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UMC UK clerics dismiss corruption allegations, say church ministers must be catered for by the Church

04/02/2018 00:00:00
by Staff reporter
 
Unfounded allegations ... UMC UK DS, Rev Josphate C. Banda
 
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MEMBERS of the United Methodist Church UK (UMC UK) chapter are up in arms with the leadership over a range of grievances including alleged corruption and the dismissal of eight trainee pastors.

UMC UK was started by a community of Zimbabweans in the UK who asked their church leaders back home to second ministers for the running of their church.

The church was in the news early 2015 after then District Superintendent (DS), Rev Tsaurayi Kuda Mapfeka, was accused of conducting an affair with a married member of the Church. Mapfeka was to be removed from his position.

This time around the congregants are unhappy with senior clerics, Reverend Josphate Chaponda Banda (Acting DS) and Reverend Kennedy Marange, whom they accuse of “frustrating the progression of trainees so that they prolong their stay at the top to enjoy the huge perks”.

The grievances arose after Rev Banda, on January 10, sent a WhatsApp text message to one of the trainees, Joyce Maisiri (Pastor Makoni), informing her that she had been dismissed.

“New plans are in process in the running of the UK Mission Area hence your services as an assistant pastor this year are withdrawn,” read the message.

According to sources, this led to an outcry within the church forcing Banda to terminate the contracts of the remaining seven trainee pastors whom he reassigned as “mere evangelists” with no contracts allowing them to administer church business.

To thwart more trouble, sources said, Banda then claimed that a need had arisen to do away with an old structure which permitted “assistant pastors” because of the “changing terrain”.  In his statement seen by New Zimbabwe, Banda said, “it was agreed that the existing contracts would not meet our expectations and would, therefore, need to be closed/terminated”.

He added, “Those who will be engaged will be engaged in line with the church structures and titles and will advised accordingly”.

However, while the seven other assistant pastors were made evangelists Makoni has been left in the cold something which has forced her to write a letter of complaint to the Mission Area Executive, COS, Board of Trustees, saying she had suffered “heart palpitations” and “insurmountable torment” as a result of the dismissal.

Ahead of the termination of trainee pastors’ contracts tension had been bubbling under the surface over a range of other allegations.



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According to members of the church, Banda, who is ultimate leader of the UMC UK, is in that position erroneously and he is not supposed to be serving in that position according to the dictates of the church's constitution, known as the Book of Discipline.

“He has once served in this position before while in Zimbabwe and it is not permissible to serve in this position twice under the constitution of the church,” said a source.

“Reverend Banda and Reverend Marange have created an exclusive enclosure for themselves at the helm of the church such that no one else is able to challenge them on any matters relating to church administration. They run the church like a family affair,” the source added.

Also, according to the source, there is “apparent and widespread abuse of church funds by these two pastors” to the extent that “since day one of setting their foot in the UK from Zimbabwe all their bills including rent and council tax, water and electricity are paid for by the poor church, yet on top of that they are earning a good salary.”

Added the source, “They claim travel allowances every month amounting to thousands of pounds with no proper audition of the transactions and proper evaluation of their travel commitments. It is embarrassing that a pastor who earns a salary that is well above most members of the church has petrol that he uses in his car paid for by the church.”

“For the last 10years the UK UMC has operated with a clergy compliment of 3, who are considered as fully ordained to serve, and at least eight so called student pastors. The average length of period one can spend as a student pastor in UMC is 3years and then one becomes a fully-fledged pastor and ordained to serve. It is strange that in the case of the UK UMC student pastors are taking much longer to complete their training and become ordained. There could only be one explanation to that, either corruption or fear of losing one's perks as others are elevated,” the source further said.

Only Banda was reachable. Contacted for comment Rev Banda said while the retirement age was indeed 65 according to the church rules, he was still in charge because there was currently “no ordained leader to take over”. He said that was allowed in the church because the rules say one above 65 can continue depending on their “health and ability”. Asked what his age was he said he was “over 72”.

Rev Banda denied that there was any agenda against the trainee pastors.

He said, “These are just unfounded allegations by jealous people. These were not pastors at all; they were part time with fulltime jobs elsewhere. They were helpers because of a shortage of pastors and they were interviewed in Zimbabwe and they didn’t make it except one. The arrangement was that they would be given one year contracts which we would review at the end of each agreed year.”

But according to sources and Makoni’s letter of complaint, the trainee pastors were “set up to fail”.

On allegations that most of the church’s money was taken up by his upkeep and that of his colleague, Rev Marange, Rev Banda said there was “no anomaly”.

“Everywhere even in America a person in my position is catered for by the church. I have served in Masvingo, Bulawayo and Malawi and that was the case in all those areas,” said the reverend.

 

 


 
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