Bishop’s Election Sparks ‘Hatred, Tension’

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By Irene !Hoaes

WINDHOEK

Gerson Doeseb, a concerned member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia ELCRN, is continuing his fight against what he terms the illegal and unconstitutional election of the church’s bishop and his deputy bishop, late last year.

The church has however dismissed these allegations numerous times, saying that some individuals are just trying to drag the name of the church and its leadership into the mud and thereby fuelling hatred and tribalism in the church.

Doeseb questions the fact that the Chairperson of the Synod, the highest authority of the church, Pastor Elizabeth von Francois wrote a letter to the church council headed by the bishop, questioning the fact that only one candidate was nominated instead of three as is normally or procedurally done, if the nominations process had been fair.

“I believe that the letter was not even discussed, that’s why they went ahead with only one candidate,” he charged.

Doeseb further claims that the same chairperson (Von Francois) also called for an investigation into the affairs of the church.

“Why did she want an investigation if all was fine and procedurally done?” Doeseb asked.

He said the letter written by von Francois was proof that something was wrong during the nomination process for the bishop’s candidates.

“As chairperson of the synod, this is not aimed at the person as such but just on the fairness and legality of the procedure that the nomination committee has followed.

If I look at the church order, then it is unacceptable to only go to the synod with one candidate,” the letter addressed to the chairperson of the church board, on June 18, 2007 written by Von Francois reads.

Doeseb further claims that a letter was sent out to all congregations instructing them to only choose one bishop candidate – that is why there were no other candidates.

He further claims that three people, namely Zephania Kameeta, Petrus van Zyl and Walter Bobby Namaseb were nominated at the Ephesians Congregation in Katutura, questioning how the two candidates, Van Zyl and Namaseb got off the list.

“If Ephesians was the only one nominating three candidates and the rest of the 52 congregations nominated only one candidate, the other two candidates were still supposed to be nominees for the positions. Somewhere, something went wrong, that’s why this woman wrote that letter,” Doeseb charged.

Doeseb further notes that the open letter recently sent to the media is supposed to be an affirmation letter of resolutions taken at the synod, which is supposed to be sent out at least three months after the synod has taken place.

The letter is also supposed to be signed by both the bishop and chairperson of the synod, which is not the case this time, as it is only signed by the synod chairperson and came out only 10 months later.

“Which is a clear indication that things are wrong in the church, no matter whether they are claiming that all is well ,” said Doeseb.

Doeseb says he has written numerous letters to the church to question all these issues but said the only response he received from the church were letters from the church’s lawyers. That is why he opted to go public.

“I am accused of character assassination against church leaders but that is not the case, there are other people who are also against these things but are afraid to speak out,” Doeseb said.

Upon inquiry, the chairperson of the ELCRN Synod, Reverend Elizabeth von Francois, admitted having written the letters questioning the one candidate that was nominated.

She said she was not present at the meeting that took the decision of going to the synod with one candidate only, hence she wrote the letter.

Von Francois however noted that after the electoral commission explained to her why only one candidate was nominated, she withdrew her letter.

“The commission told me that the church’s constitution does not provide for any option or advisory if all 53 congregations only nominate one person as their first candidate,” Von Francois said.

Von Francois said all 53 congregations nominated Bishop Kameeta as their first candidate, hence he automatically stood for the position of bishop.

She said only if another person was nominated as a first candidate in any of the congregations, then the current bishop would have had competition at the synod but this time it was not the case.

“It is a unique history for the church – for the first time one person was nominated as first candidate in all our 53 congregations. It shows that people really wanted Bishop Kameeta,” says Von Francois.

She added that there were no irregularities and that people could not be forced to come up with other candidates. If only one came out to be the first candidate in all congregations, then they have chosen the candidate that they wanted.

“Doeseb does not know the church order and constitution,” she adds.

Von Francois notes that the nomination of the bishop was accepted unopposed and endorsed by the synod without any abstentions, including the delegates of Ephesians Congregation of whom she is the pastor.

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