ELCT Press Release

Date: April 1, 2002
Press release No. 001/04/2002

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ELCT Rejects one of its Bishops

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) has dismissed Dr. Jerry Mngwamba from serving as Bishop of the Eastern and Coastal Diocese, effective Wednesday, March 27, 2002.

He has also been defrocked which means he becomes an ordinary member of the Church having been denied the right to serve as a Church minister.

The decision was reached during an extra-ordinary General Assembly of the Eastern and Coastal Diocese on March 27, 2002 to endorse the decision of the ELCT Executive Council to suspend the Bishop from power and approve the appointment of Rev. Dr. Hans Mwakabana as caretaker leader of the Diocese.

Dr. Mngwamba was in the centre of a probe investigation by the Church which was formed to establish the authenticity of allegations on flagrant abuse of power; embezzlement of church funds at all levels; fraud by misusing tax clemency and above all, a hoard of sex scandals; instances of non adherence to Church norms, principles, integrity, reliability and credibility, as a Christian leader.

Early this year the probe team formed by ELCT Presiding Bishop, Dr. Samson Mushemba, managed to interview 1,200 people. The team comprising of eight people, lead by ELCT Bishop Zephania Mgeyekwa of South Central Diocese presented an 80 page-plus-document to Bishop Mushemba on Saturday March 16, 2002 after working on the issue for about eight weeks.

On Monday March 25, 2002 Dr. Mngwamba dragged to court the Presiding Bishop of ELCT, Dr. Samson Mushemba and the Secretary General, Mr. Amani Mwenegoha allegedly for suspending him illegally and for interfering in the affairs of his diocese. But he withdrew the case on the same day on condition that the matter should be settled out of court and that the content of the Bishop Mgeyekwa's probe report should not be made public.

The ELCT Executive Council comprising two representatives from each diocese of its 20 dioceses met in Morogoro, about 192 km west of Dar es Salaam, between March 20 and 21 to discuss the probe report on the leadership crisis in the Diocese.

ELCT formed in 1963 when seven churches united to form ELCT, it now consists of 20 dioceses each being led by a Bishop. Each diocese has its own Constitution but there is an overall Constitution binding all dioceses. The Head Office of ELCT is based in Arusha, Northern Tanzania.

The ELCT Constitution allows the Presiding Bishop to go and investigate any matter in any diocese by himself or using his representative or agent. The provision enabled him to form the probe team. The findings were discussed by the Executive Council, the second highest decision making body of the Church where all the bishops and their secretary generals meet.

The highest decision-making body is the General Assembly that meets every four years. The next such meeting will be held in July this year.

The then Dean of the Diocese, Rev. Adam Kombo resigned for failing to advise the Bishop when he flouted the Constitution and displayed dishonourable conduct while in office as a spiritual leader in the Diocese. However, Kombo was pardoned and was also allowed to retain his position as a pastor.

Dr. Mushemba announced during a special session of the ELCT Executive Council meeting with members of the Diocesan Executive Council meeting on March 23 that Rev. Dr. Hans Mwakabana who was the former Principal of Makumira Lutheran Theological College becomes the new leader of the Diocese in the transition period before the election of a new Bishop.

Mwakabana was born at Suma village in Rungwe Distric in Mbeya region and completed Secondary School at Ilboru in Arusha. He studied theology at Makumira from 1964 to 19679 (Certificate); Helsinki University from 1970 to 1974 (Masters Degree and between 1977 and 1982 he studied at the same University and earned a PHD. He served as a pastor at Iringa Town Parish, Manow Parish in Mbeya and as student pastor in Iringa region and as Head of Lutheran Training Centre at Mafinga in Mbeya region.

He was Secretary of the Konde Diocese Mission and Evangelism Department between 1982 and 1983. Dr. Mwakabana taught at Makumira between 1983 and 1984 before he was became principal from 1984 to 1992. He also went to Geneva, Switzerland from 1992 to 2001 to serve as the Head of the Interfaith Dialogue at the Lutheran World Federation. He has authored and edited six books on Interfaith Dialogue.

The ELCT Executive Council has also appointed Rev. Isack Makanta to become assistant leader of the Eastern and Coastal Diocese. #

For more information contact:

Elizabeth Lobulu
Communication Desk Officer, ELCT
E-mail: elobulu@elct.or.tz

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