Many staff members of the EvangelicalLutheranChurch in the Republic (ELCRN) of Bianami are in a dilemma over non payment of their salaries. Many of them are left desperately deliberating whether to go to the court over the church’s failure to pay their salaries or simply report their church to God for further sanctions.
Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of the biggest churches in the country, with 54 congregations countrywide and more than 100 employees, which normally pays the staff on the 15th of each month has defaulted this month without giving any reason for the non payment of the salaries. The payment failure went contrary to the recent assurances last month from the church leadership that the church was out of her financial nemesis. However, if the recent request made by the church leadership that every adult member of the church should contribute 40 percent of their weekly income to the church’s head office, is anything to go by, it has raised many questions unanswered over the state of the church’s financial muscles.
“What kind of religious hypnosis is this? Normally, we received our salary every 15th of the month. If there is a delay, we are always told before hand with detailed explanations for the delay. Now, we are two days behind. No payment, no communiqué from the church. How could one classify this behaviour – arrogance of deceitful?” One administrative staff, who requested anonymity thundered.
The administrative staff is one of the 100 employees of the church, including other administrative workers, pastors, chairpersons of the various branches of the church and lecturers at the seminary in Hoekwind. According to the Kata Kata’s reporter, most of the staff is confused as to how to take care of their financial obligations in view of the recent payment failure. The advice of the priest to the congregation during the sermon that they should leave their problems to God was received with scepticism.
“Of course, he could tell us that; even though we are all not paid – that is, if he has really not been paid himself – he is still better off than us. At least he gets some extras including weekly Sunday Offertory supplements like fowl, Biltong, millet and sorghum. Did you hear him complaining about the non payment of the salary?” One of congregation fumed.
Several attempts by our reporter to speak to the church leadership were fruitless. A call to Bishop Phaniaze Meetaka of Hoekwind, was abortive as his office informed the reporter that the Bishop was attending a church meeting in Warongootji. Asked by the reporter why the Bishop did not pick our phone calls, one of his Hoekwind office staff intimated the reporter that the man of God “forgot his new Samsung galaxy S111 in Hoekwind. Our numerous calls to both the deputy Bishop Ulpa Tingkis and the church finance manager Vries De Lenie went unanswered. Interesting enough, deputy Bishop Ulpa Tingkis, who – mistakenly? – picked up the phone when the reporter called initially requested that he should be called back because he was in a “meeting”. However, his phone was switched off when he was called back.
But many Biansnami are wondering whether the non – payment of the staff salaries is the only reason behind the refusal of the Church leadership to communicate. These worries have become serious in view of the recent allegation of fraud in the church, which has left more than N$1 million missing from the Church’s coffer. The expulsion of more than 20 elders of the church – including some priests - following accusations of what the church baptized euphemistically as “curious transactions” seems to buttress the suspicion that the church is in serious financial malaria.
But the problem of fraud and financial embezzlements is not all that worries the church. Many congregations are now questioning the moral authority of the church. More than that, the congregations are contemplating sending a delegation to God to report what they called the “ungodly acts of the supposedly godly leaders.”
“Maybe, they would listen to their Master above, who we hope will caution them for this earthly punishment they give to us.” One female staff suggested rather hopelessly.
The church leadership has the option of listening to the concerns of her congregations or face possible wrath of the sheep which includes church exodus or absenteeism. This could lead to more financial misery in the church and job losses amongst the church employees - including the church leaders. These problems might be less grave than the wrath of the Master above, which many congregations believe, might be unpredictably worse.
The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story is real.