I have spent some time following press statements and arguments forwarded by leaders of the Born-Again movement in Uganda in response to proposals made by the ministry of Ethics to regulate their mushrooming churches and preachers.
One of the controversial proposals, which I would like to restrict myself to, is for a church minister to possess the minimum academic qualification of a bachelors of divinity or theology, which is a common discipline taught to people who want to serve as church ministers. The course is also taught in several of our universities including Uganda Christian University Mukono, among others.
However, pastors say that the minister was interfering in their work. And a few days ago, they convened a meeting, to denounce the Ethics Minister Fr Simon Lokodo, called him names, and demanded that President Museveni sacks him from the docket.
My starting point is the question I have asked many pastors. “How does one establish a church in Uganda?”
The truth of the matter, many churches have been established as Non-Governmental Organisations, but since the process of fulfilling the requirements for NGOs is long and strenuous, most pastors have registered their ministries as companies limited by guarantee. These churches therefore are personal outfits, not belonging to any community.
There is no problem with anyone establishing a ministry as a company, if the activities being done by the ministry don’t affect others.
But most pastors have mastered the art of manipulating their members using the famous Biblical quote Malachi 3:10 which states; “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Members of churches therefore contribute money in the name of giving back to God, who in turn will bless them. In the Biblical times, the tenth Malachi speaks about was meant for the tribe called Levites who were not allowed to work but intercede for the nation of Israel. Therefore, the rest of tribes were expected to feed Levites who were set apart to do this duty.
Pastors of today, however, preach giving with a promise that God will bless the giver much more. However, what they are not doing is proper accountability. This is where the issue of church ownership comes in.
The owner of the ministry is the owner of the collections made in that church. Whereas other companies are overseen by the law, churches don’t want to account to anyone.
The leaders among them such as Apostle Joseph Sserwadda are being seen as conspiring with the state to control sprouting churches. Some even claim they fear competition!
However, there is no order in society without rules and regulations. In fact, every church, however small, has rules. For example, no pastor will allow any other person to come and minister in their church without their express permissions. There must be basic requirements the ministry founder sets to allow anyone to minister in their church. Many churches also have regulations for their followers.
In that light, the state sets the ultimate public order in the country. And when they ask that every preacher should have at least a degree or diploma in theology, it is not to control religious freedoms, but it is having sanity in the country.
It is true God can call anyone He wants, but there should be guidelines to follow in order to maintain order in society. There are no shortcuts.
Born again people should avoid operating as hawkers. Education adds value to one’s mission. And fakes will be dealt away with. Thus, all genuine born again people should be supporting Fr Lokodo’s proposals instead of hurling insults at time.
For God and My Country.
Aloysius Matovu Junior is a media personality and born-again Christian.