12 February 2013

Namibia: Congregation Tired of Bullying Bishop

Oniipa — Thousands of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) at Okahao are unhappy with Bishop Josefat Shanghala for his alleged 'bullying'.

In a petition they presented to ELCIN Presiding Bishop Dr Shekutaamba Nambala, the congregation accuse Shanghala, who is the Bishop for the Western Diocese and the former pastor of the Okahao ELCIN church, of bullying behaviour, unjust treatment and intimidation.

The unbecoming behaviour is said to be directed at Hulda Shau, a female pastor of that church. On Friday, a group of about 4 000 people belonging to the Okahao ELCIN church sent a delegation of over 200 people to present their petition at the ELCIN headquarters in Oniipa.

This action is unprecedented in the history of the ELCIN church. In their petition, the group demands that Shanghala be suspended and investigated for what they say are the many injustices against pastor Shau; for alleged theft of corrugated iron sheets; for demolishing the church house without the congregation's approval, as well as alleged lies, insults and abuse of power.

According to the group, last year Shanghala single-handedly took a decision to chase Shau from the Okahao parish and moved her to the Okambebe parish under the pretext of what he called 'change'.

Shau allegedly tried to fight this move by approaching the church leadership, but Shanghala retaliated by amending the church constitution to justify his action to move Shau.

"Article 367/2012, was introduced after pastor Shau was already informed to leave Okahao congregation. This action can be compared to South Africa's so-called Anti-Terrorism Act which was only implemented after the South African Army had already attacked freedom fighters in Pretoria," said Lahja Ndjalo, the assistant chairperson of the Okahao congregation who read the petition.

Shanghala's alleged harrasment of pastor Shau started after the church refused to employ a deacon. Shanghala was told that the church could not afford to pay the deacon's salary, because it was in the process of building a new parish house, since Shanghala had demolished the old one.

"It is sad to witness the place where our pastor sleeps, the abuse, the intimidation, the threats, bad language and insults towards her in front of the people. We are apparently a congregation of rebels and we are intimidated. This situation shows that our bishop has turned his back on the cross of Jesus," reads their petition.

The outraged members claim that Shau has united the congregation, which lost its unity during the days of Shanghala. According to them, thanks to pastor Shau young people have started coming to church, while she also visits the elderly regularly, including people living with disabilities at their homes. She has also introduced projects to raise money for the completion of the new parish house.

They also say that during her era the congregation was able to pay back the debts acquired during Shanghala's era. The congregation is urging the church to abolish Article 367/2012 and suspend Shanghala in order to investigate the use of church money and other resources during Shanghala's era.

The group requested ELCIN to stop appointing bishops above the age of 65 and to put an end to intimidation, injustice and dishonesty in the church.

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