Not on our pulpits, bishops tell politicians

Monday, September 13th, 2021 00:00 |
ODM leader Raila Odinga with the head of ACK archbishop Jakson ole Sapit and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu during the consecration of Bishop Rose Okeno at Butere Girls grounds, yesterday. Photo/PD/Emmanuel Wanson

Kepher Otieno

Political bigwigs intending to use churches to campaign for various seats are in for a rude shock after top religious leaders barred them from speaking from the pulpit.

Opposition chiefs Raila Odinga (ODM), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-Kenya), Charity Ngilu (Narc) were yesterday stunned after the head of the Anglican Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit denied them an opportunity to speak at a church function in Kakamega.

Raila had led a strong political delegation to the consecration of the new Anglican Church Butere Diocese Bishop Rose Okeno, comprising governors Wycliffe Oparanya, James Ongwae and host of MPs but Sapit declared that the church would not be used as a campaign platform.

“Today I want to decree here that we are not going to allow political elites to speak within the church precincts,” he declared. 

“We are not going to allow the pulpit to be used as grounds to propagate political rhetoric, propaganda, hate and spite. No,” he declared.

Thousands of worshippers attended the consecration of Okeno as the first female Bishop of the Anglican church.

Implement directive

Sapit acknowledged the presence of the politicians amid cheers from the crowds before he dropped the bombshell.

The archbishop said he was bound and limited by the canon laws of the church.

“We are starting here today and will proceed to uphold the same across all the ACK churches in Kenya,” he said.

He asked bishops of the church to implement the directive. Other leaders at the function were Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malalah, Lugari MP Ayub Savula and Nominated Senator Naomi Shihonga.

Kisumu deputy governor Mathews Owili, Siaya Deputy governor James Okumbe, Nominated MP Geoffrey Osotsi, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna and MPs Tindi Mwale, Florence Mutua, Elsie Muhanda and Aseka Wangaya.

Sapit’s declaration got a boost after Catholic churches also banned politicians from the pulpit. Archbishop Antony Muheria, who is Inter-Faith Council chairman, called on priests to enforce a ban on politicians campaigning in churches

In a statement yesterday, the archbishop asked all Catholic priests to follow the call of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and be firm that politicians have a place to come and pray in church but have no space to speak in the churches.

“Dear politicians, if you are coming to pray in our churches, you are welcome and sit like any other ordinary Christian and do not expect to address people in our churches.  Please come to pray and leave,” Muheria declared.

Muheria warned that politicians have decided that they own places of worship in their greed for votes.

“May you be ashamed, shaken when you stand on the holy ground to speak politics and insults because you are calling a curse on yourself,” he added.

Mudavadi and Wetang’ula, who left the Butere function in a huff as the new bishop was speaking, faced criticism from ODM leaders who accused them of being disrespectful.  After the function, Raila and MPs allied to him retreated to Oparanya’s home where they castigated Mudavadi and his team for leaving the venue before conclusion prayers.

Ngilu set the pace when she said the church should be respected for what it is.

Ngilu, Osotsi and Sifuna condemned Mudavadi and Wetang’ula’s action as disrespect for men of God and particularly women of faith; given that they left when the new bishop was giving her inaugural speech.

“We want to laud the action taken by the ACK church. They have set a precedent and let all other churches follow,” said Ngilu

She wondered if there were no other forums where politicians can air their views while Sifuna termed the Mudavadi-Wetang’ula decision as an act of cowardice.

On Okeno’s consecration, Ngilu termed it yet another great milestone for the girl child and women leadership. “It is a historical move for the church in Kenya to make such a bold step.”

Okeno reiterated the same in her speech, saying her appointment was a great gain for women after decades of male leadership of the church.

Ngilu asked the former Nasa principals to retreat, regroup and reengineer their future political stakes, since President Uhuru Kenyatta had hinted at picking one of them to succeed him.

“The innuendo created out of such actions is that they are male chauvinists with little regard for women leadership and are against gender equity,” said Sifuna.

He apologised to the church on behalf of what happened and to the new Bishop after youth allied to the ANC leaders left the venue following them in tow.

But Mudavadi later clarified that he had excused himself to attend another church function in Murang’a county. “We told the archbishop that we were going to Murang’a and we were running late.”

Mudavadi said those claiming he stormed out were malicious: “We had stayed there for several hours and accomplished our mission” he said in Murang’a.

Sapit told the new Bishop that she had the canon responsibility to shepherd and lead the flock.

Upon her consecration, she gave an acceptance speech and promised to respect, uphold, protect and maintain the rights, privileges and liberties of the Diocese.

With the ban on political gatherings due to Covid-19, politicians notably Deputy President William Ruto, Raila, Mudavadi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi have been flocking churches where they have been giving speeches.

Last week, a senior pastor in charge of the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA) in Nyamira asked politicians to keep off their pulpits.

Pastor Thomas Nyakundi who is the President of Nyamira West Field conference warned that politicians have turned church pulpits into campaign forums, on which they have been preaching hatred and lies.

More on News