Tension is increasing in the search for a new bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) as members accuse the church council of underhanded electoral tactics at the high synod underway in Mariental, Hardap Region.
The church, which boasts a membership of over 400 000 congregants, is caught in a leadership dispute following elections of a new church head and deputy in May this year. Although voting took place about three months ago, the ballots are yet to be counted to pave way for a new leadership.
The term of current Bishop Ernst //Gamxamub and his deputy Paul Kisting is expected to end next week. According to the ELCRN Constitution, the two are only allowed to serve for two terms.
Although the results of the poll are yet to be revealed, during the nomination process Sageus //Keib of the Immanuel Parish emerged as the preferred candidate for bishop. He was followed by Kisting and then Andreas !Nowaseb, the deputy dean of Om-Khaitani Parish.
Speaking to CND-News from Mariental, ELCRN Interim Committee Chairperson Abner Xoagub said the church council under //Gamxamub and Kisting are planning on introducing a vote of no confidence in the Electoral Commission which carried out the May polls at the synod and then subsequently nullify the votes.
Several parishes have been suspended by the church council, following their decision to reject the vote of no confidence motion at the council’s last meeting four weeks ago.
Xoagub said the council suspended the Hosiana Walvis Bay, Tanidare, Khorixas, Betel and Dordabis parishes. This, he says, is in an attempt to block this clergy and laity from attending the synod.
The church’s constitution, seen by CND-News, states that the ELCRN Synod shall be comprised of a pastor and two representatives from each of the parishes who are nominated directly by the parishes themselves.
“We will not allow this to happen because the constitution under article 21 is very clear about how the delegates to the synod are nominated and it is not the duty of the church council to reject them. The parishes and pastors decide,” explained Xoagub.
“We will reject that motion of a vote of no confidence in the Election Commission. They [church council] want to nullify the elections so that Bishop Kisting can then take over as acting bishop until the next synod two years from now. During this time, he will change the constitution to meet what he wants,” he added.
Xoagub said Bishop Kisting who is 62 years old does not qualify to stand for the position of bishop as per the constitution which puts an age cap of 59 for any hopeful candidate to the ELCRN top job.
“We will have a devotion service before the Synod which is expected to start at around 13:00 and during that we will start counting and announce today (Sunday) the results for the new bishop and deputy bishop. They are trying to say that the results must be announced on Wednesday but we will not allow that. The results must be announced after counting is completed.”
Xoagub also said the synod members will recall the entire church’s council and put up a 10-member normalisation committee to review the constitution, structures, conduct a forensic audit of all projects, donations as well as development programmes of the church before the next ordinary synod in 2020.
In an open letter addressed to Kisting recently, church members advised the deputy bishop to relinquish his “self-imposed power peacefully” before accusing him of “corruption, hedonism and undermining global best practice of any elections” among other things.