Ecclesiastical War Looming in the Kenyan Lutheran Church as Obare Hires Guards to Keep People from the Electoral Convention, by Pr. Rossow

Lutherans gathered for worship at the Cathedral in the Southwest District of the ELCK

Lutherans gathered for worship at the Cathedral in the Southwest District of the ELCK

While we are fighting our worship war here in the LCMS, a worthy fight indeed, the Lutherans we are in fellowship with in Kenya, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK), are fighting a more literal war.

Five busloads of people just arrived at the site of the electoral convention in a somewhat remote area of northern Kenya only to find that Presiding Bishop Obare has hired local policemen to keep them out. The policemen escorted the buses to the police station and the authorities were surprised to find out that there were three bishops from the ELCK in the buses. They were also surprised to find out they were Lutherans because Obare told the authorities that there were some non-Lutherans coming to disrupt the convention.

The last word I got a few minutes ago is that Obare would only talk to them through the gate to the complex with the bishops and the others locked out.

It is troublesome that Obare scheduled this election in a remote region and a place where he has somewhat more support. It is also disconcerting that he did not send the notice of the convention to all the churches of the ELCK and not even to all the bishops.

This is not the first time Obare has manipulated elections. It has been going on for years and he has used money from the LCMS to do it. As I reported a couple of weeks ago it is good that the LCMS has stopped sending money directly to the ELCK but LCMS districts still seem to be doing so.

I once asked why they do not start a new church. It is not that easy in the ELCK since the denomination owns all parish and school properties.

Speaking of the worship wars and the use of hymns, they were not singing a praise ditty in the buses on their way to this war. Instead, my contact said that as he talked on the phone with people on the bus, he could hear “A Mighty Fortress” being sung in the background. May the liturgy continue to serve these warriors and may God bless the ELCK with just and honest leaders.

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.


Ecclesiastical War Looming in the Kenyan Lutheran Church as Obare Hires Guards to Keep People from the Electoral Convention, by Pr. Rossow — 37 Comments

  1. Pray with us pals. We have been on the road since 6:00am. We did not stop anywhere for food. Our vehicles many of them school buses were barricaded for more than 2 hours at roadblock a kilometre away from the venue for the convention. We have resolved to sleep in the buses. The kenyan law prohibits public service vehicles from moving beyond 9:00pm. We will sing our voices out.

  2. It is very true as you wrote Rev.Timothy. The situation is devastating indeed. A Bishop who was chosen during daylight does not want to retire instead he uses the money of the Church that he has been chosen to lead to buy Policemen to guard him. A Shepherd can boldly close out the sheep and then claim to be a worthwhile shepherd? What will Obare tell God when he returns back? The words have reached this far end and we go to bed praying that God will intervene. It is His Church that he bought by the precious blood of His son Jesus Christ. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

    May I encourage my fellow ELCK clergy and members alike that our present time is seed time; in the other world we shall reap as we sow now. Surely those who live a carnal, sensual life, must expect no other fruit from such a course than misery and ruin. Dr. Martin Luther King once sung “We shall overcome someday”. Mark my words this is the beginning of the end of this tyrant leadership. To those who are empty stomach at Kapenguria have shown maturity. In due time you shall leap. God is watching all this.

  3. We are not in contact with the village around us. This place happens to be the most dreaded security region in Kenya. We have armed bandtry from time to time. Men and women walk in the nights or even daytime robbing and raiding villages. This is the kind of risk we are exposed to despite the cold and hunger. Kenyan police have been killed here by cross-border bandits who do it as a sport as well as for gain.

  4. The convention should have been held in Kisii land where there are the most ELCK members (and it is safe) or at least in Nairobi but of course the bishops of those areas are on to Obare and oppose him because of his years of deception.

  5. We boarded school buses and we were given the trust for their security. We can do nothing other than act watchmen and women. We must keep vigil in prayer and guard. More than 60 pastors are huddled here and Obare has less than 10 loyal pastors with him as they continue the convention amid this misdemeanor and disrespect.

  6. PLEASE, LCMS, LWML, ILH, Thrivent, Districts, local parishes, “mission-minded” Pastors, DO NOT SEND MONEY TO KENYA!! Can’t you see what outside resources produce?

