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Riveting frantic Methodist Church shocker as Kaaga synod also disowns Ntombura

By the County Focus team

The once-sacred, united, and peaceful Methodist Church has now become a battlefield with unending wrangles rocking the top leadership with insiders attributing the wrangles to the fight for the institution’s assets worth billions.

Two rival factions have intensified a long-running dispute creating havoc in one of the famous and oldest Churches in Kenya.

The leadership wrangles in the Church have taken a new twist with several MCK Churches cutting ties with Rev Joseph Ntombura’s leadership and vowing to evict clergy who are in support of the church head.

Ntombura suffered a huge blow today after Kaaga Synod comprising 15 circuits (group of churches) decided to cut ties with him.

Methodists opposed to the Rev Ntombura’s leadership have accused him of illegally extending his stay in office after his 10-year term ended in August last year.

However, Rev Ntombura argued that the church conference delegates extended his term by two years to enable him to complete his term as president of the Africa Methodist Council.

His reign at the Africa Methodist Council ended last week after a Ghanaian was elected to take over, renewing the push for the Rev Ntombura’s exit.

On February 12, Nkubu Synod of the Methodist Church in Kenya, became the latest to disown the leadership of Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura.

About 4,000 Methodists from the Synod’s 172 churches, who gathered at Nkubu Stadium, were categorical that they could only be answerable to the Methodist Church Headquarters when Rev Ntombura leaves office.

The move was stirred by the defrocking of Bishop Justus Bundi, on the grounds of opposing the leadership of Rev Ntombura, as well as rallying believers to reject its Presiding Bishop.

Nkubu Synod joins several other Methodist Churches including several congregations in the Coast who declared autonomy from the leadership of Rev Ntombura in 2019Bishop Bundi is one among tens of clergy who have been defrocked under the leadership of Rev Ntombura.

While the clamour for the removal of the presiding bishop started with a few church members and clergy, the fight has now sucked in three former presiding bishops – Lawi Imathiu, Stephen Kanyaru and Zablon Nthamburi.

When Rev Ntombura came into office over 10 years ago, the church was restive yet there were no major public spats.

He was elected into office in a controversial process and conference meeting leading to court cases and murmurs.

Rev Kanyaru, who was also defrocked by Rev Ntombura, has since admitted that the process of recruiting a presiding bishop was skewed to allow his predecessor.

“When we appointed Rev Ntombura as the mission coordinator, his file was empty. He said his academic certificates were on the way to Kenya from the UK. Despite the requirement that a Bishop has a master’s degree and a degree in Theology, he was elected a Synod bishop. He kept saying the certificates were yet to arrive. By the time I left in 2013, I had not seen his academic papers,” Rev Kanyaru said.

But Bishop Ntombura has dismissed the allegations arguing that he presented his academic papers in court when some church members questioned his qualifications.

The fallout between Rev Ntombura and various clergy and laity intensified in 2017 after a controversial re-election.

In 2017, the Methodist head was accused of running down the Kenya Methodist University, Maua Methodist Hospital, Methodist Guest House and other church-affiliated institutions.

Other reasons cited for the uproar against Rev Ntombura’s leadership are the 2012 election of the presiding bishop without proper scrutiny, amendment of standing orders, unprocedural defrocking of clergy, lack of accountability, stifling democracy and extension of the term of the current church head.

In 2019, the clamour for removal of Rev Ntombura, led by Reverends Dr John Kobia, Dr Isaac Kaberia, Misheck Kanake, Jeremiah Anondo and Jacob Gituma kicked hit the crescendo.

In the same year, several churches in the coast established the Coast Region Conference led by the late Wellington Sanga.

“We are taking over the region. In Kilifi Synod, ninety percent of the churches have endorsed the coast region conference. We want to devolve all the church functions and property. Our intention is to have a self-propagating Church,” Bishop Sanga said then.

In 2020, Rev Kanake followed suit by declaring the establishment of the Mt Kenya region conference. Another group declared that the Nairobi regional conference

“We have been trying to ask questions about our church but no one answers. We have tried to seek an audience with the presiding bishop to no avail and this is why we decided to go public. We want to establish the right leadership,” Rev Kanake said.

The anti-Ntombura clamour intensified in August 2022 when his term was extended for another two years in another controversial re-election.

It is this move that jolted Rev Imathiu, who has been a supporter of Rev Ntombura for the last 10 years, into action.

Last year, Rev Imathiu led other former presiding bishops and anti-Ntombura clergy in denouncing the extension of term and formed a transition committee to plan fresh elections.

“The resolutions we have made are intended to rectify the wrongs made by Rev Ntombura. Rev Ntombura’s term was extended illegally,” Rev John Ataya said.

Seven months later, Rev Ntombura is still in the office while his rivals continue to rally congregations to disown the church head.

Outfoxed, in January, Rev Lawi Imathiu, Rev Zablon Nthamburi and Rev Stephen Kanyaru published a warning in the dailies prohibiting anyone from transacting with Rev Ntombura.

They argued that Bishop Ntombura’s term ended on August 3, 2022 hence his extended stay in office is illegal.

According to embattled Nkubu synod Bishop Justus Bundi, the presiding bishop has irregularly altered the church structures and doctrine through amendments to standing orders and the church constitution.

He claimed the new system introduces episcopal doctrine which takes away power from the laity.

“The Methodist Church is now operating under a secret standing order. The recently established office of administrative bishop is foreign to our church because it is based on a 2020 standing order that we are not aware of,” Rev Bundi argued.

He said the church standing orders were not followed in defrocking him as several guidelines were ignored.

The presiding bishop has denied mutilating the church constitution but has transformed the church to become more vibrant.

“I want to acknowledge that it’s true I have changed the church.  We have given our congregation freedom of worship. Through this, we altered the trend where young people were running away from our church. The Methodist church was predominantly in Meru and the coast. We are now a force to reckon,” he said.

Rev Ntombura accuses his accusers of spreading falsehoods, propaganda, and hate speech and causing discord among members of the Methodist Church.

In the meantime, Rev Ntombura maintains he is in office until January 2024 and the naysayers cannot do anything about it.

On the other hand, congregations continue to declare their position on the leadership wrangles that threaten to split the 110-year-old church.

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