20 February 2019  |  Conflicts between the local elders and the pastor of the Nairobi Central Seventh-day Adventist Church were reported in the 22 January edition of the Standard, a leading newspaper in the capital city of Kenya. On 31 January the Adventist News Network (ANN) reported that the church had “organized a wholistic evangelistic campaign in Siaya County resulting in 273 baptisms.”

With some 2,000 members it is the largest Adventist congregation in the country, with more than a half million adherents. The elders say that Pastor Jean Pierre Maiywa is “polarizing the church along ethnic lines,” the newspaper reported. “The pastor and elders differed on the names of individuals to serve on the nomination committee which is mandated to pick officials to lead the church in 2019.” The pastor went ahead with names “said to be mainly from one community.”

The result has been that on “the last two Sabbaths, elders and a number of the faithful have walked out in protest, including boycotting Holy Communion on January 19.” The elders and the pastor “failed to resolve their differences” at a church business meeting, and this has resulted in a group “opening a parallel bank account [for] their tithes and offerings” and “the elders locked the offices of the pastors. … It took the intervention of the Central Kenya Conference, using officers from the neighboring Nairobi Area Police Station to [gain] access to the offices the following day.”

The pastor “regretted the events … acknowledging that the process of picking officials was flawed.” The newspaper quoted a Twitter message from the first elder of the congregation to Pastor Ted Wilson, president of the denomination’s General Conference; “Leadership here is divisive … pitting brother against brother, planting negative ethnicity … much prayer is needed.”

A church business meeting on Sabbath, December 22, voted to ask the conference to replace the pastor. A letter conveying this vote to the conference president, “the elders want the church membership consulted before new pastors are deployed,” stated that the conflicts are the result of “postings without due consideration to the needs of the local congregation,” according to the newspaper.

The ANN news release gives no hint of any of these difficulties, instead describing how the GC initiative of “Total Member Involvement catches the fire of the Holy Spirit [with] church members engaged in active evangelism in their community.”

It describes how “a small group of church members [worked] to assess community needs, and … the church worked in tandem with local government leaders” in a poverty-stricken community in a rural area outside the city. Members installed an electrical transformer in the village and an irrigation system, as well as provided training to help improve the productivity of the vegetable gardens in the community. Young people from the church worked with the children in the community. After the evangelistic meetings and baptisms, volunteers also helped with construction of a church in the rural community, according to the ANN report.

It is important to note that no one has suggested that the outreach initiative had anything to do with the conflicts in the congregation. In fact, it may have been a source of unity.

The photo is of the front of the Nairobi Central Seventh-day Adventist Church at Milimani, along Jakaya Kikwete Road, opposite Integrity Centre.

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