  7. I have worked for 20 years in Kenya and I periodically still continue there in teaching activities. I have cautiously informed various people and groups of what has been going in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK). What time and again surprise me are many cynical comments such as “Africa is like that. Their leaders deserve their corruption money. Corruption is part of their culture” etc. Such cynical people might think that famine or ebola virus should be quite ok in Africa as part of their culture. Neither corruption and violence are ok in Africa nor famines and diseases. Primarily, God’s Word forbids corruptiopn: God hates bribes and bribing “Big Bad Men” in Africa and everywhere because they are stealing from poor and from those who cannot defend themselves. The new leaders of ELCK Bishop Thomas Asiago and Bishop Bakari Kea deserve our keenest attention and unwavering support. Too much mission funds from the U.S. and Europe have ended up in the course of years on wrong bank accounts to finance shady activities.

    Dr. Anssi Simojoki Finland

  8. Let me play the devil’s advocate. Bishop Walter Obare made a bold decision when he went to Sweden to ordain a bishop for those who wanted to be faithful to the Scriptures and confessions. There was no financial advantage to this. On the contrary, from what I understand, his life was threatened. I’m not sure that should be a really big surprise, though, because he was taking a stance that had strong opposition.

    Even if the threats on his life are no longer active, I would think his move has created some long-time enemies. It seems that Obare distinguished himself as a churchman back when he did what those of us who support the work of BJS would support.

    Now, on the one hand, it is possible that he has become corrupt. I don’t think this is likely, though, considering his resolution to do the right thing despite the danger to his and his family’s life and the fact that he was to gain no personal advantage. Based on the magnanimity of his decision, I have a feeling he will be the same man until he dies. On the other hand, those who opposed his decision are probably the same men also, and they are not likely to just go quietly into the night. I don’t think they have.

  9. @Pr. Rob Jarvis #13

    Unfortunately that is not a correct assumption, as Rev. Anssi Simojoki could attest. He has a very long, first-hand experience with Obare. Money and power are strong temptations, and even good men can succumb. The heart of a man is something we can not see, but I know that there are those here, including Anssi, who have first-hand experience who would have much to say about what we can see and have seen.

  10. Rob,

    You are all wet on this one. The Kenyans put up a website last year with all sorts of documentation of Obare’s corruption. I have seen the documents first hand.

    This was formerly dismissed as tribal rivalry but now there are dozens of church leaders from Obare’s own tribe (the Luo’s) who are spilling the beans on him because they have finally seen it for their own eyes.

  11. Dear mr.editor
    If you are a Christian, report accurately. Lies only taking you hell! Get an accurate report before you make a publication.

  12. Pastor Rossov,
    I don’t know what is going on in the church there in Kenya, but I don’t think that it is fair that a foreign pastor from another synod takes side in this conflict and spread rumours about a bishop of different church body. So I pray that you think again before using the media to say anything negative within another church.

  13. Brother Jarvis,
    I respect your desire for fair play. The limit is only the point when people refuse to face the facts. I do not maintain that you refuse to do so, but many people do when it comes to the Lutherans in Kenya. There is no excuse whatsoever for naivete when the facts are available in abundance. As far as I know, there were no threats to Obare’s life in Sweden. I know it since we worked that time very closely together even in Gothenburg during the ordinations and installation. However, I have faced in Nairobi high Kenyan authorities when I was summoned to answer to their serious questions that were raised by Obare’s and his advocates’ false testimonies concerning my person and my long-time work as a missionary. I can assure to you that I was in danger. I would not like to speculate what were Obare’s intentions although I have my personal view of them. He invested in LCMS’s good will and has harvested plenty of money, since then. That might explain something. Yet, the people who are oppressed in the ELCK are confessional Lutherans like we. However, I stick to a long list of further criminal acts and false textimonies about my person and work. I have been in a pastor’s home which was ransacked by the bishop’s hit-men who even planned to rape the pastor’s wife but were compelled to leave her alone. Obare has claimed before Kenyan police that I planned and even financed his assassination. What would have happened if they would have been inclined to swallow this kind of fairy tale? The list is long. Why would you not interview Bishop Thomas Asiago or Bishop Bakari Kea or all those 140 delegates, a good number of Lutheran pastors, with official authorization documents from their parishes, who were barred by oine man from a constitutional AGM to which their were sent?
    I have many times seen how politicking poisons the springs of the truth. When the Katyn massacre was reported to FDR, the President sent the man to a solitary Pacific island lest he would cause any friction between FDR and his jovial “Uncle Joe”, i.e. Josef Stalin. Winston Churchill similarly silenced his sources of information in Britain. It was all politics with no vestige of the truth. Let us avoid such politicking at all costs in the church and face even the most unpleasant truth. The truth alone sets us free.

