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Outspoken church bodies join forces

Outspoken umbrella body of Para and Pentecostal churches which are popularly known as “fire churches” in Botswana, Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) has resolved to merge with other umbrella church bodies in the country, Weekend Post can reveal.


The contentious church movement will amalgamate with conservative Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) and little known Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) under the banner of a new network organisation called Botswana Network of Christian Communities (BONECCO).


Already, the Secretariat of the three Umbrella bodies has completed the task of working on the BONECCO constitution – which was drafted way back in 2011. There was also a high level powered meeting comprising of representatives from the 3 umbrella bodies which was consigned with the adoption of the said BONECCO constitution that will also provide policy direction.


According to a letter passed to Weekend Post dated 7 April 2017, from the Secretariat of the 3 bodies to its leadership, the move to unite the Christian umbrella bodies follows “7 long years” in which they have been working tirelessly towards formalising the “historic” cooperation. The said letter was signed by General Secretaries; Reverend Mosweu Simane (BCC), Pastor Gaolekwe Ndwapi (EFB) and Reverend Christopher Modikwa (OAIC).


Speaking on the merger, the convener of the 3 bodies Pastor Master Matlhaope of EFB, told Weekend Post that the new church network will not replace the individual organisations that have been existing (BCC, EFB,OAIC) but will be a platform where “commonalities are tackled together”. He stated: “But we will leave room for existing umbrella churches to continue as they have been so that their interests or inclinations and ideologue continue to exist unhindered. This one is just a platform to collaborate.”


He explained that way back before independence in 1966; churches played a pivotal role in the country as they held some sectors like health and education although government later came on board. Although even up to date, they still collaborate here and there, they believe churches can still do more, and that working together will be more ideal.


It is understood that in 2010 the leadership of the bodies came together to deliberate on their networking initiatives and this ushered in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2011 – which legitimised full participation, commitment and position in the process that would later lead to the formulation of the new umbrella network.


Matlhaope, who is also the EFB President stated that as the umbrella church movement they will be more collaborative adding that “we are initiating a transformation network, in it as the church we feel we can do more than we are currently doing.” In the past, EFB has never shied away from registering their position on key topical issues affecting the country.


They have continuously expressed its concern at the relentless campaign by Botswana Networks on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and other similar organisations whose aim is the legalisation of prostitution and homosexuality in Botswana which they repeatedly called “unholy.” They pointed out that homosexuality, fornication, adultery and incest are inappropriate expressions of sexuality since they are not just unbiblical but they are also not in consonance with Botswana national culture and traditions.


In that regard, the umbrella of fire churches has also taken a swipe at proponents of homosexuality, prostitution, abortion regardless of weighty voices who called for legalization of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion like that of former President Festus Mogae, renowned human rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi and law maker representing Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso.


Another church umbrella body to be part of the network is BCC. The conventional church movement was put on the spot light last year after sending one of its leadership cadres Reverend Thabo Mampane to represent them at a local private radio show where he “colluded” with contentious and provocative Pastor Steve Anderson over “homosexuality.”


According to random listeners at the time, Mampane could not articulate his position with regard to homosexuality very well which led to the US Pastor humiliating him as he instead got angry and emotional during the interview. This made the BCC leader susceptible to heavy criticism afterwards.


Despite his (Mampane) remarks, the BCC General Secretary Reverend Mosweu Simane released a statement highlighting that BCC, as a network of Churches with different doctrinal positions, continues to engage its members towards formulating a common position on the issues of human sexuality with particular reference to homosexuality, which will represent the divergent views and positions held by members.


“The Council therefore does not have a position on the issue of homosexuality,” he said of BCC which is known for sitting on the fence with regard to many topical matters affecting the nation – the inclination which differs with that of EFB. Relatively less known OAIC represents homegrown African churches founded originally during the colonial period, that have developed indigenous forms of worship, theology and social organization, all deeply inspired by a vision that is both Christian and African. It is unclear as to what position they have taken before on various matters of national interest. The collaboration of the 3 church bodies under umbrella BONECCO will reveal how easy it is to work together as church umbrellas harboring different ideologue. 

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