City Pastors Plot Mass Demo Against Ps Joseph Serwadda
You want to b’me Balokole President but we won’t let you
Joseph Kabuleta is a seasoned journalist/newspaper columnist and a Church Minister operating under The Watchman Ministries whose flock fellowships at UMA Conference Hall Lugogo.
The outspoken scribe has lately been leading many other city pastors to stand up against Ps Joseph Serwadda (calls himself Presiding Apostle of All Born Again Churches) whom they accuse of conniving with like-minded clerics in the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) to dupe government to declare him the Archbishop or the equivalent of Cardinal for all Born Again Churches.
In this interview, controversial Kabuleta, taking no prisoners, discusses the dangers posed by the move Ps Serwadda is taking working in concert with some top government officials nursing vendetta against the Born Again faith.
Below are the excerpts:
Qn: You have lately been very outspoken against Ps Joseph Serwadda. What exactly is the matter about and also tell us where you get the locus to authoritatively speak about these things?
ANS: I’m a Born Again Christian with a stake to speak out on things concerning my faith. I’m a church minister under The Watch Man Ministries and we have our fellowships at Lugogo UMA Conference Hall. I have been a church minister since 2014. [So what exactly do you have against Serwadda?] He is complicit in promoting a policy disguised as coming to regulate Born Again Churches yet the actual motive is to make him, and his Born Again Federation, the leader and Archbishop of all Balokole Churches.
The dangers with that is that we have never sat to agree on him and he can’t claim to be our representative in the IRCU where he sits on a summit with others like the Mufti, the Cardinal and others because that is not who we are. The Born Again Faith is very different from what they meet to discuss there. Mr. Serwadda is just imposing himself on us because he likes political positions. He doesn’t even see the dangers in that policy he is propagating. It for instance requires all Born Again Churches to be cognizant of the LGTB rights and this is homosexuality kabiisa [for real] yet it’s already prohibited in the Ugandan laws specifically the Penal Code Act.
But Mr. Serwadda isn’t bothered about that because as IRCU they are funded heavily from outside and these are some of the conditionalities. For instance I know for certainty that they lost over $5m in their donor-funded programs the moment Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act which the Constitutional Court later nullified. As long as he becomes the big man for all Born Again Church such obnoxious provisions in the policy become nothing. It doesn’t matter anymore provided he gets power.
QN: What exactly is wrong with his leadership if it can bring sanity to the Pentecostal Movement?
ANS: Everything about him and his leadership of the Born Again Churches is wrong. It’s about his personal glory and not making the Born Again faith better. That Born Again Federation is a Company Limited by guarantee and can’t purport to have the headship of the Born Again Christians officially numbering over 6m. It was incorporated in 2015 and that can’t be the way you govern the Born Again Faith because we have been here for over 50 years now. The policy, which they claim to have already consulted over 75% of the country about, requires all Born Again Churches to get Serwadda’s permission for one to start a church.
This is unprecedented. It has never happened in Uganda because even the other religions which are members of the IRCU and they say are well organized, can’t accept that. It amounts to government conniving to choose for us Born Again Christians a leader. Why don’t they choose for Muslims, Protestants or even Catholics? We are different and can’t accept to have a central figure or body purporting to be our leader.
If indeed true that absence of that central leadership is the cause of problems, how come we have Fr. Kibuuka, Musala and others standing up to the Catholic Church leadership challenging the Archbishop’s authority as a central figure? This clearly shows this new proposed policy, which they have been hiding from us, isn’t about making things better but making one man politically powerful but hiding in Church work.
The policy also requires all churches to pay annual membership fees to Mr. Serwadda who the guys in IRCU are already acknowledging as the head of Born Again Churches. It’s up to them to give him any titles but can’t be imposed on us as a leader. We are going to actively reject him and in the coming days you are going to see pastors demonstrate in the city. They are trying to blackmail us by smearing us to appear as if we sympathize with false prophets in the church which isn’t the case.
QN: You talk about the upcoming pastors’ demo. Tell me more about that? By the way have you bothered getting audience with Serwadda to directly register your concerns?
