BELOVED KENYAN PRIESTS IN THE VINEYARD OF OUR LORD;
IT IS WHAT IT IS-LET US SPEAK THE TRUTH
Peace and Grace to all of you. This long message is addressing largely our Kenyan Priests and to the larger extend our African clergy in the continent of Africa.
After sharing the encyclical that states and elaborates on the decisions that were arrived at by the just concluded Holy Synod of the Holy Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, I have decided to share my inner thoughts with you my brothers because of what I read on the social media and from many telephone calls I have received and still do receive from many of you seeking advice and perhaps solution from me concerning the affairs going on in our African Church especially here in Kenya. I know that I am not worthy of this task so I ask for your forbearance if you will hear what you never expected. At the same time, I ask for your prayer if what I will say will mean anything to you in this state of confusion that has rocked and rolled our church into the dark shadows of existence. These are time tough times, therefore, I want to be real, honest, sincere with you and at the same time try to be humble and polite as I can, though these virtues are not quite definitive of my character. I want to communicate to you in simple language, I seek to speak to your heart and mind on the real issues that concern our church as far as the Russian phenomenon is concerned which has been succinctly and wisely addressed in the encyclical issued by Holy Synod of our beloved Patriarchate of Alexandria.
There is no doubt that the Holy Synod was led by the Holy Spirit to address the matter before us concerning the Moscow Patriarchate insurgence to establish an exarchate in the African Continent which in the spirit of truth and canonical wisdom is against the long mapped, defined and established geographical territories that have been there for centuries. It is true as described that the Russian Church is invading into a territory, or, they are up on an act of punishment to our Patriarchate because of standing together with other canonical jurisdictions concerning the Ukraine issue. However, it should be known that our Patriarch did not do so because of any ignorance, ill motive or provocation to the Russian Church which he so loves and respects. In his own words he says “In my so doing, I thought I was helping to foster peace, unity and reconciliation. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the opposite”. Our Holy Synod indeed has approached this matter in a very diplomatic and cordial way by calling for dialogue. It is my prayer that all the invited Hierarchs of our Church will embrace this call of love so that they can sit together in harmony like the holy apostles did and find an amicable solution. May God help us.
Beloved in Christ, even if things have turned out to be the way they are right now, our Patriarch still hopes and we all hope as members of the Holy Synod and the church of Africa as a whole that this problem can be addressed in the spirit of love and be mutually fixed. I strongly have a feeling of hope that the Russian Church does not have any ill motive against the church of Africa. I am sure they believe in unity, peace, love and communion of ecclesia. The Russian Church Hierarchy are our brothers whom we schooled together, served together or worked together. There is no doubt that they have supported our Patriarchate for many years. By stepping over the territories and attempting to establish an exarchate in Africa is a communication signal to help us open our ears and eyes to understand and see the things we have never seen or have ignored for so many years. Whatever the case, it is absolutely so unfortunate that we are found in this toxic spiritual situation. There is an African proverb that says “when two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffer.” The ‘grass’ is really suffering as at the moment because of what is happening at the top of the ecclesiastical pyramid of our One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Because of this, the Church in Africa is bruised and spiritually wounded. Because of this, most of you our beloved clergy, the oil of your patience, love and humility have gone dry. Now, you have decided to write letters or sign documents to pay your priestly oath of allegiance to the Patriarchate of Moscow which by speaking in human terms did not give you the priesthood. Remember the priesthood that your received was from the altar of sacrifice, the lamb that you held in your hands was the real body of Christ which you will be forever answerable to any betrayal of Him who gave himself to you at the fullness of time during your ordination.
However, despite of all these, deep in my heart, I know that there is still some hope in you. It is not all frozen, there is still some room for dialogue, room for change on the same. I am motivated as well as compelled at the same to speak to that hope in you today because I believe when we speak the truth to each other things change. Dear priests, be mindful of your local church which you have served for many years through your sweet and toil even if you received or earned nothing. I want to tell you not to lose your reward in heaven by turning your back to Christ. My friends, it is never too late to change your minds for the good of the church in Africa. You know, right now you are thinking and seeing yourself as an individual but when a whole multitude of the faithful are involved our church will turn into chaos like a mad house. Regrets comes after an action. For this reason, I make this special request as your Bishop and your brother unworthy as I am that, it is never too late to bring your hearts and minds back home. As this will be happening hopefully soon, its never too late to be truthful and real to matters that concern us as Africans. It is not rocket science to know that there are so many problems that face us and our church. They are visible as the starts in the darkest night. But do we solve these problems by running away from them? obviously not! All these calls for us to develop a very well-formed problem statement that opens avenues of discussion and options. Our Patriarchate is engaging it at the top, let us also engage ourselves down here because we are the ‘grass’ that is suffering.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Elsewhere, he also said “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can.” I want to take you back to the history of our church to bring to your attention that nothing has ever come easy from the times of Sparta of Uganda and Bishop Gathuna of Kenya, our eminent East African fathers who were the trailblazers of orthodoxy in these two respective countries in early 1920s. They handed down to us the new generation, all the tools of spiritual warfare which are; love, patience, humility, forgiveness hard work and prayer. My question to you today brothers is; who has bewitched us? To the point that we have decided to take our church back to the road of oblivion, the road of begging and handouts? Why is it so hard and almost impossible for us as Africans to work out better ways of growing our church to be self-sustaining, self-propagating and self-ruling or governing? Are our minds spiritually blinded and colonized this much? my dear brothers going to Russia will darken the light of the gospel that our first local and international missionaries handed to us.
