20 August 2019 | Nairobi Central SDA Church remains the scene of much commotion even with its doors currently shut.
The Standard Digital reported that on Saturday evening, August 10, Nairobi Regional Commissioner Flora Mworoa ordered the shuttering of the building.
“The church will only be re-opened for fellowship after the wrangling factions resolve their differences,” Ms Mworoa told members of the press that gathered at her Nyayo House offices.
Denominational leadership in the country has attempted to gain permission to reopen the church, saying that the decision to close was unduly influenced by the faction of the church that has been battling current leadership.
“We are concerned that the police action was skewed towards the aggressors. A person’s right of worship cannot be abridged by the threats of other parties,” said Central Kenya Conference president Pastor John Ngunyi Kiragu on August 12.
“There was neither a court order nor a legal notice barring members from worshiping at the designated venue. Although we complied, the church takes exception to this unlawful act by State agencies who ordinarily are supposed to be the stewards and custodians of the law,” he said, according to the Standard Digital.
“We want to categorically state that we do not have any leadership dispute among members. The purported dispute was with a third party, the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference Ltd (NCC), members, who had until the 3rd of this month been doubling as members of the Nairobi Central SDA Church and NCC,” Kiragu told the press.
“The church is deeply concerned with the suspicious access to State security machinery by the aggressors, which they use to curtail freedom of worship. We will seek appropriate intervention to ensure our religious liberties are respected and protected,” he said.
Both regular police and members of Kenya’s elite law enforcement Flying Squad were called to intervene as tensions boiled over at Nairobi Central SDA Church on Saturday, August 3. Just weeks earlier the senior pastor of the congregation had been roughed up on stage by people unhappy with his leadership.
One major source of the tension was a dispute over a 2015 election in which heads of the Central Kenya Conference of the denomination were chosen. Some felt that the election process was manipulated.
In the wake of the election, a rival to the Central Kenya Conference, called the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference, was formed.
Law enforcement interrupted the August 3 Saturday morning service and hundreds of worshipers were dispersed before the scripture reading portion of the service which precedes the sermon.
The Daily Nation described an “angry mob” that disrupted a public process of disfellowshipping certain members. Disfellowshipped individuals are stripped of their church membership.
There was strong disagreement with the decision to disfellowship members, as some argued that due process had not been followed.
After the disruption, a Central Kenya Conference executive called the service to a close.
“There were no arrests because all those things happened within the church building. The police were also careful. There was no serious fracas, only serious disruption,” said Sammy Masara, a retired media executive who strongly supported the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference.
The senior pastor of the congregation was roughed up on Saturday, July 20, as tensions between rival groups turned physically violent on the stage of the church.
Pastor Jean Pierre Maywa was physically assaulted and video shows members of the congregation rushing to his aid. Bottles were allegedly hurled inside the church during the incident.
The pastor had previously been accused of polarizing his congregation along ethnic lines.
There are about a million Adventist members in Kenya.