Chilembwe’s PIM church leadership battle rages on

The Providence Industrial Mission (PIM), one of the country’s oldest churches founded by struggle icon Rev. John Chilembwe, has been rocked in fierce leadership dispute that has seen two rival camps sorting each other out in court of law for close to a decade now.

It all started with a handful of clerics who teamed up with deacons mainly from Blantyre that rose up against what they called dictatorial leadership of the church’s longest serving president Macford Chipuliko.

The matter went into court in 2003 but no progress has been made to mend the fences of the two warring camps.

PIM Church in Chiradzulu

Over the years, the rebel group has changed hands in terms of leadership and it is currently being led by Amos Ndawala, a deacon based in Thyolo.

Speaking of tongues

Apart from dictatorial leadership, the rival group is also accusing Chipuliko of unilaterally diverting from the church’s traditional doctrine to embracing new traits of Pentecostalism where speaking of tongues has been encouraged.

Other charges  include massive embezzlement of donor funds and failure to call for an elective conference in over the 30 years he has been in power.

However, Chipuliko has denied any wrong doing on the accusations and told Nyasa Times in a telephone interview that the splinter group has failed over the years to substantiate its claims in competent court of law.

On accusations that he is driving the church towards a Pentecostalism approach from its usual Baptist tradition, Chipuliko defended the move saying times have changed as such the church needed to move with time by embracing modern wave of worship and blend it with its conservative doctrine.

To stand down

The church held its annual assembly from August 13 to 19 and among the resolutions that were passed at the conference according to Chipuliko, where the rebel members were barred; include the election of new leadership next year.

But commenting on decision by the church to forge ahead with the annual conference despite the ongoing crisis, Ndawala accused Chipuliko camp of not respecting court order that asked the two camps to resolve their differences outside the court.

However, according to Ndawala, up to now the main church has shown little interest to accommodate the dissident group through contact and dialogue.

“Imagine I went there at PIM mission in Chiradzulu but our group was chased out unceremoniously. Now for them to come out and say they have agreed to move on by electing new leadership next year is all a fallacy and sham.

“We have tried our best to reach out to Chipuliko by writing him on our desire to resolve the differences amicably but he has always played hard to get; if I may ask is it asking too much to plead with him to swallow his pride and accommodate dissenting views for the sake of our church?” queried Ndawala.

Dark forces

Chipuliko referred to the rebel group as ‘prodigal children’ being inspired by dark forces.

“It is not true that I have been playing hide and seek on mediation in fact it is me who has tried all along to reach out to them but they have been elusive and resorted to taking the issue to High Court where it has dragged for nine years now. They have been calling for my resignation as condition to come for mediation, I wonder what kind of mediation goes with preconditions?

“I’m equally worried with the leadership wrangles they have divided our church because in other areas some of our members have resorted to congregate in classrooms over the same issue. But as minister I have put everything into the hands of God he will be able to guide us through the challenges we’re facing,” responded Chipuliko who is blood relation of Chilembwe.

The leadership battle in the church has never been without controversies. A few tears ago a planned annual conference had to be abandoned after a brawl ensued between rival camps at its headquarters premises in Chiradzulu district.

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