Emmanuel Parish might need to review its Christian mission; we all saw ECS going “that road” before.
June 1, 2016
By Philips Al-Ghai, Juba, South Sudan
Bishop Garang Anyieth
Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth: The Spiritual Leader of our Time
The events at Emmanuel Parish, Juba, in the past two weeks accentuate how the former Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) has morphed into a mediocre political playground.
Once a holy sanctum of hope to the hopeless, the ECS has steadily fragmented into sacrilegious ethno-political assemblies –both physically and psychologically. The perpetual erosion of moral values in the former ECS has its roots in early 2000s. During this time, an appreciable amount of donor pennies was dropping into the church coffers as evident in the gradual surge in the number of semi-literate clerics attending basic training across the borders. Superficially, it looked like a blessing. However, later on, as history has it, it was the commencement of unprecedented woes in our renowned church.
As the Bible asserts: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (1Timothy 6:10), speculations ran rife that the top leadership was misappropriating funds at the time. The top positions in the church hierarchy suddenly became of interests, and calls for devolution became louder than ever. Communities were up in arms over the creation of new dioceses with bishops of their own. Confrontational rebellions ensued in churches –priests were forcefully dragged from sacred pulpits. Ordination of clerics abruptly shifted from the customary individual commitment and discipline, to ethnic representation. At that point, the writings were clear on the wall. The church was sliding into money and politics. Its divine role was taken over by politico-economic interests of individuals within. It was losing its integrity.
Since then, the business in the church has always been blurry between money and tribal politics. Evidently, I have heard grumbles in churches about clerics who are “theirs” or “not ours”. I have witnessed people in high political positions and/or positions of influence being given time to “address” the congregants even against the church norms. These symptoms appear to be eminent at Emmanuel Parish, and that has given politicians a leeway to call in with one expectation: spit their political garbage to meek congregants.
I am not against anyone talking about his altercation with Satan or a date with an angel in his dream a night before… all those kinds of hypothetical stuffs, and drop a few pennies after in appreciation of honor they are afforded with. The trouble arises when it comes to politics or issues that touch on the emotions of listeners in that matter. That is why I always feel that those worthy of addressing the church should only –I mean ONLY –be the ones with testimonies to tell the living about the spiritual world.
Here is why. It is no brainer that a church, like Emmanuel Parish, hosts a congregation with strongly opposing political views. Moreover, S. Sudanese have barely had time to come to terms with losses incurred in the past two years of political instability. The peace is signed, yes. But its implementation is a gradual process. At this point, it is only sufficient for apologies [if any] but not claims of innocence. You don’t expect Dr. Riek to lecture the Dinka on how innocent he is at the moment. Similarly, you don’t expect Mr. Kiir to lecture the Nuer on how innocent he is. It is not practical. It just cannot appeal to anyone’s emotions. Even a juvenile five-year-old, who had seen their parents slaughtered, will not buy that message. The “raw-group” at the church last Sunday might be raw, but so are emotions among the pained Nuers and Jieeng. That is how sensitive it is.
You would expect Emmanuel Parish to know this. However, the press release [courtesy of panluelwel.com] regarding the incident on Sunday paints a picture of an institution that is either oblivious of current political situation in the country or does not know its role in the society. It is a pity for a church that seem to know no disparity between politics and its mission to bullishly claim that the “church is a body of Christ where everybody has right to exercise his Christian rites.” Is political lecture a Christian rite? Rubbish! It is a shame. I will never condone anyone to deter Dr. Riek from entering the church of God even if he was still in the bush. Everyone is equal to bow before God for a prayer, I believe. But allowing someone to lecture a congregation on political opinions that conjure up emotions beats logic.
The church has a moral obligation to deter anyone, including Mr. Kiir, from addressing the congregants if his message is likely to cause disharmony in the church. Dr. Riek’s message was very likely. This is not hindsight. There were signs. It is in the same church that Madam Rebecca de Mabior, who was perceived as having ties with the rebels, was attacked. That was sufficient to give the church a reason to shut out issues that touch on politics from their programs, at least for now. Moreover, these politicians have everything at their disposal to call rallies and media. That is where they can get a willing listener. Why the church? It is unfair to impose them on unsuspecting congregants. It is common sense.
As the church’s administration goes on bragging about how they dealt with men in “black” T-shirts, they should know that they cannot serve politics, money, and God as scriptures say: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24). They had moral obligation to prevent Riek Machar from lecturing his victims. If giving free pass to lectures from politicians is what constitutes the body of Christ, then they should rest assured that they have“…wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” The last two incidences could be a tip of an iceberg for the things to come.