves slaughtering of goats and giving advice to men on how to become respected elders.

Men who undergo the process then join different kiamas (groups), where they receive advice on Kikuyu culture, marriage and community responsibilities.

The church’s order is said to be among the deliberations made during a general assembly meeting held from April 11 to 14 and communicated to churches during Sunday service in the weeks that followed. 


Followers of the Protestant denomination are taking on each other over whether to accommodate the Kikuyu cultural practice, which has gained popularity over time.


“The highest body in PCEA church has distanced itself from Mburi Cia Kiama, terming it a negative cultural practice, among other practices like polygamy, female circumcision and witchcraft,” a FaceBook post associated with the church read in part.

The church is said to be sticking to its doctrines, which bar its elders and the congregation from practising cultural rituals associated with Agikuyu elders.

Despite the growing popularity of the ritual, part of the church feels some practices like giving of sacrifice and drinking traditional brew are unethical.

The church is said to be giving its members the option of abandoning these cultural ways of worship or leaving the congregation.


But elders have not taken the matter lightly, and have termed the alleged decision of the church as misguided and personal. The elders, who have in the past tried to build bridges with mainstream churches, feel undermined by the PCEA. Many elders who subscribe to cultural rituals are also known to attend mainstream church services.

Nyeri county chair of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, Mr Muthoga Kirethi, took a swipe at the church over the remarks, insisting that cultural practices do not rival religion.

“That is unwarranted and misguided. We do not rival the church by embracing our culture. In fact, we were born Kikuyu first before we joined the mainstream churches. People can opt to leave a church but you can never stop being Kikuyu,” he said.


When asked how the church would enforce the directive, PCEA General Assembly Moderator Julius Mwamba kept off the issue, saying: “Let us talk after one week”.

The debate has gained traction in the social media. Advocate Wahome Thuku, for instance, supported the church, saying: “PCEA only restricts its elders and deacons because they have voluntarily taken vows to serve the church.

For other members, they can stop partaking the Holy Communion, be encouraged to repent, and continue attending church services,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.