THE congregation of the Okahao Lutheran (ELCIN) parish in the Omusati Region and Bishop Josephat Shangala are at each other's throats following a decision by the bishop to transfer the parish's well-liked pastor.
The congregants are accusing Bishop Shangala of taking an autocratic decision, saying they are opposed to Pastor Hulda Shau being transferred to the Okambebe congregation in the Ohangwena Region.
The Okahao parishioners claim that the bishop is transferring Shau because the congregation is opposed to the appointment of a new deacon for the parish.
They say the church cannot financially afford a deacon and also does not have accommodation at this stage.
According to them, Pastor Shau had nothing to do with the decision to turn down the appointment of a deacon. "This was a decision of the congregation," a parishioner who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
A source at the parish, which is 107 years old and has about 13 000 worshippers, urged Bishop Shangala to come out and tell the people why he is transferring the pastor.
Bishop Shanghala refused to comment, saying the transfer was done in accordance with church rules and would not be discussed outside the church.
Shau has not yet moved to Okambebe.
Bishop Shanghala was the former pastor at the same church, and was replaced by Shau.
The aggrieved church members are considering registering a complaint with the church headquarters at Oniipa.
Shau is said to have won the parishioners' hearts by wiping out the parish's debt and restoring unity in the congregation.
Various letters were exchanged between Bishop Shanghala and the complainants, but according to the source the bishop has not shown any sign of compromise.
Shanghala yesterday told The Namibian that the pastor's transfer would go ahead as planned.