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Leadership issues at core of Kenya church constitution woes

As churches of Christ grow in Kenya, several church leaders are embroiled in what one called a “constitutional crisis” involving a government-mandated document that defines the nature and organization of churches.
One missionary, Berkeley Hackett, was scheduled for a late May court appearance to face charges of illegally altering the document.
Hackett, who has worked in Kenya for 33 years, is supported by the Highland Oaks church, Dallas. He currently works with the Nairobi-Eastleigh congregation and oversees the Kenya Christian Industrial Training Institute, which has 2,300 students.
During his time in Kenya, Hackett has clashed with other church leaders, including Nyabuto Marube, who works with the Kayole church in Nairobi.
“There is conflict in Kenya now about who is ‘in charge’ of the church and who gets to dictate … the church’s constitution,” Marube said.
In 1968 The Kenya Church of Christ (KCC) formally registered with the government. Its constitution, revised in 1994, establishes a national leadership structure, defines the role of missionaries, and states membership requirements.
Some Kenya workers said they have received criticism from United States supporters for the involvement of churches of Christ in the national organization, claiming that it violates the autonomous character of the fellowship.
But Hackett — and workers who oppose and support him — agree that the document is necessary for legal recognition.
“In most African countries, the law requires that churches draft a document that states what the ‘society’ (church) believes, how its affairs are run and who to get in touch with … ” Marube said.
Stan Granberg, professor of biblical studies at Cascade College, Portland, Ore., agreed, adding that “local church autonomy is not negatively impacted.” Granberg, a former missionary in Kenya, wrote his doctoral dissertation on church leadership in the east African country.
According to the constitution, amendments must be approved during annual general meetings of church members. “This meeting is primarily a lectureship rather than a church political meeting,” Granberg said.
But in 1999 Hackett and two Kenyan workers added amendments to the constitution that Marube and other church leaders said were illegal since they were made without a proper general meeting. They also allege that the three men forged a document telling government officials that such a meeting had taken place.
Citing the complainants’ arguments, the government rejected the 1999 constitution and the new amendments. Hackett and the two workers now face legal charges for “giving a public official a false document,” Hackett said.
“We admit that Berkeley did make bad decisions,” Vincent Doan, an elder at Highland Oaks, told the Chronicle. But he and Hackett said that the charges were brought by fellow church members, and both said that they hope the charges will be dismissed or dropped.
“The happenings in Nairobi are very distressing,” Hackett told The Christian Chronicle May 7. “We continue to trust that the Lord will work everything out for good in the end.”

  • Feedback
    No Missionary Kenya, who is kind and generous like Hackett.Through his umbrella, many different persons from almost Africa have truly benefited from him.He is a man with a vision and by him,we see the growth and stability of the churches of Christ in Kenya.I have a lot to speak about him.Those who speak against him came and got their prosperity because of Hackett.God bless Hackett.
    Julius Makombe
    Hill-View Church Of Christ
    Nairobi, Kenya
    March, 9 2012

Filed under: International

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