Out of Africa – Corruption, Bishop Obare and the ELCK, by Pr. Rossow

Now that the BJS Annual Conference is past I have time to return to my posts on Africa. In January I spent three weeks in East Africa and a couple of weeks ago I published a list of ten things I learned in Africa. Because of the timely nature of upcoming elections in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) I will jump to point #6 of that list and spend this first follow-up post on corruption, Bishop Obare and the ELCK.

Bishop Obare has called for elections on this coming March 27. It is unclear if this election will take place since the letter announcing the election was not received by all four bishops of the ELCK. This is typical of an Obare-called convention. Three years ago he called an electoral convention on Holy Monday that was to take place on Good Friday of that same week. This violated the mandatory 30 days required for the calling of a convention. Why would you have a synod convention during Holy Week when the buses are booked and pastors are busy in their parishes? Not only that, he also convened this convention in an out of the way place that was difficult for the delegates of his opponents to attend. Keep in mind that this is Africa where people have no discretionary funds for transportation, that it was holy week, that the buses were already booked and that it takes three to four times as long to travel on the very poor road system.

Why should you care and why should you keep reading? There are at least two reasons. First, Kenya and the ELCK have been the darlings of LCMS mission and mercy work for the last several years. For instance, Bishop Obare was chosen by President Harrison to preach the sermon at the Harrison inauguration five years ago. Secondly, the LCMS has also poured millions of dollars into the ELCK over the past several years for mission and mercy work. This money has been at the sole discretion of Bishop Obare and if you talk to the other Bishops and also to many of the pastors of the ELCK you will find that this money has not gone for the purposes it was intended. (The LCMS has curtailed contributions to the ELCK but money is still given by districts. Just this month North Dakota District in convention approved sending money to Kenya. The LCMS is still sending money to Kenya but it goes to a regional director but the bishops and pastors in the ELCK are troubled by this LCMS regional director because he refers to Bishop Obare as “Lord Obare” and the use of the money is still directed by Bishop Obare.)

For years I have heard second hand of the problems in the ELCK but now, after coming out of Africa, I have learned of these problems with face to face meetings with bishops and pastors in the ELCK. I have been given numerous copies of documents that show the corruption of Bishop Walter Obare and last year published a link to a website from ELCK members that contained many of those documents. I have a couple of Facebook friends in the ELCK and when they heard that I was coming to Africa they made arrangements to meet with me. The first meeting took place in Kisii land and when the bishop and pastors around Nairobi heard about the meeting they too asked to meet with me.

I have expressed these concerns about money and the abuses of Obare with LCMS officials for years and have always been told this is simply the result of tribal jealousies. Obare is of the Luo tribe and they are at odds with most of the other tribes. I always figured there was some sense in that explanation but the more than twenty people who met with me to express these concerns were from six different tribes and most of them were from Obare’s own Luo tribe. This is not a matter of tribal factionalism. This is a matter of abuse by one individual, Bishop Obare.

The concerned bishops and pastors from the ELCK verified that Obare uses funds donated by the LCMS to fix elections. He fixes elections by giving money for transportation, food and housing at electoral conventions for those delegates who support him. He also gives them money even beyond their needs for convention attendance. I have a verified recording of a disturbing quote from one delegate at the despicable Holy Week convention. When asked why he supports Obare he said “Obare gives us money. What do you have to give us? You give us no money.”

I could go on and on about the corruption wrought by Bishop Obare. Maybe once I finish the rest of my posts on the more positive things I learned coming out of Africa, I will do so. For now, pray for the leaders who are seeking to unseat Bishop Obare that they be successful, stop sending money to the ELCK until Obare is out of office or repents, and make any Facebook connections you can in the ELCK and encourage them to be strong and stand up for what is right.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Out of Africa – Corruption, Bishop Obare and the ELCK, by Pr. Rossow — 18 Comments

  1. So what else is new! THe same has gone on for decades with the Gutnius Luth Church and Bishop Piso. No one at the Lutheran Vatican gives a salvation (D—) about these distant people.

  2. Erich,

    I share your passion for this issue. I do think though that those at the “Lutheran Vatican” do care and want to do the right thing but it is often hard for them to see anything beyond the policies that they have in place.

    They are accountable for sure but I think it is wrong to say they do not care. I hope this post and others will help them to see beyond the needed policies.

  3. I cannot understand why transfers to mission areas with uncertain / weak governance are not automatically paid into a trust structure that can be insulated from influence, and with a strong oversight board to regulate use. The risks for not doing so are significant to the LCMS; what happens if a rogue bishop decides to funnel donations into a political campaign that ends in a civil war similar to what happened with the Catholic Church in Rwanda?

  4. Dear BJS,
    This is where “wording” may come into play.
    If I “give a donation”, it is a gift.
    If I “give funds for”, it requires move stringent oversight.

    So the NOW District “sends” monies.

    Is there a specific plan for the usage of? Has ELCK said, we need “X” amount of monies for this project?
    And is there review of what has occured over time?

  5. This post is very revealing although I am wondering whether LCMS head office can stand and say enough is enough. It is better to say the truth as the truth shall set us free. I am sure your post will bring much awareness. Our Church indeed in intensive unit. The damage that ELCK’s current regime has brought will take time to correct.I don’t think in Missouri Synod any president can misuse power this way and be left to walk boldly. Last week some people were arrested and now they have to appear in court next month. Imagine a bishop take his flock to court.Oh my! I feel like crying that this regime is a regime of doom although LCMS is embracing it. Lord come and help your Church.

