COUPLES experiencing marital problems usually run to the church – but a leading Harare preacher is proving that marriages are also collapsing in the church.
Pastor Tawanda Makandiwa, the brother of the controversial preacher ‘Prophet’ Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International Church, is divorcing his wife of five years, Lovejoy Choto, citing what he describes as her “suicidal tendencies causing great embarrassment”.
In court papers filed last week, Makandiwa says the marriage “has irretrievably broken down to such an extent that there are no prospects of a reconciliation of a normal marriage (sic).”
A divorce hearing will be held at the Harare Magistrates’ Court on November 8 – two days shy of the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary.
Pastor Makandiwa is claiming custody of their children and offering a share of their movable properties acquired during the marriage. He will also pay her US$200 monthly maintenance as well as taking care of her rent at a rate of $500 per month until she remarries or dies.
New Zimbabwe.com blogger Lot Masiane, of the Seventh Day Adventist, says Makandiwa’s divorce showed Christians had “lowered the standard”. Divorces were now as regular in the church as they are outside.
“Without the benefit of the full facts, Pastor Makandiwa says his wife is suicidal and on that basis he wants the marriage dissolved. Suicidal tendencies are a mental health issue and partners with that problem need help not divorce,” Masiane said.
“If she was suicidal before, he has just increased the chances of her going on and doing it. As a Christian, and as a pastor, he cannot do that. Marriage is for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
“As Christians we have to set an example. If we start doing this, divorce will be rampant in church.”
Masiane says while the Bible teachings on marriage remain the same, Christians were failing to apply the guidelines. Unlike in the traditional churches where the clergy is accountable to a senate, prosperity gospel preachers were only accountable to themselves.
“If you get married, you should be married for life. But now we have churches which are built on weak foundations. The elders are appointed by the pastors and friendships are replacing God’s teachings, there is no standard to hold people accountable.
“It has become too easy to divorce because we are not adhering to the standard set in the Bible; worldliness has come into the church.”
Pastor Vusi Dube, senior founding pastor of the Ethekwini Community Church in Johannesburg, says churches need to strengthen the “elders mechanism” to hold members to the same standard, including pastors.
“Elders are scared of challenging the pastor and fear losing their positions and power. In some cases, the elders are friends or relatives of the pastor so accountability is non-existent."