Over the past few weeks, almost all sectors of the church have made strong statements about the place of politics and politicians in the church.
The voice of the church has been exceptionally united on this issue to the surprise of many. The current storm was started by Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit of the Anglican Church, as he presided over the historic dedication of Reverend Rose Okeno as the first female bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya. The Archbishop has publicly denied the battery of high-level politicians the opportunity to âgreet the peopleâ as they are used to.
Contrary to what has been the case on such occasions, the Archbishop categorically said that no politician would even bring messages of goodwill to the newly consecrated bishop. What came as a surprise to many was that the prelate stood firm and failed to entertain even the top presidential candidates present – including former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
As if reading the same script, Catholic Archbishop of Nyeri Anthony Muheria also announced that politicians would not be allowed to speak in church. The Kenya Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KCCB) later reiterated this position. Interestingly, a similar position has been stated by other major coordinating bodies including the National Council of Churches (NCCK) and the Evangelical Kenya Alliance (EAK). Some religious denominations have also spoken independently on the same subject. AIPCA announced last week that it was banning politicians from speaking in the pulpit. The Redeemed Gospel Church, headed by Archbishop Arthur Kitonga, has also made its position known.
The question that must remain in the minds of Kenyans is why this unusual turn of events in the church. Did the clergy suddenly realize that being in church politics is wrong? These questions and many others are legitimate.
But the reality is that, while politicians have always been welcome in our churches, and especially given a space to speak to congregations, the situation in this election time has proved difficult. With other policy avenues closed due to the Covid-19 containment measures, politicians have found an easy way out in places of worship.
Two weeks ago, we expressed in this space our concern about the growing use of church chairs by politicians to spread political vitriol against real or perceived opponents. We were of the opinion that such conduct is totally disrespectful to the Christian faithful who invade places of worship with the sole desire to meet their God.
Unfortunately, when politicians appear in church, they cloud the water so much that these devotees have to return home with their spiritual thirst unsatisfied – if not worse. So it was our call to politicians not to abuse the courtesy given to them by the church.
Unfortunately, this call went unheeded. As Archbishop Muheria lamented: âBecause of their greed for votes and popularity, they decided that the places of worship belonged to them. They ask in churches and places of worship to organize a political rally to address people politically. In addition, some politicians have even gone ahead to openly insult the church leaders who host them, especially if the pastor or bishop does not do what they want. This is not only absurd, but it is the height of disrespect!
While all of this could be misinterpreted as discriminating against politicians, the church has made it clear that places of worship are open to everyone, including politicians. In its pastoral letter, EAK advised its member churches that the Church should be open to all who wish to join worship without any discrimination. As such, all devotees are free to join in the worship of God with songs, hymns, prayers, and gifts without exalting one worshiper above the other.
Therefore, what seems to emerge clearly is that the current fury over politics and the church is a self-inflicted wound by our political leaders. As we appreciate the desperate need to sell you to Kenyans wherever they are, perhaps you could benefit from the guidance of Jesus when He said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you on top of it. . “This is where the secret to success lies, even politically.