Methodists clash over right to use Kilifi church

One group has been forced to worship outside under a tree

In Summary

• A group calling for recognition of the Coast Region Conference CRC was barred from worshipping in the church.

•The group forced their way into the church on Sunday after being denied seats to worship outside the previous Sunday.

Bishop Peter Mwavuo of Methodist Church in Kenya Kilifi walks out after he allegedly tried to block members of the CRC from entering the church on Sunday December 1.
CHURCH WARS: Bishop Peter Mwavuo of Methodist Church in Kenya Kilifi walks out after he allegedly tried to block members of the CRC from entering the church on Sunday December 1.

The House of God is supposed to be peaceful. But the Methodist Church in Kilifi is anything but calm.

Two splinter groups have been squabbling and on Sunday a scuffle broke out at the when one group refused to be continuously locked out and worship under a tree.

Police were called.

Both groups want to use the church, one has been locked out.

A scuffle ensued after members of Coast Region Conference (CRC)  — a group of worshipers calling for devolution of the MCK — forced their way into the church. They chased out Bishop Peter Karisa Mwavuo who had refused to let them worship inside the church.

Mwavuo and his wife Faith Kajuju had allegedly locked themselves inside the church during a Sunday school service when the rival congregation started coming.

“The Bishop’s wife teaches Sunday school children very early in the morning. The husband opened the church and started kicking one of the youths until he fell on the ground. That's when women pulled him out and entered the church,” a witness told the Star.

From May this year more than 200 CRC members, mostly local residents,have been worshipping under a tree within the church compound following the wrangles that started two years back.

At the church compound on Sunday, members of the MCK, mostly non-residents, were standing some distance from the church near the fence while armed police officers in uniform and civilian took charge.

Kilifi Methodist Church Presiding Bishop Mwavuo declined to speak to the media. "We are not going to discuss this," he said as he moved to address police officers in the compound.

“We are not going to discuss this,” he responded as he moved to address police officers at the compound.

Two years back the CRC group rejected his appointment as the presiding Bishop at the church and permanently locked his house for more than three months.

At a press briefing outside the Kilifi police station, Methodist Church in Kenya  Elder Wellington Deche said they were tired of being punished by being forced to worship under a tree in harsh conditions.

“For a long time, we have wished to worship our God in the church that we built and furnished. It is shocking that the ones who constructed the church are the ones being forced to pray outside in the sun, rain and without seats, while those who did not play any role use the whole building,” he said.

Deche said the move by other members to keep them out of church was infringing on their right to worship.

“We said that enough is enough and we will never worship outside. When we came the church was still locked and we decided to camp at the door and immediately the Bishop and his wife opened the door, as we wanted to go inside, he kicked one of the youths.

"That's when worshippers got angry, removed him and entered he church," Deche said.

He said they want peaceful worship.

“We will be coming at 8am every Sunday for our services, then make way to the others. We will demand the church to be opened anytime we find it locked,” he said.

The elder said that the ongoing court case between bishops allied to the Coast Regional Conference (CRC) and those in the Methodist Church in Kenya should not interfere with normal church programmes at the grassroots.

“Let the two teams fight their legal battle and the worshippers be given freedom to worship. We are being locked out of our church because we're in CRC. That will never happen,” Deche said.

Kilifi Methodists Coast Region Conference Deputy Chairperson Matilda Katana said they were stopped from using the church from May 5 when members of the Kilifi Methodist Church declared CRC needed devolution.

She said they failed to solve the problem amicably through church structures and political leadership.

“We have not defected from the Methodist Church but we are demanding devolution, just like the national government and the counties. We took over the church which belongs to us because we even pay the offerings, tithes and even the  Bishop,” she said.

Kilifi Methodist Church CRC Women's leader Christine Lewa said the wrangles have created a rift among church members.

“We have always greeted one another by saying ‘praise God’ but since our declaration, nowadays our MCK groups will say ‘how are you?’. And this is why we were thrown out of the church,” she said.

(Edited by V. Graham)