Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia have appealed to the church to stop the election for a new bishop, scheduled for March, because those nominated to stand do not meet the criteria.
The Namibian last week reported that the church allegedly went against its constitution when it allowed deputy bishop Paul Kisting (61) and dean Simon Tiboth (60) of the Immanuel Parish to run for the bishop's post, even though they are over the maximum age.
The Namibian has seen a letter dated 13 February 2019 from unhappy church members to ELCRN electoral commission chairperson George Pimpanaus Dax to appeal that the church scraps the elections.
A law firm is assisting disgruntled church members with this case, and although the firm is known to The Namibian, they preferred to remain anonymous.
According to the lawyers' letter, the nominations list contains candidates who have less than five years' experience as ordained pastors, as well as others who have had their terms as pastors interrupted through illness, suspensions or studies.
The letter also states that on the list are those who have no parishes, and are employed in administrative positions.
"We hereby demand that you withdraw the list of candidates immediately to start the process afresh, and that you provide us with confirmation of such withdrawal in writing not later than 20 February 2019," the letter demanded.
Pastor Johanness de Klerk, deputy dean at the Ebenaeser Parish, was said to be ineligible for nomination because he had less than five years' experience as a pastor.
De Klerk, however, told The Namibian that he had 11 years uninterrupted service as a pastor.
Pastor Andreas !Nowaseb, a deputy dean at the Om-Khaitani parish, allegedly interrupted his service as a pastor. He confirmed this, saying he had quit at some point.
"However, I have had uninterrupted years of pastorship between 2010 and 2019. I qualify," he stated.
Petrus #Khariseb, a pastor and general secretary at the head office, was also said to have interrupted his service as a pastor. He was unreachable for comment yesterday.
Dax told The Namibian yesterday that he had not been officially given the letter, but saw a copy that is circulating on social media.
"I saw it floating around on WhatsApp, and then someone forwarded it to me, so I cannot respond to something that was not given to me officially," he said.
Kisting declined to comment, saying the letter was not addressed to him in the first place.
Documents seen by The Namibian show that the election process begins with the nomination of candidates, who must be ordained pastors from parishes in the country's 14 regions.
The list is compiled by the church's electoral commission, which is appointed by the church council a year before the election of a bishop and deputy bishop from amongst the candidates.
The church's constitution says members aged between 45 and 60 qualify to contest the position of bishop. They must also have had more than five years of uninterrupted service as pastors.
Those serving as general secretary, legal adviser and finance director are non-voting members, who also cannot be nominated for the bishop's post.