This light was given to us to be put on the mountain tops so that others can come and see. If what is motivating or taking us to Russia is nothing theological, nothing historical, nothing spiritual but hunger strike, then why can’t we find an African solution to it? By finding an African solution to it, means coming together as a Kenyan church and her leadership and hold this bull called poverty by its horns. Are you forgetting that we have tried for centuries to find a Greek Solution, an American Solution, A Cypriot solution, an Australian solution, a Finish solution to an African problem but they never and have never worked until this day? That is why we are still poor, stuck, spiritually handicapped and unproductive in our missions. What we are doing is just like the proverbial saying that; “even if a monkey changes its forest of habitation, he still remains a monkey, it is only the forest that has changed”.
My friends, even if you switch off from Alexandria to Russia, it is only the forest that has changed, the ‘monkey’ remains the same in his true colors. You are forever and ever Africans in Africa.
We have come a long way, we have become enlightened and instead of using the knowledge we have received to changed what for years has been perceived to be good for us, we are using the same knowledge knowingly or unknowing to reverse our road map into a dark future, a wounded African church. I hear more often some of us calling themselves Russians! Are you forgetting that you called yourself a Greek the other day? When shall we proudly call ourselves Africans and render ourselves to suffer for generations to come as our forefathers did? If we really go this direction, we shall be held accountable from generations to generations to come for not being persistent in our asking, strong in our perseverance, resilient in our prayers. It is widely known that sometimes it is our habit to leap to solutions without fully understanding the problems we are grappling with that has put us into trouble. Remember that an ineffective solution to a problem can make things worse, and can be as damaging in the long run as the problem it is trying to solve. We cannot solve our poverty (financial) problem, our administrative or our spiritual problem by turning or crossing over to Russia. These things my friends are seasonal and when the deal is too good think twice. We MUST be a solution to our own problems (the ones we have created ourselves because we have) and also those that have been created or are created for us by them.
We need to be smart thinkers in this age, we need to go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves difficult questions like; where did the rain start beating us? so that we can develop a fine way of solving our problems by formulating a good problem statement. In problem solving, it is said that when you are facing a problem, you have to think backwards and map out how you got there in the first place. By finding the real root cause you are ensured to have a real durable solution. What has always happened to us is that we have always developed a bad problem statement which closes down alternatives and quickly sends us to a cul-de sac of false thinking. Instead of finding the real root cause of the problem, some us have already immersed themselves into this false thinking that by joining the Russian church everything is going to be heaven on earth. Far from truth! because few years ago we were singing the same song about Greece and Greek Bishops, Cyprus and Cypriot bishops. Now, that the machine that mints euros for Africa seems to be drying up and God forbid, we have started calling them names and running away from them as far as our legs can carry us. We are easily forgetting that these bishops who have come to Africa especially Kenya because I have seen what they have done with my own eyes have educated us and our children, build houses for us, paid hospital bills, built churches, clinics and schools just to name them but a few. It is unfortunate that those who have benefited the most are the first ones to raise the Russian flag for others to follow.
Brothers, let us think the unthinkable. Let us control our emotions and our thoughts. Let us not engage in things that we really don’t know as far as the church politics at the top are concerned. They are complex, complicated misinforming and confusing at the same time. It only calls for us to keep our balance of thoughts, observe facts, not opinions, judgments or wrong interpretations. If we do not do this we shall return back to the old times where we fighting amongst ourselves, killed each other, chased and hated one another and the scars still remain up to this day. It is time we step in and find something tangible, something powerful, strong and eternal that really works for Africans and the church of Africa. We have to grow our church from inside out, by finding something that really works for Africa and Africans. Nobody will grow this church for us alone and you are all aware of this. It calls for all of us to come together to reason for the says; “call me and I will answer you and tell you great unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). This habit of painting ourselves as black Greeks, Black Cypriots and now black Russians should stop. Let us not be too naïve, let us be real and say it as it is without flinching. Teach and preach to your faithful to own and take responsibility. Our faithful are ready to listen and take action.
My dear friends, spiritual children and the faithful of our church, I am speaking to you as an African. Not just an African human being but as an African Bishop of our esteemed Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa that please, kindly try to reconcile your hearts and thoughts and return back home. Your cross-over will be a cut-over at the heart and peace of our church that we have labored for it for so many years. Listen, unless we create our own leaders, who understand our deep and internal problems, unless we appreciate our own sons, love and embrace them no matter how they look like, we will forever go around in circles until the second coming of Christ and yes, He will be very disappointed with us. Let us think on these things and as we do so, let not allow the spirit of manipulation, coercion, intimidation come into our midst. Let us pray that as the Hierarchs of our church seat and dialogue, the Holy Spirit will lead and guide them to define the truth of our church so that we are free again from the yoke and the bondage of division. We all need to be one again, let us not divide Kenya. Serve your people that you were called for and may the Lord’s blessings come upon you. If anyone has ears let him hear. The future of our church is bright just a little patience and support in your prayers. Let us keep praying for our Patriarch and the and all the hierarchy of the Holy Synod during this difficult time. We should not also forget to pray for the church of Russia to rethink of their decision and the harm it will cause the church of Africa. I am sure they will want to see blood being shed in our churches because there will be internal wars in our parishes.
“Come now let us reason together says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18).
In the Service of the Lord
Bishop NEOFITOS of the Orthodox Diocese of Nyeri & Mt. Kenya
Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa
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