Tuesday 18 May 2021
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Is ELCRN headed for a split?

Divisive infighting and power jostling within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) which culminated in a High Court battle has left tongues wagging and public opinion divided on whether the “house of God” is headed for a break-up.
The latest high court ruling by Justice Hosea Angula will see the church proceeding with disputed elections for the bishop position.
However, deputy Bishop Paul Kisting’s candidature has been disputed by a faction of aggrieved pastors and members.
They claim his age is beyond the constitutionally prescribed limit. The Constitution in Section 26.1.1 states that “the age of the candidate should be between 45 and 60”. Kisting is turning 61 this year.
The ruling has not helped the situation as the faction has vowed that it will not give up the fight to “uphold the constitution and integrity of the church”.
The faction, led by Wilfried Leyden Naibab and Seth Gaeb has claimed that it has the backing of 54 parishes, country wide.
Both have told The Patriot that they will proceed into the elections but “under protest” adding that the option to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court was still on the table.
While they appealed for calm from their backers within the church, it seems all the ingredients for a potential split of the church are there as the ELCRN bishop, Ernst Gamxamub has also been slammed for causing the church to have a bad image in the media.
The Bishop has pleaded for unity within his church and said he would deal with those threatening the same.
“Be informed that my office is aware of those who made themselves guilty of (causing disunity). My office is deeply concerned of those who claim their so-called rights by ridiculing and disrespecting and undermining the authority of this Church of Christ; please note that the Church leadership is empowered by the Constitution to deal with such matters.”
“We are responsible to keep and protect the Unity of this Church according to Article 27.1, which states that: The Bishop is the spiritual leader of the Church.
He or she shall encourage, comfort, advice, reprimand through the word of God and keeps watch over the unity of the Church’.”
He further states that he is aware of elements promoting tribalism and racism aimed at destroying unity.
“On the other hand some members under (the) pretext of freedom of expression used social media to launch attacks on the members of this Church and in particular on the elderly members of the ELCRN, who carried this Church over the decades and years,” he said.
He defended the Church’s electoral commission as having worked within the framework of the ELCRN constitution, policies and guidelines and pinned the blame on “retired pastors and misguided elements who already broke away from the ELCRN” for sowing discontent and confusion.
However, although one of the members that are disputing Kisting, Abner Xoagub, has admitted that power wrangles have been at the centre of splits within the Christian church over the centuries, it was something they were not keen on.
“This is a transformation process and we want to keep the church intact and that is why before we proceeded to the court, we started with internal dialogue,” he said.
The faction has lamented that while its own leadership has closed its doors on them towards a dialogue to ensure a smooth irregularity-free election; it was unfortunate that the court had closed its door on them.
However, all is not lost for the aggrieved party as the High Court ruling was on a technical point of locus standi and the merits of the case are yet to be debated.
Also commenting on the likelihood of a split, member of the ELCRN transformation committee, Albertus Naruseb said “splitting is a no-go area for now. We have no intention to.
The church will go on. Our image is paramount to us.
Had the bishop realised that, he should have listened to the constitution.” Meanwhile Naibab has told Lutherans that the latest court action was just one of several small skirmishes in the bigger and potentially long struggle for transformation and reformation.
He said the ruling did not come to them as a surprise “because it was always a strong possibility among many different possibilities”.
“We have always believed in this process being addressed through the ballot box but within an environment of fair play.
We are therefore very committed to the power and will of the ELCRN members.
We are aware that the church council has decided to proceed with the bishop election process of which youthful Pastor Saggeus Keib is enjoying the commanding lead in the primaries towards the election of the ELCRN bishop,” he said.
Meanwhile, the bishop has rallied the faithful to “pray for the candidates and for the Electoral Commission and for all of us in the ELCRN who will exercise our democratic right to vote.”

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