Pentecostal pastor Amos Mugabi used fighting words recently when talking to hundreds of congregants about a proposed government policy he believes is threatening thousands of churches’ existence.
“Satan is fighting the church,” prayed Mugabi. “The government wants to stop the church from spreading the good news of Christ, and we’ll not let that happen. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the sake of the gospel.”
If passed by Parliament, the new policy will require that all ministers obtain formal theological training from a recognized institution.
Ministers will also be required to register new and existing churches and declare their source of income.
A vote on the policy was set in Parliament for March but was delayed.
Mugabi said the new policy is targeting the born-again Pentecostal churches, noting that the preaching of the gospel did not require “intelligent people” or educated clergy but rather people called by God to serve.
“People in government don’t understand the word of God,” he said. “We have great men in the Bible including Jesus Christ who preached the gospel, but they didn’t have a bachelor’s degree in theology. It’s time we all follow the Bible.”
Still, the government said the new policy is good for the country since a majority of clerics are taking advantage of existing law to extort money from Ugandans: The current law allows freedom of worship, and individuals can open and operate a church without notifying the government.
The new policy seeks to enforce transparency and monetary accountability in religious and faith-based institutions, said officials.
“We are here to help Ugandans from being exploited by unscrupulous clerics,” said the Rev. Simon Lokodo, the state minister for ethics and integrity. “Some churches ask youth for money before they will pray for them to get jobs — this is against the word of God.”
Meanwhile, the government has previously accused pastors of stage-managing miracles and manipulating scriptures to exploit believers. Other problems involve “crimes against humanity” in cults, beast worship, blood sacrifices and witchcraft, said Lokodo.
“We will not allow any person to mislead Ugandans in the name of Jesus Christ, and this is the reason we are putting these laws in place,” he said.
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Source: Religion News Service