19 December 2015

Malawi: CCAP Wins a Case Against Itself


The judgment by Justice Charles Ching'anya Mkandawire in a case involving the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia is most welcome.

Mkandawire is a man of impeccable credentials, having served as the Chairperson of the Industrial Relations Court (19982001), Registrar of the SADC Tribunal (20062014) and Regional President of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association for East and Southern Africa (2012). No wonder his judgment was full of wisdom.

I fully agree with the Judge that Church matters need not to be taken to court but rather resolved within the church structures. Indeed the church needs to be exemplary by preaching love, peace and reconciliation. I wish the judge in his ruling just stopped here. I have good reason for suggesting this. One of the reasons is exactly what the Judge had alluded to; the church should preach peace, love, tolerance and reconciliation.

The fact that the CCAP of the Livingstonia Synod is failing to resolve internal issues outside court is a clear testimony that the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia is not preaching love, peace, tolerance and reconciliation. I add that the Synod falls short of transparency, fairness and does not act in good faith. Others have suggested that the church practices nepotism while others have gone to the extreme to suggest that the church is rotten and is being run by militants and dictators. All this, whether out of mudslinging or not, is coming because the church has not lived to the expectation of its followers who dearly need their guidance as they seek the Kingdom of Heaven through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The issue at Kanengo CCAP Church is not about land or who owns the church. It goes beyond that and this is why I am of the view that the Judge should have simply advised the Synod to resolve their issues in a soberly manner using the church structures. The Genesis of the whole saga started with the transfer of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango. I agree with the Learned Judge that Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango should have fully recognized that the transfer was duly sanctioned by his superiors and in any case he should have obeyed.

Much as I agree, I also have serious reservations. My view is that any transfer should be made in good faith and not to be used a weapon to demonize, frustrate or victimize any individual whether in or outside the church. No wonder these days we have seen senior civil servants defying unjustifiable transfers. The question therefore is; was the transfer of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango to Ekwendeni fair and justifiable? Yes the Synod wanted to put his talent in music to better use.

Following the posting to Ekwendeni, some of members of the Kanengo CCAP thought it was premature to let the pastor go and therefore approached the synod to consider rescinding this decision. They advanced the reason that the Synod entered into an agreement with the Kanengo CCAP that Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango would remain at Kanengo till March 2016, which in Tumbuka is referred to as "Kukwatiska".

The "Kukwatitsa" agreement is not legally binding as such the Synod has the prerogative to overturn this arrangement at any time deemed necessary. Much as the onus rests with the Synod to return or terminate the "Kukwatitsa" agreement,it does not preclude the followers from bringing forward their requests or indeed voice their desire in the event they feel they still need the services of a particular Pastor. There is precedence to this effect.

For example,at the Lilongwe CCAP of Synod of Livingstonia, where most of the bourgeoisies or rich members of the Synod,who are believed to be the major financiers of the Livingstonia Synod in Lilongwe, go to worship the Almighty,at some point requested the Synod of Livingstonia to consider extending the tenure of office of their Minister and the Synod accepted.

Now the question is "Are Members of Kanengo CCAP looked down upon by the Synod (or considered non entitiesin society by the Synod)? or the Synod urgently required the services of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango? The answer is simple. The Synod did not urgently need the services of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhangoto teach Music at Ekwendeni. This is true because the same Synod changed and reassigned Rev. Mhango to the remote area of Euthini.

It is inconceivable that Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango was reassigned to Euthini to teach Music. This action therefore suggests that the transfer of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango to Ekwendeni let alone Euthini was not in good faith. This fuelled the anger of Members of the Kanengo CCAP Synod of Livingstonia who today are referred to as a breakaway group.

To put the record straight the so called breakaway are still members of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia and they still use the Synod's symbols and uniform. The truth is that they were angry with the conduct of the Synod, hence the ultimatum to breakaway. The hope was that the Synod would consider their request in a sober manner, taking into account that no church can afford to lose membership due to a reason that can easily be reversed. To them, what they were demanding from the Synod was simple and straight forward especially that there was a precedence set.

However, for the reasons best known to the Synod they went even to the extreme of expelling their Pastor of more than twenty years. Perhaps the Synod has other reason to warrant an expulsion which they do not want to share with the followers. Of course, refusing a transfer is insubordination but certainly not warranting expulsion. This could have been resolved without much burden, unlike cases involving committing murder, committing adultery, stealing or drunkenness.

