Worshippers Vow to Guard 'Signs of Evil'
The Nation (Nairobi)
December 13, 2004
Jeff Otieno and Richard Chesos
The Presbyterian Church East Africa is headed for a major split after worshippers in one of its oldest churches vowed to protect symbols allegedly linked to Freemasonry from destruction.
The resolution came as leaders of St Andrews, PCEA's main church, moved to explain to worshippers why symbols that were inconsistent with their faith were removed.
The clergymen in Nairobi told their members that the priceless historical fittings were incompatible with their faith.
In a statement "to put the record straight" read by session clerk Mr James Muriithi, the church said the symbols and artefacts it had destroyed had a link with Freemasonry, which it described as a religion.
But worshippers at Kikuyu Parish led by Reverend Stephen Kabuba and local MP Paul Muite asked the team to be sent from Nairobi next week to demolish the historical fittings from its house of prayer, to stay away.
"We will consider the planned demolition as violent destruction of property, which we shall not accept," Rev Kabuba told cheering faithful of the Church of the Torch in Kikuyu.
The 76-year-old church is one of the houses of prayer, whose alleged masonic symbols are targeted for demolition by the PCEA leaders. Others are PCEA Tumutumu in Nyeri and PCEA Chogoria in Meru.
Some of the symbols church leaders in Nairobi want destroyed are the St Andrews cross, tinted windows and a symbol of a man holding a flame with a cross behind and a serpent below.
Rev Kabuba said it was barbaric and uncivilised for decisions to be made in Nairobi without consulting the local worshippers.
Speaking to Christians who turned out in large numbers for the morning and afternoon session, Rev Kabuba said the blue and white colours of the St Andrews cross signified the superiority of light over darkness.
"The white colour signifies light and the blue colour signifies the sky. What is wrong with that?" he asked the congregation.
The cleric maintained the second symbol signified the superiority of humans over the serpent, which to many Christians symbolises the devil.
Defending his stand, the cleric produced the report prepared by the Presidential Commission on Devil Worship and the Constitution of Freemason saying none of the symbols in the church were contained in the two books.
"It is the people of this parish who can decide on issues of this church and we shall not allow outsiders to come and demolish our church without our permission," Rev Kabuba, the pastor of the Church of the Torch, warned.
The brief statement read at St Andrews Church was prepared in consultation with the local presbytery and the general assembly.
The church has already destroyed at least 30 stained glass windows and metal grilles more than a century old. The supporters of one faction claim the designs are similar to symbols used by Freemasons.
Two earlier services, including one attended by Rev Dr Timothy Njoya, one of the critics of the demolition exercise, also received the message.
In Nairobi, Rev Dr Isaac Wanyoike, who delivered the sermon, said the statement was neither an answer to Press reports nor "an apology to anybody" but a clarification on the church's stand on the issue.
"It is our clarification to you (the congregation). PCEA is on the move and we have to move," he said.
Dr Wanyoike said only the cross was going to be accepted to hang on the church's walls.
He predicted that other churches would learn from PCEA and destroy artefacts that were inconsistent with Christianity.
"PCEA leads the way," he said to cheers from worshippers.
The decision to destroy all symbols linked to Freemasonry was recommended by a task force on the Use and Symbols in Worship and Faith Practices.
Rev Kabuba said the recommendations of the task force were not binding as locals were left out.
His sentiments were supported by Mr Muite who said although he was an Anglican, the Church of the Torch was a national heritage that needed to be protected.
"The worst Satanic symbols are in people's mind and hearts and not signs in church," said the legislator.
He called for dialogue between the warring factions adding that the locals needed to be consulted.
"You cannot just destroy a priceless monument that has been in existence for many years," Mr Muite said.
The youth of the church also supported their cleric, reading personal vendetta on some of their leaders.
Those pushing for the destruction of "Satanic or devil worship" symbols are Moderator of St Andrews, the Rev Dr George Wanjau, PCEA Secretary General Samuel Muriguh and Dr Eustace Kabue, who chaired the task force that recommended the destruction of the artefacts.
On the opposite side are personalities such as Dr Njoya, Mr Fred Mbiru, a retired banker and elder of St Andrews Church and scores of other parishioners.