The Pentecostal Church in Uganda is under the kind of attack for which we must go back 40 years to the days of Idi Amin to find a precedent. At least Amin was kind enough to kill his victim with one blow, or decree, and spare her the pain.
But this government has spent the last 10 years trying to put a leash around the neck of Pentecostals and is now tightening the noose little by little. Their plan is egregious, cynical and is clothed in embellishments and seemingly innocuous words like “regulate”, “harmonize” etc.
It’s almost as devious as the welcoming committee at a Nazi concentration camp telling Jews stepping off a train to stick with their family and hold onto their valuables, before they were taken for a ‘shower’.
“Government to regulate Pastors wealth,” read the headline in one of the dailies.
That statement is flawed in itself. The word regulate means to keep within an upper or lower limit. If I said I am going to regulate the temperature of my bathing water, I would imply that I want it neither too hot nor too cold.
Why is there a presumption of wealth?
Perhaps what they meant to say is: “Government to regulate Pastor’s income.”
But even that is flawed. There are many more destitute Pastors than there are wealthy ones. Regulating their income, in the true sense of the word, would involve lifting the thousands of poor Pastors above the lower limit before setting an upper limit for the few who appear to be wealthy. If that happened, I would call it socialism.
But what the headline implied, and what the indefatigable Fr Simon Lokodo and his fellow agitators really want, is government to set an upper limit for Pastors wealth. That is the definition of oppression.
Is there any nation in the world where people of a certain profession were given a ceiling of wealth? Even Idi Amin would cringe at such a prospect.
But that is how far this system has fallen. A government so dysfunctional it cannot regulate its own Central Bank now presumes to put its smelly Patagonian feet into the one arena that had thus far been spared their confusion. May be we should all abandon our ministries and go to ‘their’ Family Church.
I was speaking to a Pastor who started a church 32 years ago among low caste people in one of Kampala’s most abhorrent slums. He built a flock from former prostitutes and rehabilitated many drug addicts whom he turned into responsible leaders in his church and in their community. A couple of years ago, he completed building his home and bought his first decent car. Well into his fifties, he is finally living a fairly comfortable life.
If Fr Lokodo’s needless law is passed, he could qualify to be one of those who need ‘regulation’.
When I spoke to him about it, he was bemused.
“Where was government when I covered miles on foot to go for a crusade and went hungry for several days?”
There are several others like him. People for whom ministry is a life calling and who will fight government’s attempt to politicize the church. This Man of God also took an issue with the proposal by the same agitators that Pastors should have theological training.
“There is a lot of double standards in this,” he said. “When the issue of education came up for Local Council leaders, government was resolute that it was not necessary.
“On average an LC1 chairman has 1,000 people in his village. He/she acts as an arbitrator, as a judge and a leader, and can do all that without any formal education.”
“Very few Pastors have a flock of more than 1,000 people; so, why should our standards be different?”
It’s possible, even likely, Fr that Lokodo is being used by invisible forces behind the scenes; specifically by that woman who pretends to be born again and wants to rule the church with an iron fist. But the issues they are agitating for will definitely have a backlash, and it will not be pretty. Uganda is not Rwanda where 700 churches are closed with one tweet.
Someone tell that woman that we will fight for our right to worship the way we deem fit, without undue influence from her machinations. And that, as our Lord said, we shall: “Fear not those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28)
The author is founder and leader of The Watchman Ministries in Kampala