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Critics condemn South Sudanese churches’ focus on profit

O. Hannington
Christians have accused some South Sudanese churches of corruption, complaining they take payment for prayers.
19.09.2013  |  Yei
A church building in Yei town, September 10.
A church building in Yei town, September 10.

Small Joice, a committed member of Episcopal Church of Sudan, said a Kenyan pastor operating in Morobo was taking 25 SSP (approximately 7 USD) from each person who came to be prayed for”.

Her claim supports widespread rumours of church leaders requesting specific sums of money from their people in return for prayers.

The growing practice of ‘selling spiritual services’ is widely practiced in the country’s capital city Juba. This has angered the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), a body that regulates the operations of churches in the country.

In the church we serve people freely, not for money.”
Small Joice
Critics argue that the trend is demoralising the entire church in the young country.

Going to a church leader for comfort is supposed to be free of charge,” said Joice. In the church we serve people freely, not for money.”

Bishop Hilary Luate Adeba of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and a member of the Sudan Council of Churches condemns the practice. These are not churches. They are people who have personal interests to fulfil -- not God’s,” he said.

James, a member of South Sudan’s United Methodist Church, who asked to be identified by his first name only, is among the citizens complaining that the church is not transparent.

All departments of our church keep receiving funds. For example there is usually 50,000 USD sent every year from The General Board of Global Ministries to support the health department,” he said. Information on how it is spent is not accessible.”

Also read:
South Sudan’s United Methodist Church beset by corruption allegations
by Ochan Hannington | in Society | 25.06.2013
He reiterated complaints made by the church’s department of women to their leaders, including the two bishops of the Holston Conference and East Africa Annual Conference. Earlier this year they accused Reverend Fred Dearing, the highest ranking church official, of keeping their oil press, one truck and grain-grinding mill as well as an unspecified amount of money. They argue these items should be used to provide income for the women’s department.

Reverend Fred Dearing declined to respond to The Niles regarding the complaints.

South Sudan has six major churches: The Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, the Sudan Pentecostal Church, the African Inland Church and the Sudan Interior Church. Some of the churches operating under the umbrella of the SCC date back to colonial times.

They operate under certain rules -- including restraining from asking money from their followers in ‘deceitful way’.

Allegations of church leaders asking their followers to pay for blessings has caused an outcry among the churches registered with the SCC. Many have exerted pressure on the South Sudanese government to step in.

Religions, especially churches, are not supposed to ask for money from their followers in order to offer their services.”
Mary Apayi
Mary Apayi, Central Equatoria State’s Minister for Gender, Development, Social Welfare and Religious Affairs, condemned the practice. Speaking on Miraya FM radio station, she said the government wants churches to operate as they did in the past, without paying money to priests, aside from the usual collections. She pointed out that churches are registered as non-profit-making entities.

Religions, especially churches, are not supposed to ask for money from their followers in order to offer their services,” the minister said. She outlined plans to call representatives from the major religions to a round table to tackle the controversies.

The SCC, meanwhile, blames the unruly practices on the government for allowing the mushrooming of new churches without any clear criteria on how to establish a church.

The Bishop, Hilary Luate Adeba of the Episcopal Church of Sudan in Yei, has stated that the SCC’s members do not want to associate with newly formed churches or sects.

Aware of the tarnished name of the entire church, the Bishop feels the government should take care of the issue as they have registered the churches and are therefore responsible.
The SCC has got nothing to do with it,” he said. It is the government which caused this problem.”