By Kundai Marunya

A WILLING spirit and an unequipped mind can best describe the situation at many indigenous churches, something that has resulted in questionable practices that often draw ridicule from human rights activists and law enforcers.

Born out of a strong will to spread the unadulterated Word of God, shying away from manipulated contexts (often spread by colonial churches to subdue Africans) these churches have been a welcome development, for decades drawing a large number of followers.

Apostolic sects, as most of them are widely referred to, have immense potential to empower black people.

Over the years, numerous churches have risen to fame, their leaders idolised, only to fall from grace due to weak leadership and lack of administrative acumen.

Some leaders, having executed well their duties on earth and promoted to grace, their churches succumb to internal fissures over succession, undocumented ideology as well as shaky structures that a little education could have resolved.

The leadership of most Afrocentric churches is based on ‘divine assignment’, as one is called to serve by God.

Usually with prophetic gifts, most leaders claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit, thus running their churches with no formal education.

It is against this background that last week, the Council for Churches in Africa (CCA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) to educate Church leaders.

CCA represents 253 churches across Africa, the  majority of them in Zimbabwe. 

CCA founder and president Bishop Rocky Moyo emphasised the need for Church leaders to have the necessary knowledge and expertise to effectively manage their congregations. 

He pointed out that while some leaders may not be academically gifted, they have the necessary skills, passion and zeal to develop, making the educational opportunities offered by ZOU invaluable for their growth.

“Some of our Church leaders are lacking in leadership skills, clear succession policy, constitutions and constitutionalism, fighting drugs and substance abuse, among other societal ills,” he said.

“It is, therefore, the duty of institutions of higher education, like ZOU, to provide the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise from these authorities or experts; hence the partnership will go a long way.”

The MoU comes at a time the country is seized with cases of child labour, women abuse and torture of congregants by the infamous Madzibaba Ishmael Chokurengerwa at his farm near Norton.

Though not yet clear whether the ill-practices which saw students being banned from attending school were by due to ignorance or arrogance, an educated Church leadership would have found it prudent to operate within the confines of the country’s laws.

Thus the CCA and ZOU partnership is meant to assist in the transformation of communities whilst complementing the realisation of Government’s Education 5.0.

“As the CCA, it has always been our desire to partner with local institutions with which we continue to maintain cordial relations,” he said. 

“Our major thrust as an organisation is to complement Government’s efforts in transforming communities.”

Bishop Moyo acknowledged prior transformative educational arrangements between ZOU and First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation.

This partnership has fostered the training of different Church members, women and vulnerable groups in communities across the country.

They tackled a wide range of topics, including equipping students with life skills training.

More than 2 000 members from the Apostolic, Zion and other Pentecostal churches have so far benefitted from ZOU’s programmes and trainings (including those being spearheaded by the Angel of Hope Foundation), mainly in Bulawayo and Harare.

“ZOU and Angel of Hope Foundation’s programmes have proven beyond measure that local institutions can provide home-grown solutions in transforming indigenous churches,” Bishop Moyo added.

“Through community engagement and development programmes, innovation, research, industrialisation as well as learning/teaching, our churches are benefitting from developing necessary skills and expertise for transforming their respective communities. 

“Trainings and engagement through Angel of Hope Foundation, on the other hand, have also positively impacted communities.”

CCA’s large membership will ensure a number of indigenous Church leaders enrol in training programmes that range from certificates up to diplomas, degrees, master’s programmes as well as doctorates.

This will obviously depend on the will of the students and their academic capabilities.

ZOU Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Henry Gundani described the partnership with CCA as the first of its own kind where indigenous churches appreciated the contributions made by his institution.

“This partnership from which you are to witness the signing ceremony of understanding between ZOU and the Council for Churches in Africa (CCA) is the first of its kind,” he said. 

“We really appreciate the commitment by this Church organisation in entrusting and supporting our institution.”

Prof Gundani said prior to the MoU, CCA members had already started enrolling with ZOU.

“We have witnessed several Church members from this organisation who enrolled with and graduated from our institution drawn from several communities throughout the country,” he said.

“This Church organisation has since been crucial in complementing the institution’s efforts in community development and engagement programmes as well as open and distance learning.”

Having Church leaders championing education also goes a long way in addressing issues of women and children being banned from conventional education.

This is in line with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra of ‘leaving no-one and no place behind’ as well as reiterating the Government’s Vision 2030.

Sociologist Tashinga Matsika urged all indigenous churches follow CCA’s lead.

“This is a very important first step towards building professionally run indigenous churches that will have a far reach beyond the country’s borders and  even extending to other continents,” he said.

“It’s possible to have indigenous African churches that have a strong influence across the globe. Other churches should take this lead and educate their leadership.”

Pentecostal churches, such as the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe (PAOZ), have long had self-run Bible colleges, including the Pan-African Christian College.

This has gone a long way in ensuring professionally run churches that operate within the parameters of the country’s laws.

The emergence of churches that are synonymous with questionable practices has largely been influenced by lack of education of both leaders and their congregants.

It is upon this realisation that countries such as Rwanda require one to have a degree in theology in order to be allowed to run a church.


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