As long as the real reasons for the dismissal are not well explained, the members that oppose the transfer of Rev Chimwemwe Mhango will always sympathize with him and will certainly remain disgruntled even when another Pastor takes over. In fact the successor who is already at Kanengo is seen by many as a hypocrite and traitor who is ready to crucify a fellow cleric because he wants a position.

The Synod must understand that most people did not choose to join CCAP of the Livingstonia Synod but by birth they are members of this church. In this regard, the Synod should respect the people who worship in church other than respecting the structures and material things. It is acknowledged that ownership of the church is vested in the Trustees.

Actually, the Trustees are persons that hold or administer property or assets or position of trust for the benefit of another and do not gain income. With this definition in mind, it is understood that the property at Kanengo CCAP Synod of Livingstonia is registered under Trustees on behalf of the followers(owners of the church). This view takes cognizance of the fact that there can never be a church without followers. The church without people is not a church. In fact, Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango has many followers belonging to the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia than those that claim ownership of the church (TTC breakaway). Those that doubt can do their independent research or headcount.

Lastly, as said earlier, the issue at Kanengo CCAP of the Livingstonia Synod is not about Land. At Kanengo there are two camps; one that wants Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango to stay and the other that wants him to be removed. Those that favour the removal of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango include those that occupied leadership positions in the old Executive under the same Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango.

It is not a secret that those that held positions such as Session Clerk, Deputy Session Clerk and the Treasurer are some of the people in the forefront against Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango. The issue is crystal clear that it is about Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango and the Leadership of the Synod on one hand and the former Executive of the Church on the other. The former Executive Committee just like Synod Leadership has chosen to be economical with information to share with the congregation why they are against Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango.

Unless, more information is provided, the Synod has very weak basis of dismissing their Pastor of more than twenty years on the grounds advanced so far. This is just bringing confusion in the church. One can imagine what Jesus Christ,the Lord of Church would say if the Leadership of Livingstonia Synod approached Him on this case.Obviously, the message of peace love and reconciliation would reign.

In conclusion, Judge Mkandawire will be remembered for schooling the leadership of the Livingstonia Synod that church matters should not be taken to court but rather be resolved within the church structures. The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Livingstonia Synod should therefore know that it did not win a case against break-a-way faction of the Kanengo CCAP congregation. In fact, what the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) of the Livingstonia Synod did was to take itself (Its own followers) to court to wash the dirty linen in public and later celebrate that it has won a case against itself.

There is no rebellious faction but divided opinion in a domestic or in-house affair that should be resolved by the church structure. As said earlier on, the ancestors of most of the followers decided for them to be CCAP of the Synod of Livingstonia and no one has the authority to decide that they should either leave or remain members of the CCAP of the Livingstonia Synod, unless they commit offences, which are against Christian doctrines.

As for Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango, he should thank God that most people are demanding that he should stay while elsewhere Pastors have been chased by the followers. Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango should, however, also know that he has more enemies than friends.

Most people say that he is arrogant and therefore deserves punishment from superiors. They say that he has a habit of resisting transfers. Apart these reasons, no real issue has been shared to warrant the treatment he is going through. Unless new information is shared, Rev Chimwemwe Mhango deserves to be unconditionally reinstated as Pastor. This is what the so called breakaway of Kanengo CCAP Congregation wants and are willing to reconcile with those that willingly left the church and opted to worship elsewhere outside the church. If the Synod wishes, let there be another congregation under another pastor. It is possible to have two congregations at Kanengo.

The Synod should know that the era of the "Great Man" where leaders made decision without being questioned is no longer valid. We are in the period that encourages transformational, situational and charismatic leadership. We are in the period that respects participatory democracy whereby the followers expect to be consulted and respected. Leadership of the Synod should therefore seriously revisit their leadership style.

As for Justice Mkandawire, we thank him for providing sound advice to the leadership of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia. We agree that they need to preach peace, justice, love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Those are on the side of Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango welcome the proposal for negotiations through the CCAP General Synod and being lay people in law, we believe the issue is still on the negotiating table and the Synod has not yet won a case against itself.

Finally, we urge the courts not to entertain church matters anymore. There are certain issues that are difficult to prove in the court of law. For example, can we prove whether or not the decisions by our Men in White Collar in both camps are inspired by the Holy Spirit or the devil is at the center of the whole saga? Your answer is as good as mine. Justice Mkandawire therefore has a very good point; church matters should be resolved using church structures.

Bravo Justice Charles Ching'anya Mkandawire.


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