    Dr. Anssi Simojoki

  14. #simojoki I am not sure wether you are a pastor or not, but even if you are not one just like me, you should be able to know what being put under church discipline is and its implications. These bishops of yours one is serving under church discipline and another ‘defroked’ I doubt my English here because these are very unfamiliar terms to me.these are the people you are serving!
    The truth is bitter but it shall prevail. The problems elck is facing is being engendered by you people, and only a few of you.If not for your big monies we couldn’t have over twelve court cases elck is facing. It beats logics that an American pastor instituted a court case agaist the Arch bishop of elck a case still under ligation.
    You brought the good word of our lord to us, good, how I wish that you could have carried some back with you so as to help keep you on is better we die poor in faith.

  15. @Pr. Rob Jarvis #13
    I’ve known Walter Orbare for 19 years. I met him in seminary when we were students together. The complaints and accusations against him do not resemble the man I knew then nnor the man who welcomed me to Kenya in 2013 on our mission trip to Western Pokot. We were sent by him to a peace conference in Kapangoria to show that there is only one tribe before God. I consider him my brother in Christ. The people of ELCK and my brother are in my prayers. Are there no voices in defence of this man of God?
    Rev. James M. Edge

  16. Jim,

    I had the same experience you did and then I started seeing disturbing documents coming out of the ELCK headquarters, started hearing impossible to believe tape-recordings, heard LCMS officials dismiss it all as tribal warfare but then I started hearing from more and more Africans telling the same story over and over. The facts were consistent.

    I held back for a few years and reported some of these things cautiously. Then at the end of last year I made a trip to Kenya. I spent three weeks there and in Tanzania. I went to teach the Gospel and did. I had no plans of making any contacts with any of these people but they sought me out.

    It turns out now that three of the four bishops in the ELCK are rallying against Obare. Most of the people who met with me were from his own tribe, the Luos. This is not tribal rivalry. This is deceit, corruption and worse.

    I do not doubt your perceptions. I had the same experience but digging deeper than interactions with Walter Obare here in the US has revealed some very disturbing things.

    How do you account for three of the four bishops of the ELCK being turned away from the electoral convention? Should duly elected delegates be turned away from a church convention?

    Those five buses of delegates and those three bishops are sinners like you and me but on the counts listed in this post I believe them whole-heartedly. I have looked them in the eyes, studied their documents and the sources, and compared the countless stories I have heard and found them to be consistent.

    Where are the defenders of Obare you ask? Go to the second post I wrote and you can see them. They are using profanity, threats, and shouting as loud as then can on the internet, not facts but groundless assertions.

  17. Pastor Tim, I am very sorry to say that you have very limited information about ELCK, seek to know more before you make a conclusion, you are so one sided and not ready listen.respect elck, respect the church of God.Obare is not that devil as you put it….and if you are man enough face him, face ELCK and get to know the truth. Our problems are your people’s own making.ELCK shall remain in faith,and the word shall be proclaimed.

  18. @Pascal Nyango #23

    Now, when you see sons begin to defend their fathers,you know the last generals are in the battle field,and with that,the secret weapons are exhausted.What I’m saying is that Pascal Nyango is Obare’s son and what do you expect him to do other than defend the father!

  19. @Pastor Tim Rossow #22

    You may not know but the truth is here.Obare is multiethnic.His father is kisii and the mother is Luo.However this is what he uses to escape accountability from both sides.When with Luos he slams at the kisii and potrays them as backward.When he is with Kissi he tells them how arrogant Luos are.Be careful my brother that is how he made his way to the top ie by deception and crafty manouvers

  20. It is now very clear that the ELCK is set to go on without the Obare regime. I have favorably accepted the last defenses in favor of Obare, and especially from those whom he has been a favorite bishop. However, the truth be told, Obare has outlived his usefulness in the Church. He has been a very sly Bishop to most missionaries coming here. I pray that he accept this new change and that the ELCK is now majorly tired of him. I am glad that Pr. Timothy was here and patient enough to gather the information from us. As indicated above by Obare’s son Pascal that Pr Rossow is partial, I want refute this and say that this is a very objective writing.

