The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Botswana (ELCB) and the Ramotswa congregation have clashed again.
The Council tried to suspend the pastor-in-charge, Thabiso Segatlhe, and the congregation committee for three years but that order is being resisted. Apparently, this sort of punishment has never been meted out on anyone before and the congregation is said to have been rocking in the aisles when the letter announcing this suspension was read out in church.
ELCB’s head, Bishop Dr. Cosmos Moenga, says that Segatlhe was suspended because he has repeatedly ignored orders of the Council.
He adds: “He is supposed to obey orders of the Council because it is the supreme organ of the church’s leadership structure.”
Defiance or not, the congregation has notified the Council that it is happy with the service of Segatlhe and would like him to continue as its pastor. Segatlhe is indeed continuing to act as pastor and as late as last Sunday, he was fully garbed in pastoral attire and attending to his flock.
Moenga says that the church is run not by the congregation but the Council, which has the final say on all matters.
“The congregation is not running the church and is not above the Church Council. The pastor was ordained by the Council and is answerable to it. But if he is answerable to the congregation, then his pastoral credentials are questionable,” asserts the Bishop.
A few months ago, the friction between Moenga and Segatlhe became public with revelations that the latter had defied an order that he vacate his position.
According to Moenga, the church’s constitution states that pastor-in-charge is a full-time position while Segatle, who is chaplain of the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital, does it part time. Moenga’s conviction is that due process was circumvented to propel Segatle to where he is presently. An ordained pastor, Segatle has acted as volunteer pastor in Gaborone and was subsequently transferred to Ramotswa to replace a pastor who had been transferred to Mogobane.
Moenga suggests that the transfers were designed in such manner as to create a space for Segatle in Ramotswa. Ramotswa congregation, reportedly the largest in the country, stopped sending money to headquarters mid-last year when their fight with Moenga intensified.
From what Moenga says, the current stand-off could possibly result in Segatlhe being expelled from the church.
“If his defiance persists, we will take appropriate lawful steps. Presently he has been suspended from his position as pastor but there are still more disciplinary measures that can be taken against him. He can be suspended as a member or expelled altogether from the church. I am just citing those as examples of what can happen to him. Nobody is above the law,” Moenga says.