Our Pentecostals can’t become a meaningful denomination

Sunday August 4 2019



Alan Tacca

Alan Tacca 

By Alan Tacca

At his last Monday 6-7am appearance on Impact FM/Dream TV, the Pallisa RDC, Mr Kyeyune Senyonjo, wondered aloud where the Impact bosses had discarded Pr Sentongo.
The RDC’s talk-show host, Gyagenda Semakula, must have tightened all his instincts to guard against any other reference to Sentongo.
Pr Emmanuel Sentongo used to host various guests on the 7-8am religious programme, Amazima Agakaawa (the bitter truth). Especially when he hosted Pr Patrick Ndyanabo Sekitooleko, a Bible scholar, the programme exposed the hypocrisy, lies, and theological misconceptions paraded by many of our Pentecostal pastors.
I noted (Sunday Monitor, May 26) that Ndyanabo was giving rather more truth than the station masters had bargained for.
Indeed, Ndyanabo and Sentongo were soon ejected. So, if RDC Senyonjo didn’t know, and I think he did, now he knows.
A ‘bishop’, one Buyondo, was hosted briefly to repair some of the ‘damage’. I lost interest.
But I recently tuned in and found Edward Lubega hosting Stephen Mulungi.
Mr Mulungi is completely entangled in semantics and philosophical chaos. You can get dizzy when he is talking about ‘a faith’ and his ‘faith’, or how his faith is not a ‘a religion’.
However, if other people call that faith a religion, he says he cannot fight them. It may even be a blessing; it means they have recognised Pentecostals as a force.
Yet he is not even sure whether the Pentecostal label is correct. Maybe it should be just the Born Again Faith.
When Mulungi is not spinning like that, he castigates the disorder and indiscipline in their churches. Their faith is the best, their churches the worst, he laments.
Although he hates ‘systems’ and ‘organisations’, he wishes Pentecostals were united under, if not one, at least a manageable number of denominations.
Unfortunately, he has a side. He thinks ‘faith’ is bigger than ‘fellowship’. So, he insinuates, the leaders of the (Born Again) National Fellowship should bow before the leaders of the (national?) Faith. In the current battle for strategic advantage before major government legislative action in the religious sphere, he is obviously allied to the Faith group.
But the National Fellowship camp argues that their concept is a more flexible vehicle for bringing together groups of (roughly) similar beliefs, including the ‘faith’ fanatics.
Does this debate actually matter?
Like the shrines of our witchdoctors, Uganda’s Pentecostal churches are mostly private enterprises.
Take a roll-call of the prominent owners: Bugingo, Kakande, Kayanja, Kiganda, Kiyingi, Lwere, Mbonye, Namutebi, Senyonga, Serwadda, Yiga, Zakaliya… plus their spouses … and so on. Suggest that they surrender ownership and control of their churches to a new centralised entity, with agreed canon law, a common calendar, prayer form and disciplinary council; suggest that they accept a standard and transparent salary and pension structure; that they can be transferred from one church to another in positions for which they qualify; that for the sake of compromise, unity and the Gospel, none of them is to become the first Archbishop; propose such measures as steps to becoming a denomination, and they (in total unity) will drag you to a mental health facility to have your madness investigated.
Being mostly eccentric disrupters from the Anglican and Catholic churches, or from other Pentecostal churches, some preachers are independent quasi-religious cult leaders, a mixture of good, bad and ugly competitors peddling fake demons and fake miracles in ways echoing Africa’s pagan traditions.
Their least pretentious option may be forming an association regulated by the department of culture, wherever that happens to be in Uganda’s sprawling administration.