Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
THE Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) in Zimbabwe has been in turmoil in the past two years than at any stage in its history in the country.
I am not Christian and I hope this disclaimer will help.
It means I do not subscribe to either faction and have been questioning the Christology of their activities, without fear or favour. It means I am an outsider, reading from the terraces.
Today, I climb down the terraces to wade into the murky waters. I am there deep in it in a manner that going back is as good as going forward. I have observed this narrative for long.
It is fact not fiction that the current stand-off in AFM is not about anything, but wealth, wealth and wealth.
It is gospreneurship, the art of making money from the word of God. It is a complex struggle to amass wealth, which a few leaders and their cronies have enjoyed over the years, plundered and invested in private business and property.
Today, some who have been in the top echelons of the AFM run chain stores, own an array of moveable and immovable property.
Suffice to say the gloves are off in a fight that defines constitutionalism, religion and religiosity, the art and the belief; the belief and the execution of the belief, wealth and how to access wealth from the church.
Here, the church is no longer the church, but a means to an end, a means to earthly prosperity.
The fad of our time in AFM is that the wheels of lust and plunder have reared their ugly face, turning and turning; turning and turning, again and again, through deep-rooted but calculated factionalism, mudslinging and back biting — all as a means to gain access to the church’s wealth.
While many congregants engrossed themselves in the Bible, unbeknown to them, some have been spinning wealth, wealth and wealth.
A pastor in Bikita, for instance, would get harurwa (stink bugs) as appreciation, one in Dande would get masawu (wild fruits), but one in a plush Harare parish would get three of the latest cars as appreciation, plus scores of thousands of dollars.
The appreciation is two-pronged.
There is appreciation given to the pastor’s wife, which comes in cash, groceries and vehicles. There is appreciation for the pastor himself, which comes in mainly cash and cars.
The initial thinking on the appreciation was that a pastor’s wife receives and hosts many children of the church, seeking solace or refuge to the word, and therefore needs to feed and house them for that period.
But soon it was commercialised.
The timbre of it all is that the top church leaders started positioning their cronies into well-paying parishes at the expense of the word.
Each pastor placed at the well-oiled parish would also tithe to the leadership.
In the final deployment matrix, those who did not have good relations with the leadership were deployed to “poor” parishes.
The fight at the moment is for those who have been closed outside for too long to also gain power and have access to the wealth.
The other faction has been for the idea of having all pastors get a generic salary and benefits, which is not going down well with those who have been benefiting.
It is wrong to say that at least generic salaries or uniform benefits would save the word from gospreneurs, masquerading as pastors and reverends, masquerading as true men of the cloth.
There is a clique demanding an audit of the past regime and that in effect would open a can of worms. But there is need for not only an audit of the church books, but a real lifestyle audit of the leaders, past and present.
The word of God has been abused left, right and centre.
AFM has become a wealth spinning venture. It is fact that some church leaders have more cars than their fingers. They have more cars and houses than the verses of the Bible they can recite.
They know more about how to make money from the church than how to convert people to the church.
Many progressive thinkers within the church now have more questions than answers. It is no longer clear when the church is the church?
When is the church about the word and not money? At what stage is the church a wealth- spinning venture?
When all is said and done, those getting the creepy-crawlies in Bikita and those getting free-falling masawu in Dande might remain closed out while others amass wealth in plush suburbs and rich parishes.
The top echelons of the church locally and internationally can claim to have solved the problem in Zimbabwe, but that can only be a dream.
The fight will remain until there is even distribution of wealth in the church.
It is no longer a church, but The Church. The Business. The wealth-spinning venture.