  6. You are right on when you say “stop sending money.” But then you add, “until something else happens.” When something else happens, the money will begin to flow once again, and the same old corruption will be produced, along with jealousy, apathy, infighting, posturing, letters and email sent to Districts, pastors, former missionaries, official LCMS para-mission groups, etc. As long as outside resources support the work of the local churches and pastors, the problem will continue. LCMS World Mission, way back, invited this organization to deliver their message in St. Louis to the mission staff, in Africa, and other parts. The message was mostly ignored. Check it out for yourself. http://www.wmausa.org/ Allow the Christians in Africa to look to the Lord for the His benefits, for body and soul, as we do in our church in this country. Most of the members of the congregation I attend here in Albuquerque would be offended if someone from, say, China, suddenly appeared with funds and goods and said: “Here, take this. Let me pay your pastor’s salary, let me build him a house, let me send him a bike/landrover, etc. And please say ‘thankyou.'” It will take more than a change of attitude and policy in the official halls of the LCMS to turn this around.

  7. A couple of years ago, the ELCK leadership attemped to have the vast majority of congregational monies sent through the Bishops office with the guise that a small percentage would be returned to the congregations. They also have charged a 10% premium on all LCMS medical missions as a ‘conversion fee’ of which there is no such fee through the banks. The Bishop is also handing out church discipline to those who may oppose him in upcoming elections, so the pastors appears to be unworthy of office. The Bishops son is also sporting a brand new, way above what he could afford, automobile. I, for one, am ashamed the LCMS has not called the ELCK to end this perversion on the church in Kenya. Thank you for pointing out this evil to others!

  8. ELCK is lead by an Anglican not Lutheran. Where else do we have ‘archbishop’ in Lutheran Church? Episcopal excesses while using congregational constitution has messed our Church. Districts-Districts(dioceses) connections may solve this corruption.

  9. Every time i think of my mother church ELCK I can’t help but shade tears. We have turned away from preaching the True Gospel of Salvation to all and instead opted for politics in church which render the Small congregations helpless and stunted growth in Gods word. I’d rather urge the concerned authorities summon Bishop Obare and even make all interventions necessary to stop him from misuse of power and Funds for his own good while the entire ELCK is suffering. My Prayer is that God may see us through this Dark regime in Christ Jesus Name.

  10. It is indeed very saddening that the ELCK situation has been marred by the brutal and dictatorial reign of Obare. I guess that it should also be read that Obare is in the office illegally. He was elected in 2002 as a presiding bishop for a term of only 6 years, whose term in the office expired long ago. He has assumed a title as an archbishop to which he has not been elected to deserve it as he was elected in the old constitution. I must say the LCMS administration has supported his leadership oblivious of the cries from within the ELCK. Numerous attempts to reach the LCMS administration has been ignored citing the issue as tribalism. Thank God that Obare has just messed up across all the dioceses. Is this tribal? I pray that the LCMS should stop sending money to Obare until he is kicked out of the office.

  11. I live in Kenya, and I can corroborate the allegations made because churches have been reduced to business enterprises. Obare is one of the many church leaders who are abusing the word of God for selfish gains. The earlier something is done, the better.

  12. Obarerian dynasty should end. If funds from LCMS is what is making Obare a life bishop, then they should stop it. I graduated from the seminary in 2005 and was ordained in 2006,till now i haven’t got the money meant for the pastors’ cow. The Almighty God will one day come to our rescue.

  13. Dominick Onege, you went back to drunkardness and neglected your call. You have yourself to blame for not getting the cow project money. How would you have received the money while you were busy greeting and dancing with logs? Tell your fellow drunkards like Gwachi, Ombogo, Atura and Asiago to mind their business in their liberal faithful lutherans in Kenya. Asiago is a rot, more rotten than any other in christendom, he is the father of division ever since. He will not succeed in dividing ELCK.

  14. I know our living God is watching Obare has enriched himself with funds ment for ELCK Projects and is busy identifying leaders who will protect his interest once out of office God is watching

  15. Having grown up throughout my entire life in the ELCK ; first as a child at Matongo Mission Complex , went to nursery /Sunday school at the mission, went to Primary and Secondly at Matongo Primary and Secondly, having worked with ELCK head office with the hope of serving a Church I craved to serve when I grew up and just being Lutheran, I feel the missionaries were mislead and being mislead today which is non Godly. I free Walter Obare is not serving God but himself and sinful but again I confess all the ELCK ??pastors are the same for they have fought ever since Martin Lundostrom arrived in Kenya in 1948 from Sweden. The same wars made the man of God get chased after he planted the Church with hardships and loss. I pray for the Lutheran Church.

  16. I feel sad that the ELCK has come to the ditch and that Obare is sitting on the lid shitting on the church. If you ask me about the marks of the antichrist in the church, I will refer you to Obare; if you ask me about the embodiment of the devil, I will still refer you to only one that I know and that is none other than Obare. In the ELCK, Obare is superior than the Pope. If you question his authority and excesses in the church, it amounts to blasphemy: your sentence if you are a pastor is direct deflockment. The ELCK is under Babylonian captivity.
    Obare doesn’t care about the future of the ELCK. All he cares about is his future from the present enrichment. I have used this expression before “he is a shameless lad who doesn’t mind selling his mother’s old pants to have some coins for his luxury abroad”. Since the LCMS stopped funding his ghost church projects, he has resorted to selling virtually everything that the church has acquired in the past for the advancement of the gospel. This is the most recent development which any interested party should know.

  17. Gwachi you are a sham
    Reconsider your stand because the church will not tolerate your madness. The church did not sponsor you to turn out to be a faithless pastor who only thinks of what goes into his stomach. You have failed the church. Repent now or you will be in hell.

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