Bishop Mark Kariuki, above, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, has slammed a plan by Kenyan authorities to regulate religious groups.
According to Religion News Service, the government recently published a set of rules that require religious leaders to have theological degrees and religious groups to submit a statement of faith.
The rules come amid concerns that some pastors were fleecing followers and some mosques were becoming centers of radicalisation
Kariuki, who warned Barack Obama not to discuss gay rights when the US President visited Kenya last year, described the planned regulation as “persecution”.
Requiring pastors to obtain a theological degree is presupposing that all ministers of the gospel are learned. There are some who are called and yet do not have the benefit of formal education.
He also complained that not one church had been formally registered in 2015 and that in 2014 more than 7,000 churches were denied official recognition.
This is manifest discrimination and persecution of the church. We will not take it anymore.
But he added that churches were not opposed to “reasonable” regulation after proper consultation.
Describing it as fraud, the Government is also seeking to stop a new and voluntary trend where Christians send offerings or “seed money” to pastors via mobile phones.
The government also seeks to control preaching on television through new rules governing broadcasting.
The church is in the business of spreading the gospel. It is offensive to tell us we cannot invite people to make decisions for Christ (on TV).
Roman Catholic bishops also expressed shock at the rules, saying that if implemented, they would impede the work of evangelisation.
Bishop Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops said:
Similar attempts to regulate the procedures for Christian marriage have led to a major drop in young people coming to church to celebrate the sacrament.
The Rev Peter Karanja, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, a Protestant group, warned the government not to provoke churches.
Christians are voters, and it will be tragic to provoke the church into asking whether they voted for the right government.
Sheikh Adan Wachu, chairperson of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, warned that the regulations violate freedom of worship.
In a comment below the Religion News Service report, New Yorker Daniel Berry wrote:
When it comes to the conflict between African church leadership and the West, this, of course, is the elephant in the living room everyone has been choosing to ignore.
Many or most or the Anglican bishops in Kenya, Uganda and other places aren’t prepared to deal with modern social critique, biblical criticism, or even critique of their own histories.
They have no idea what they’re talking about when they blather about “biblical truth,” the “decadence” of Euro-American culture and religious thought, and the impact their untutored perspectives has on the discussion of such issues as the place of gay people in the church, or even the greater community.
The nonsense they preach suggests that, at best, they poorly understand the nature and history of the colonialism that sought deliberately to keep African people in a subjugated position with respect to white people. It’s so deep and so complex that I almost despair of even the Holy Spirit’s ability to unravel it.