ANS: Having audience with Serwadda isn’t the problem because I can meet him anytime I feel like. However, I haven’t sought such audience because it’s not necessary. I don’t need his approval or endorsement to talk about these things. All I want to see is the right thing being done. Many pastors are being taken advantage of partly because they aren’t that informed about this policy. They are like somebody who continues sleeping at home when his house is being stolen; someone is the lands ministry busy falsifying documents and you continue sleeping because you aren’t aware. They didn’t know about the policy but I used my journalistic network and accessed a copy and I have been calling meetings to share with them.
It’s couched in very strong language and the pastors don’t easily see the danger. Words like LGBT don’t mean a lot to some of them and you have to tell them it’s homosexuality and everybody is like what? You mean Serwadda can acquiesce with such a thing? After being sensitized in our meetings, where we break down that policy word by word, they have been awakened and many are abandoning his Born Again Federation. We have Rebecca Mutebi, who has been heading Women Affairs in the Born Again Federation. She has since quit Serwadda’s things saying I didn’t know we had been misled to serve one man’s personal interests and many others are coming on board.
They don’t fear Serwadda parse but they hadn’t accessed the full story on what his Federation is all about. As for the pastors’ demonstration in the city; we are meeting on Wednesday to discuss more. We shall thereafter come up with a program on how to go to the streets and show our displeasure with this policy. We have been having Division-based meetings. I have been meeting like 30 pastors from each city Division.
When we are done with all of them we shall move to that planned demo and begin the mobilization including a very big media event to declare our campaign against this man Serwadda and his mischief. We have obtained the Memorandum and Articles of Association for his Federation and it clearly has nothing to do with improving the Born Again faith. This is why, on being sensitized, all these city pastors are becoming very angry.
QN: We have many other big name pastors who don’t necessarily fear Serwadda or owe any allegiance to him. How come they aren’t speaking out warning others about this policy? Why does it have to be you?
ANS: You mean people like Kayanja? All of them know these things and aren’t comfortable with what their fellow elder Mr. Serwadda is doing but they are too comfortable to care. The Miracle Center Church guys are too connected politically speaking and even when that policy comes, it can’t be enforced against them. They are highly placed and have nothing to worry about. They are too big to be brought down by that policy however draconian it maybe. It will only squeeze smaller churches and their pastors but it’s bad to arrive up the tree and kick away the ladder.
Others need it also to climb up the tree. This thing has already been to cabinet and this consultation stage, however ill-intentioned it maybe, must be used to loudly give our views. We need a good law and proper regulation because this law is for generations to come. Museveni, who protects these big pastors today, may not be president 20 years from now and that law will be painfully used on all of us pastors-big or small.
This is why it’s a duty for all of us to speak out now including the big pastors like Kayanja. That is what leadership is all about. Once it goes into the law books it will be hard to get it out. You know how much effort and the years it took for the journalism fraternity to overcome the restrictions imposed by the law on sedition yet this was a law made decades earlier. Today you may have connections in government; tomorrow the story may be different. The standard we all need is a good law.
QN: Beyond resenting being under Serwadda’s forced leadership, why else should an upcoming Pastor in Makindye Lukuli or Kawempe Lugoba be bothered or worried about this Lokodo new policy?
ANS: It threatens him very much except that many of the pastors didn’t know. They will be surprised to fight this policy when it’s too late. If it’s all okay why are perpetrators acting clandestinely fearing to give full information and have all-inclusive consultation? They say three quarters have been consulted but for us Pastors in Kampala haven’t heard about this at all.
Just consider the requirement that every pastor must have formal theological qualification before starting a church and that they must have permanent structures? It’s not bad to set standards but we must be realistic. Many of the big pastors now didn’t have theology qualifications when they started. They got it later. The practice has been you start a church and qualify later and this is how millions of souls have been won for Christ.
Even Mr. Serwadda’s church wasn’t a permanent structure when he started. This is the minimum honesty we are requiring of him. You start with kiwempe and build the church later. You can’t squeeze people out of ministry just like that. Look at Bugingo, he is totally illiterate but the man has the biggest congregation, a total of over 10,000 people congregating for fellowship in just one sitting. That is something which even Watoto isn’t capable of. He is teaching a good message that has transformed many people to lead better lives and become morally upright.
