Methodist church: We are selling Nairobi land to bail out KeMU

MEthodist University

The main enterance to Kenya Methodist University in Meru town.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

The Methodist Church Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura has told off his critics who have intensified calls for his removal on allegations of maladministration and irregular disposal of church property.

Speaking during the installation of Rev Julius Ibutu as Mt Kenya Synod bishop in Nanyuki, Rev Ntombura admitted that there are plans to sell prime church land in Nairobi to bail out debt ridden Kenya Methodist University (KeMU).

This comes after three former presiding bishop's Lawi Imathiu, Zablon Nthamburi and Stephen Kanyaru published caveat emptor declaring Rev Ntombura an illegal office holder.

In the notice, the former presiding bishop's said Rev Ntombura ‘continues to hold office on account of the purported resolutions of an impugned Conference meeting of August 3, 2022…”

“…by this notice, let it be known by all and sundry that therefore, any actions, undertakings, covenants and or liabilities entered by the said Rev Joseph Ntombura Mwaine by himself, his agents or on his authority under his instructions purportedly on behalf of the Methodist Church in Kenya are wholly unauthorized and unlawful.”

Rev Kanyaru said they published the caveat after discovering that there was a plan to sell church land valued at more than Sh20 billion at Gitanga in Nairobi.

But Rev Ntombura said money and property has never been a source of trouble in the Methodist church.

"Since our university is so indebted, we decided that all unserviceable debts be bought off by the church. Kenya Methodist University belongs to the church. So, the church gifted them a piece of land in Nairobi so that they can sell and clear their debts."

"As a result, the church will take over the university property like KeMU towers and KeMU hub. What we are doing is like a barter trade that will see the university debt free," Bishop Ntombura said.

In 2017, KeMU had debts of more than Sh3 billion including Sh1.7 billion owed to suppliers and part-time lecturers, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) arrears of Sh400 million and an up-to-date bank loan of more than Sh1 billion.

At the time, the university had identified property worth Sh1.9 billion for disposal to offset the debts.
Rev Kanyaru, Rev Imathiu and Rev Nthamburi have also accused Bishop Ntombura of changing the church constitution without due process.

But the Methodist Church head said that the church continues to grow 'amidst so many obstructors.'

He said the group opposed to his leadership has gone ahead to tarnish his name internationally.

"However, I was ready for this right from the start because any church that is in mission work faces problems. Many churches are dying because some people are not ready to go out and make disciples," Rev Ntombura said.

On allegations of mutilating the church constitution and standing orders, Bishop Ntombura said the changes made were intended to spur growth. 

'I want to acknowledge that it's true I have changed the church.  We have given our congregation freedom of worship. By this, we altered the trend where young people were running away from our church. The Methodist church was predominantly in Meru and the coast. We are now a force to reckon," he said.

However, Bishop Ntombura denied claims that there was a plot to register the Methodist Church under a new name. 

"The Methodist church is one of the oldest churches that do not require registration in government. They did not know this," he said. 

He also denied irregularly creating new offices in the church.

The clergy and laity opposed to Rev Ntombura have cited the position of chief operating officer and administrative bishop. 

"The position of administrative bishop has been there because our church is a government. Whatever is endorsed by the annual conference has the backing of the government, " Bishop Ntombura argued. 

He accused the critics of spreading falsehoods against the church.

"They have also accused us of using a lot of money in court, yet they are the ones who sue us with falsehoods.
The church has to defend itself in court when sued.  But those who have caused the church to spend money in courts will pay a hundred-fold, " he added.