A LOCAL tabloid has of late been reporting on shenanigans by men of cloth and just recently, a jilted pastor allegedly poured sulphuric acid over his lover who is now battling for her life in hospital.
Not a week passes without reading or hearing about some immoral incident involving such people. Men of the cloth are viewed as highly respectable and expected to lead by example.
Pastors and their families nearly everywhere are expected to present themselves as perfect and always available to others.
However, it is the degree of trust that congregants put in these men of cloth, which turns into psychological blackmail, resulting in men and women being taken advantage of.
There are also clear cases of spiritual abuse where congregants are forced or driven into doing unorthodox practices because church founders have assumed status that of a god. Congregants are committed to faith, but commitment to faith does not necessarily mean that one must tolerate and accept anything that comes in the name of Jesus Christ.
Shamed Zimbabwe-born preacher Walter Masocha, who is based in Scotland, abused the trust of women in his flock who literally worshipped the ground he walked on, according to the Daily Record of Scotland.
A disillusioned member of his church told how he surrounded himself with women he called Daddy’s Dancing Girls and would give them flannels soaked in his sweat as gifts.
A six-day trial heard he groped a deaconess while he was supposed to be praying for her stomach complaint and put his hand down a schoolgirl’s trousers saying he was trying to remove demons.
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When the 32-year-old victim told her husband, also a member of the church, he told her: “The prophet is seeing something in your genitals that needs to be removed, so he was removing that.”
Church members later tried to have her sectioned.
But a former member said suspicions were raised over Masocha’s behaviour in 2008.
The preacher sparked concern after regularly inviting women worshippers to private “surgeries” held in his bedroom, but banned their husbands from attending.
One churchgoer, who is still a member of the church, said: “He was obviously behaving inappropriately at this point.”
The church has worshippers from all over the United Kingdom, but the Stirling congregation was seen as its lynchpin.
One witness said: “The women were literally at his feet. They were known as Daddy’s Dancing Girls.
“It wasn’t healthy, they thought he was anointed,” the Daily Record noted.
The church member now believes Masocha preyed on vulnerable people to set up his church.
Some churches in Zimbabwe have also driven their congregants into parting with their hard-earned cash as they are told that their fortunes will multiply. There are two prominent prophets in Zimbabwe who have been sued for these alleged fraudulent activities.
This is because these pastors have been given a “god” status and hence congregants see nothing wrong in whatever these men of the cloth do, even when the people know it’s wrong or violates them.
One of Zimbabwe’s leading apostolic sects recorded a rape case against its faithful in 1969, but that case never took off because the husband of the woman advised her not to as this would embarrass the church.
However, when the husband died in the mid-2000, the woman took up the matter again, but was not successful although it is believed that the docket is still pending four decades later.
While women’s organisations have conducted a lot of campaigns around all forms of abuse, they seem to skirt the church where a lot of these cases are actually simmering.
Recently, Press reports noted that the Women’s Action Group had embarked on advocacy training on gender-based violence targeting Apostolic and Zionist sects, in a move meant to involve the church in reducing cases of abuse which often go unreported.
The organisation, however, noted that it was difficult to know statistically cases of gender-based violence in the church because women were afraid of discrimination and victimisation for putting the church’s reputation at risk if they made a report. In some instances, we have leaders or members covering up abuses which would have been committed by some of them.
Rape, infidelity and domestic violence by men of the cloth is appalling, but their spouses will not speak because they do not want damage pastors’ reputations.
These churches, for example, are a closed system that values its own governance over the judicial system.
In fact, the church, structured by the laws of God, often finds itself at odds with “the laws of man”.
These conflicts are reconciled through a practice referred to as church governance, where many churches espouse a system found in the Bible in Matthew 18.
The offended Christian is to first approach his “brother” with the fault in private. If there is no resolution, then the offended party should approach again with witnesses. Ultimately, he should tell the church.
This is nothing new to anyone who has been involved in a church. People who have been raised in these churches have seen this system of governance deployed to handle anything from rape, adultery to domestic violence.
And in each instance, this system has failed to stop abusers or protect victims. Because there are no repercussions, all an abuser can do is ask for forgiveness from the victim and God.
A worrying trend has also developed where church vehicles, some with names of denominations printed on them, are being found parked at drinking holes and even brothels.
It is no wonder that we always read about pastors who have been publicly ridiculed in public by commercial sex workers they would not have paid for services rendered.
So what is the role of the church in our society given the dirty activities that are being swept under the carpet? Who should monitor these men of the cloth?