Monday January 20 2014

Challenges for new Kigezi Diocese bishop

By Muniini K. Mulera

Dear Tingasiga:
Kigezi Diocese has a new bishop. The Right Reverend George Bagamuhunda was consecrated yesterday at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Rugarama, inheriting one of the most challenging communities in the Church of Uganda.

The weeks leading up to his consecration were characterised by wrangles, with some clergy and churchgoers opposed to his appointment allegedly because he was “imposed on them” by Bishop George Katwesigye, his predecessor who was accused of favouring his tribal clansman. There were no evident theological disagreements.

Some opponents expressed their displeasure by setting fire to Bishop Katwesigye’s official vehicles. Others sought a legal injunction through the secular courts. These occurrences did not glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the accusations and counter-accusations suggested that Christ was not at the centre of Kigezi Diocese, a remarkable reversal in a community that was at the geographic centre of the great East African Christian Revival Movement 80 years ago.

It is impossible to predict what lies ahead for the new bishop. Some of the new bishop’s opponents have already declared that they are not interested in any reconciliation. However, there are signs that there may be a rapprochement between the two sides, especially now that the new bishop has taken charge.

No doubt many will be watching to see whether Bishop Bagamuhunda lives up to what is expected of a bishop, as stated in Timothy 3:1-7. Among other qualifications, he will be expected to be “above reproach, able to teach, not quarrelsome and not a lover of money.”

While one hopes that the bishop’s opponents will give him a chance to lead and prove himself, the ball will be in his court to reach out to his opponents, extending a hand of friendship and forgiveness that are non-negotiable requirements of any Christian. A love offensive, buttressed by evident humility, honesty and a singular focus on evangelisation and spiritual revival of Kigezi will go a long way towards healing the schism.

For their part, Christians in Kigezi will be wise to fulfill what the Apostle Paul teaches us in Chapter 4 of his letter to the Ephesians. “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Paul instructs us not to let the sun go down while we are still angry, and not to give the devil a foothold. He concludes the chapter with a message that every Christian in Kigezi should read, internalise and live by as they seek a renewal of their church. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption,” Paul writes. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

What we have witnessed so far has been the Devil’s efforts to destroy the Church in Kigezi. The antidote to this is for every Christian to “put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

One of the devil’s schemes has been the monetisation of the Church, with many leaders so obsessed with money that they have even began to contradict the teaching of Jesus Christ. Many clergy, including bishops, are active businessmen.

We have recently read reports of Church of Uganda bishops condemning those who put coins and small denomination currency into the offering baskets. They are amplifying a practice that is common in many of the newer money-driven churches.

What did Jesus have to say on this question? In Mark 12: 41-44 we read: Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

We do not suggest that Christians should withhold money from the Church. However, the monetisation of the Church, together with the reported corruption and greed by those who are charged with preaching the Gospel, have deeply undermined the confidence of Christians.

There has not been a greater and more urgent need for a Second East African Christian Revival than today, starting right here in Kigezi. Bishop Bagamuhunda has the singular opportunity to be the catalyst for this revival, with the happy side effect of healing his diocese.
We wish him the very best and promise that we will continue to pray for him to fearlessly preach the Gospel of Christ and be the agent of positive change in the Church.