Malawi Council of Churches halt Zambezi Evangelical break-up

Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), a grouping of protestant churches in the country,has ordered immediate cease fire in the Zambezi Evangelical Church (ZEC) which has been embroiled in protracted leadership wrangles for years now.

The bone of contention has been proposal by some senior members and clerics mainly from the central region who wants the creation of synods in all the three regions which they said would be semi-autonomous.

This did not go down well with other senior members especially from the church’s Mitsidi headquarters in Blantyre who argued that such decision is being made out of malice and not for the love of the church.

Bishop Bvumbe: Halts Zambezi Church break up

According to several dossiers Nyasa Times has accessed, it later became evident that the real battle was for the control of the church between its former chairman Pastor Mwayi Kamuyambeni on one hand and Pastor Winston Chidzambuyo and Pastor Ndau on the other.

After a marathon of wrangling the other camp decided to break away by establishing parallel congregations across the country as part of severing ties with the main body based in Blantyre.

The matter was brought before the court which later referred it to the MCC, as chief mediator, in its capacity as an ecumenical body.

According to civil case number 2020 of 2010 accessed at the Mzuzu High Court civil registry, the mother body after hearing from the two warring camps, came up with resolutions which it said were aimed at healing the wounds.

Recommendations

The MCC, according to one of the documents in our possession, recommended that all cases currently in court have to be withdrawn without any preconditions; it also calls for harmonization and recognition of the existing synod structures.

“That all Court cases initiated by the Plaintiffs should be withdrawn without preconditions; The Plaintiffs should recognize the existing structures of the Church and office bearers as validly constituted; The Plaintiffs should confirm that at the moment they will not advocate for the division of the Synod.

“That in the spirit of reconciliation some members from the Plaintiff side should be appointed or co-opted into the Central Council to fill some vacancies. The specific numbers can be agreed between the parties. One way is to follow the Constitution by ensuring that each Joint Kotare has at least three members in the Central Council,” recommends the MCC , according to the document.

Bi-annual indaba postponed

Meanwhile, the MCC has further called for postponement of this year’s synod indaba to next year in order to allow tempers to cool down.

Says the MCC: “Above all, we further recommend that there should be no Synod meeting this year in order for the dust to settle down and the Synod meeting should be held in 2013.

“In the meantime all Trustees will continue in their positions as well as members of the Central Council including the ones to be co-opted. Pastor Chidzambuyo will continue acting as Chairman of the Central Council.”

Fired clerics recalled

On the fate of men of collar and their laity that got excommunicated, the MCC has since called for their reinstatement without any strings attached.

“For the Pastors and ordinary members that got dismissed should be reinstated in their positions and posted to stations without further precondition and without the normal reponement procedures. Hence they should not be required to follow the procedures when reinstating members of the Church.

“By accepting the above points they will have shown their remorse at whatever may have been done. This will also enhance the spirit of reconciliation. This is also a recognition that this is being done on a without prejudice basis; That the excommunicated members should be reinstated again without requiring them to follow the procedures for reinstatement of the members that were excommunicated as they were excommunicated in a group and not on individual basis. The sentiments apply here mutatis mutandis,” the ruling further reads signed by MCC chairperson Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe.

Constitutional review on hold

The MCC, among other contentious issues, also has ordered that any process to review the constitution can only be made after next year’s conference hence no camp should consult a constitutional lawyer within the one year.

It has ordered for the amicable settlement and reconciliation and that no damages should be paid by any party to the other for whatever may have happened, adding, “Both parties should accept that there were failures of procedure and constitutional compliance on either side and therefore no one party should be penalized on the matter. That in the spirit of amicable settlement and reconciliation each party should pay for their own legal costs of the proceedings without placing blame on any other party.”

Meanwhile, it has also been ruled that Pastor Ndau’s reinstatement does not mean he automatically assumes his previous office of secretary general saying “It is an elected position from which he was duly dismissed.”

The council is expected to monitor and oversee the implementation process of the peace accord for a one year period.

Oldest church

ZEC is one of Malawi’s oldest churches established in 1894. It was originally known as Zambesi Industrial Mission during the British Protectorate of Nyasaland.

Over the years, the church which was largely in rural areas, made remarkable progress by spreading its wings to the country’s urban centers before the infighting hindered its progress.

Currently, the Church is governed by its own Synod which convenes bi-annually. It has over 500 congregations and over 100,000 members spread across Malawi. Besides, it also has two vibrant Bible training institutions where most of its 150 clerical team were trained.

The mediation team was led by MCC chairperson Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe, his deputy Pastor Bosman Chitheka, secretary general Jordan Mbewe and board member Rev. Andrew Maere.

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