Home » Judicial » Budiriro Violence Was Avoidable

The Apostolic churches have a huge and committed following in Zimbabwe but were crying out for reform of administration and a careful examination of some practices so that these, without losing the essential beliefs of the church, could accommodate theological insights that develop the thoughts of the great founder and change what many see as misinterpretations of the Christian message within an Apostolic environment.

This process needs to be distinguished from change for the sake of fashion.

Churches that follow a secular herd fail. But questions arise that were not thought of 100 years ago and which need answers.

Paths have been followed with little thought that suddenly come to a dead end. A living church has to continually examine how it expresses its eternal message and values and how it copes with a changing world.

At the same time the apostolic churches found that a minority of prophets and elders were not as genuine as was required.

This is not unusual: persecuted small churches that are recently founded tend to have highly committed leaders ready for martyrdom large churches with third and fourth generation leaderships and social acceptability need to be more choosy about who leads them to ensure that dedication and adherence to core beliefs are there, rather than a desire for material riches and power.

Reform can be tricky at times. The Protestant reformation in Europe was driven gly by the appalling practices of the Renaissance papacy the Catholics cleaned up their act as a result but too late to restore unity to Christendom.

Retaining unity, keeping core values but making a church more relevant needs careful leadership.

The Apostolics started along the right path. They created the Apostolic Christian Council, so that they were all in the same debate.

That council, under the leadership of Bishop Johannes Ndanga, has done excellent work in removing abuses, and has done so more successfully some when faced with sexual abuse of women and children. Reports were investigated, and if found of substance then the police were called in without further debate.

But this week Bishop Ndanga appears to have faltered.

His council has found that one congregation in Budiriro was not rooting out abusive practices. Instead of investigating more fully, and then passing on information of abuse to the authorities, the council decided to close down the congregation and decided to announce this with a police escort.

The result was a nasty fight.

This is a pity. Zimbabwe gives constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief and worship. If, while exercising that freedom, members of a church commit secular crimes, such as sexually abusing a child, they must face the secular courts.

But the secular authorities should not be used to decide who can or cannot worship.

The courts were called in recently during a dispute in the Anglican Church, but no one asked the courts then to decide who was right or wrong in the split all that was sought was a judgment on who owned what property.

The Apostolics need to think this problem through more carefully. We agree, wholeheartedly, that criminals should be handed over to the police.

But if a group refuses to believe something the majority believe then all that majority can do is excommunicate the group, if reason does not work.

It cannot use the police to suppress the group.

But it can, if it has evidence of systematic criminal activity, give all the evidence and details it has uncovered to the police and encourage witnesses to come forward.

The Apostolics have moved forward rapidly with their federal structure they have done a lot of first class reform.

But they must be careful how they involve the secular authorities these are essential when dealing with secular crime but should be absent when dealing with heresy.

Source : The Herald