Don’t use COVID to settle scores -Bishop Lwere warns Pastors protesting Closure of Churches

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Overseer of the National Fellowship of Born-Again Pentecostal Churches Dr. Bishop Joshua Lwere; File Photo

The overseer of the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches (NFBPC) in Uganda, Bishop Joshua Lwere has warned pastors distressed by continued closure of Churches, to desist from attacking leaders and not to deviate from Godly ways as they demand for re-opening of Churches.

This follows recent calls from religious leaders especially in Kampala City, calling on government to consider re-opening of Places of Worship as the country moves to lift the partial lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Born-again pastors recently intensified agitation for re-opening of Churches in Uganda with a section of pastors attacking their leaders for not doing enough to push government to open the churches. This week, a group of Pentecostal church pastors in Kampala City were seen putting on sack-cloth in protest of the continued lockdown.

In a pastoral letter (published here) issued on 8th July, 2020 Bp. Lwere admonished pastors to desist from outbursts of anger insinuating persecution of churches by the state, which he says is not the case. Lwere appealed to pastors to be be careful, remain loving, and civil to one another and not use the COVID-19 pandemic to settle old scores.

“be careful, remain loving, and civil to one another and not use this pandemic to settle scores. Some few pastors quarrel and castigate us in IRCU, for having allowed the President to close Churches. Did we allow Cabinet to lock the nation down? Did we need to argue with government just for the sake of it, when we were already aware of what
was going on world-wide? Churches were closed all over the world along with schools, airlines, businesses, arcades, etc.” Bp Lwere said.

Bishop Lwere however noted that engagements between Born-again leaders and government in preparation to open Churches are in final stages and the Ministry of Health has already approved standard operating guidelines (SOPs) under which Churches will operate.

Bishop Lwere says he has already appointed a team of pastors led by Pastor Michael Kyazze to make consultations with various groups of pastors and health workers in efforts to develop guidelines, procedures, and SOPs on how to prepare Churches for re-opening.

He says pastors should stop acting as if they are not aware of the dangers associated with covid-19 pandemic and the devastation it has caused to the world.

“Some pastors are saying there is no Covid. Whatever you believe the source of Covid, the fact is that it is real and more than a million people have died of it. The whole world has been under a lockdown. It is not only Uganda,
and certainly not only our Churches that are being affected. We should always do our best, to give every benefit of doubt to the goodwill of government (unless you can surely prove it otherwise) to their human and limited efforts, to make it easy for them to fulfil their God given mandate”

The team according to Bp. Lwere include Bernard Kirabira (Min for Welfare), Fredrick Semazzi (Former GS), Ivan Wanda (DO-Entebbe), Richard Magongo (DO-Kampala Central), Africano Magyezi (Secretary to the Elders Council), and Sarah Seggane(Admin Sec Omega).

He says the team in conjunction with Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity have produced these guidelines, which include; The Standard Operating Procedures to be followed by congregations, training manuals for pastors, ushers, security personnel, and health & emergency measures, a work plan on how we will roll out the training on the regional, provincial, district and Sub-county levels.

According to Bp. Lwere, the Council of Presidents of the IRCU is due to meet for the final review and approval of these guidelines before the team meets the Prime Minister and later the President to make a case for the reopening of places of worship.

Bp. Lwere noted that the team has done a very commendable job but they need support and prayers from all pastors to get the necessary funds to print and distribute the training manuals across the entire country.

In the upcoming meetings, Bp Lwere said the team will assure government that Pastors are law-abiding citizens with the best interest of their people at heart and genuinely seek their welfare and safety and therefore government should trust them to do our best in our means take every possible precaution to protect our congregants.

“I trust this will alley all their concerns and fears about us. I trust we will be able to agree and prepare for the re-opening of the places of worship. Your co-operation in this matter will make our work much easier and
faster” He said.

PASTORAL ADMONITION -as published by Bishop Lwere

“I therefore, wish to request all Regional, Provincial, District and Subcounty
Overseers, pastors and believers alike:

1. To be patient as you give us time to complete the process as mentioned above. I understand your frustration after months of lockdown, but I also trust your patience, perseverance, and endurance grows through such times.
2. To appreciate and co-operate with government in all their efforts to protect citizens, their weaknesses notwithstanding.
3. To therefore avoid any notion that may portray any negative or a rebellious attitude.

4. To desist from outbursts of anger- insinuating persecution of ourchurches, which we all know is not the case. Some pastors are saying there is no Covid. Whatever you believe the source of Covid, the fact is that it is real and more than a million people have died of it.

The whole world has been under a lockdown. It is not only Uganda, and certainly not only our Churches that are being affected. We should always do our best, to give every benefit of doubt to the goodwill of government (unless you can surely prove it otherwise) to their human and limited efforts, to make it easy for them to fulfil their
God given mandate.

5. To remember that nothing happens without the fore-knowledge, permission and purpose of God, even when the devil intended it for evil. Especially a pandemic of a global proportions like this. This calls for our sensitivity and caution so that we may discern our Lord’s purpose in it for the nations. He promised to shake nations, and
everything that can be shaken so that only that which can not be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:26). How else do you think his shaking may come. God’s main agent on earth is the Church, and that is why the shaking or (judgment) starts in the house of God (1Peter 4:17). May we keep our hearts humble and ears attentive lest we find
ourselves in the rubble.

I will write more on this matter in my next communication after I feel it is the right timing of the Lord.

6. To co-operate with Pastor Michael Kyazze and the Team who will soon start to communicate to you on timelines for Trainings and distribution of the Manuals.

7. To please make every effort to talk and explain this to pastors in your areas who may not be members of this Fellowship. Encourage them not to despair but to co-operate wholly in the sensitization and training exercise. It is for our overall good as the Body of Christ. The training will be open to all pastors and their church leaders.

8. Please pray for Hon. Jane Aceng, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary and the whole Ministry of Health, Dr. Musenero and Dr. Bakainaga – Fellowship Chief Whip, working with WHO. They are your brothers and Sisters in the Lord and doing their best to serve in the midst of very challenging situations. I request that where you have
complaints about local health workers in your area, instead of criticizing, kindly consider contacting them for help or information so that they make the necessary response. You can also use our
structures to reach them.

9. To be careful, remain loving, and civil to one another and not use this pandemic to settle scores. Some few pastors quarrel and castigate us in IRCU, for having allowed the President to close Churches. Did we
allow Cabinet to lock the nation down? Did we need to argue with government just for the sake of it, when we were already aware of what was going on world-wide? Churches were closed all over the world along with schools,
airlines, businesses, arcades, etc.

As far as I know, other Presidents did not even remember, let alone the courtesy to inform religious leaders. Others insisted that we should have consulted them first, or called days of prayer and fasting of pastors together to ask God how to respond to the President. I regard this as the usual subterfuge to discredit, undermine and demonize Leaders. I wish to kindly ask those brothers to have the courtesy of walking in love as our Lord taught us.

If you have an issue with me or whatever I have done, call or visit me, discuss matters with me, before you malign them. (Mat 18:15-20). Until you have done that, you absolutely have no right to speak or write
anything against me.

FULL PASTORAL LETTER: FULL DOCUMENT

Pastoral Letter July 2020

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