You want to get rid of him using this policy simply because somebody wants to impose his leadership on others? Where do you want those Born Again Christians at his church to go? Return to their bad ways simply because somebody must settle old scores and become the President of Born Again Faith? We won’t accept that. We have many billionaires in Kikuubo: do they have diplomas in business? If you required them to; you would destroy commerce in this country. They are requiring minimum theology qualifications to become a pastor, audited accounts etc.
The problem is these churches aren’t ready. It’s like telling village shops to have audited books accounts. You take them out of business. These are best practices institutions learn and adopt as they grow. This is why most of the big churches now have audited books of accounts which they may not have had years ago when they were starting as small churches. We know Mr. Serwadda doesn’t want to miss out on the rotational IRCU leadership and it’s his turn after Mufti Mubajje.
He is okay to go have his titles but let him leave us alone. They like IRCU because it’s funded heavily by foreigners which we don’t begrudge them for. Ours are indigenous Churches funded by members and we aren’t complaining because the idea isn’t money but to win souls for Christ. You can’t impose homosexuality on us because you want the money. It’s forbidden in Ugandan law before we even talk about morality. It’s like recognizing the thieves’ rights yet in the Penal Code Act it’s prohibited to steal.
QN: So with giants like Kayanja keeping their distance, which sort of leadership are you giving these hitherto voiceless pastors as the campaign against this policy unfairness intensifies?
ANS: I’m already in touch with Minister Simon Lokodo and Director of Religious Affairs Canon Mwesigye. I have interfaced with them and it’s an ongoing engagement. Previously most of these pastors had been made to think it’s only Serwadda who should interface with these people on their behalf. I’m everywhere on TV and other media spearheading this campaign because fellow Ministers in the entire 5 city Divisions have entrusted me with this role and we are making progress.
There are many things these pastors couldn’t know because Mr. Serwadda was the one interfacing on their behalf but these days I meet them regularly to give updates from Fr. Lokodo’s ministry.
QN: So what have you been telling Lokodo and Mwesigye in these regular interfaces?
ANS: I’m telling them there is much more about the Born Again Faith beyond Mr. Serwadda. We are all stakeholders and must be listened to. There are many pastors outside his Federation yet they have very big flocks and represent many Born Again Christians.
Those can’t be wished away. I’m also saying to them absence of the law or the policy they are trying to formulate isn’t the problem parse. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Penal Code but they are pastors who are homosexuals and they are well known but nothing is being done to them yet the law is there. It’s like saying there is too much corruption in Uganda because we lack a good law. The laws are there but the enforcement is the problem.
And we should avoid selective legislation for a certain group because that is discrimination prohibited in the Constitution [Article 21]. Why do you require theological qualifications for a pastor when all an Imam has is Koranic knowledge and is there leading prayers and doing his thing every Friday in the mosque? Will you also require members of the congregation to have basic qualifications to come to church? What will you legislate for the Catholic Church to avoid more Fr. Kibuukas emerging? These are broad things Fr. Lokodo’s ministry should be thinking about.
[You have previously protested Lokodo’s objectivity] Yes that remains my view. He is a Catholic priest who needs to learn the Born Again Faith things first before being misled by people who just want positions. I’m asking what has gone wrong with the checks and balance system built within the NGO Board regulatory mechanism? That Board is enough to regulate us because there is a complaints desk. If you feel Ps Kabuleta has engaged in misconduct, you petition and his certificate of registration is withdrawn or cancelled.
That system is working well and if you go there you will see the complaints they have acted upon. We have pastors who obtain money by false pretences; what will Fr. Lokodo do about those? We have a law prohibiting that but police rarely enforces that law against such pastors. This new policy is nothing but omupango [conspiracy] to impose someone on all Born Again Churches as a leader and then proceed to legitimize LGTB otherwise we have enough laws in place to deal with any ill-conduct among pastors but the problem is enforcement.
This is why we are disappointed in this man [Serwadda] because a well meaning church elder would be using his attendance of many high level meetings to demand that the current laws be enforced to rid the body of Christ of quack pastors who are well known to him and everybody else.