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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Democracy in God's business

THE office of the head of a church of 1.3 million Papua New Guineans carries no small clout. 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church, a truly nationalized and autonomous body in the Lutheran World Federation prides itself in being a major provider of health and education services in the country, second perhaps only to the Catholic Church.

The person presiding over the church which also runs a successful line of business, owns a teacher training institution, a seminary and soon a university, is someone with power.

The recently ended 27th Synod of the ELC voted in academic/minister Giegere Wenge as the church's chief shepherd.  He takes over from where former acting head bishop and new deputy head bishop Rev. Zau Rapa has left.  Zau Rapa had also been deputy to another great Lutheran leader in the late former head bishop Rev. Dr. Wesley Kigasung.

Rev. Wenge was voted in through the democratic means which dictates that the choice of the majority wins.  An undesirable bi-product of that process was a confrontation between two delegations from Simbu. 
When earnest prayer seeking the guidance of the man above is left out, you are left with Waigani-style lobbying and money changing hands, which is possible even in a church election. This is not to say that that was what transpired at ELC synod.

A delegate from the Simbu congregation charged that the other Simbu group had not supported their cause to vote in a "Highlander" to the top job after the church was run by "Coastals" ever since its birth.  It was a sad day PNG politics and regionalism crept right into the church of God.   Or did those un-Christian traits germinate in the church and flourish in the secular world?

The Simbu man expressed his displeasure after the election results were announced.
Whatever his feelings - and those of other delegates who wanted someone else as head bishop,  Rev Wenge is the man to hold the church on course for the next four years. 

His is a position of power; one that is to be envied even by politicians and aspiring politicians.  In Morobe at least, if you have the backing of the Lutheran Church membership in any election, you are counted among the serious contenders.

But the democratic process is unfortunately not always God's method in making leaders for his people.  It is the best we mortals are left with though. 

Therefore those who hold positions of power over man in God's behalf have an awesome responsibility - responsibility that should be exercised almost with fear. History is littered with reminders of blunders or controversies arising from decisions by church men in the name of God.

Pope Paul IV's 1968 encyclical letter Humane Vitae that prohibits any artificial contraception, for instance, had met dissenension in the church then and still does. Rev Wenge wields power and influence that the Lutheran membership and the nation expect him to use with the greatest care, setting the human soul as his primary business. Any deviation from that, fed by political ambition and a hunger for power and prestige, would only lead to misery in his church and the country generally.

PNG looks to Rev Wenge for leadership - Christ-like leadership that would be a relief from what we have been getting from those who deem themselves masters instead of servants.

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