Bishop Joseph Ntombura

Methodist Church of Kenya Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura and other church leaders in Nairobi on July 8. He says politicians should be allowed to speak in church. 

| Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Methodists defy ban on politics in church

Methodists will allow politicians to speak to congregants from the pulpit, marking a split with other mainstream churches.

Methodist Church Kenya Presiding Bishop, Joseph Ntombura, on Saturday said the decision to stop politicians from addressing worshippers is not wise, adding that it amounts to denying a section of church members from taking part in services.

Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian Church heads have issued guidelines stopping clerics from yielding their podiums to politicians.

The leaders of the three churches said politicians should attend services like any other member.

“Politicians are our brothers, sisters as well as members of the Church. They cannot be denied an opportunity to address worshippers,” Bishop Ntombura said at a funeral in Mukothima, Tharaka Nithi county.

He added that politicians never disrespect the Church whenever they are given a chance to speak, saying the pulpit is a suitable place to articulate their agenda for the voters and country.

“There is a possibility of the Church being used to gag some leaders as it allows other politicians to talk. That is why we will allow politicians to speak as long as they respect places of worship,” the Methodist Church head said.

Bishop Ntombura, however, added that politicians would not be allowed to hijack church services.

“We will not entertain politicians who come in a hurry and demand to speak. A politician should also inform us in advance of his or her intention to attend the service and if they would want to speak. We will grant them the opportunity if they do so respectfully,” Bishop Ntombura told the mourners.

Politicians have in the past used the Church to sell their agenda, make huge monetary contributions or criticise opponents, oftentimes overshadowing the services.

They get all the news coverage from pronouncements made on the pulpit.

Some political leaders have accused their rivals of donating corruption proceeds to churches in exchange for favours such as the opportunity to address congregants.

The ban on mass gatherings aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus has made the Church an even more important venue for politicians to make public pronouncements.

Political leaders have been divided on the church leaders banning them from the pulpit.

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka criticised the decision, arguing that it makes politicians appear to be worse sinners than other church goers.

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, his Amani National Congress colleague Musalia Mudavadi and Deputy President William Ruto have supported the ban.

Dr Ruto and Mr Mudavadi addressed worshippers in churches yesterday but avoided political rhetoric witnessed in recent weeks.

“We respect the Church and its protocols. If there are guidelines the Church would like us to follow, we will respect that. We cannot engage in an argument with religious leaders,” Mr Mudavadi at Chabuene Methodist Church in Meru county.

The DP was at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa in Githunguri, Kiambu County, where he addressed worshippers as well.

He addressed political rallies in the area after the service.

The Service Party Organising Secretary, Karungo wa thang’wa, who accompanied the DP used the pulpit to announce that he had relinquished his position and defected to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a party associated with Dr Ruto.

Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) head, Jackson ole Sapit, stopped Mr Odinga, Mr Mudavadi and governors from Kakamega, Kisii and Kitui counties from addressing a gathering at an event in Kakamega on September 12.

“The ACK is changing gears. From today, politicians will be addressing gatherings after the service. The pulpit is for the clergy. The ACK is a political no-go-zone,” Archbishop Sapit said, prompting several politicians to leave as soon as the function ended.

Presbyterian Church of East Africa Secretary General, Robert Waihenya, was the first to ban politicians from speaking in church in July.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches of Kenya issued statements supporting the stance taken by the ACK on Wednesday.