  21. Am ashamed to read this article for two reasons. 1. As a Lutheran from Kenya and a media practitioner, I struggle to distinguish the intent of this article. Is it aimed at fueling animosity among the Lutherans in the ELCK! I don’t see any other purpose of such a Op-ed piece using an “undisclosed source”. If the writer is driven by a sober mind reflective of Lutheranism, the article would have been more objective. This article would have served Kenyan Lutherans better if it was well researched, credible and gave solutions to an existing leadership crisis at ELCK.

    Whereas the Lutheranism is driven from the call of reformation and thus is expected to advocate for change inline with biblical principles. The author of this article is influenced by the secular journalism angle of writing which is guided by “when it bleeds it leads”. He fails to give pastoral wisdom or basic qualities to help inform audience (particularly in ELCK) on ethical considerations of leadership.

    This article may or may not have some elements of truth to the ills befalling ELCK. It’s not my duty to ascertain that. The tone of the writer falls short of the Lutheran ideals or for that reason Christian mission of reconciliation and peace makers.

    It shames me to read fore sacred titles spitting venomous and war mongering statements.

    The Lutherans in Kenya and particularly those in ELCK need more of our prayers, pastoral guidance, reconciliatory statements and not abusive exchanges or inciting articles. I believe the LWF Africa Lutheran Council, LUCCEA et al will initiate reconciliation talks as Lutherans plan to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the 1955 first Lutheran conference in Marangu.

    Allow Africans to diagnose and treat own challenges without presenting opinions on who is better placed for ELCK leadership, while ignoring the locals. Objective writing gives both sides right to respond otherwise any writing falls short of the media threshold of being bias.

  22. George Arende,

    An international bishop offered to work on reconciliation and Obare refused.

    Also, do you think it is right to lock duly elected delegates out of a church convention?

  23. Pastor Tim,
    It is sad to notice that you have set your objectives, an strictly aiming at something. I think you are capable of reasoning better than what you write and I would encourage you to do so. I precisely said that you know absolutely nothing about ELCK. Respect the church of God, and I remind you again, RESPECT THE CHURCH.

  24. Pascal,

    I understand that you want to defend your father Walter Obare, but please just don’t make demands. Respond to the assertions made in this post with whatever facts you have to the contrary.

  25. Once again I want to stress that these media utterances purporting to be for or against personalities only help to tear elck further apart. If you don’t have anything better to do pls don’t do it here. This church now badly needs PRAYER more than the much worshiped money.

  26. The Leity,

    There are no personalities being promoted here. We are promoting open and free elections with no on locked out.

    We are making assertions against Obare because he is in charge while duly elected delegates are being locked out.

  27. Mr. Tim ge to know that whoever was locked out if there is were not delegates, who doesn’t know that money was used ho hire goons to come and disrupt elections? You know clearly where the money used to hire goons that you are so calling ‘delegates’ came from! Repent of this if you are a true pastor. I really pity those whom you stand before, purporting to be preaching to every sunday.
    You will fool some of the people some of the times but you will not fool all the people all the times.

  28. Brothers and sisters in Christ Shalom and the Peace of the Lord be with you all. It is so sad and a shame to read all these utterances. As much as I would not like to be an activist in my comment, I am shocked with the remarks from both the opposers and the proposers of so-called “the article”. Apparently it seems that things are falling apart somehow, somewhere and to some people but not to God!

    For me, the challenges that ELCK has been facing is not unique but rather a situation that requires a self-examination and through their spiritual will if not political will seek internal mechanism to address and manage them. External intervention might not help. LCMS, LUCA and LUCCEA might not be of great help but just to accompany you. Sometimes they are bound to create more harm “Dependency syndrome” due to their material support. ELCK leaders need to humble themselves before God to show them the way.

    At the end Christ has to be glorified. From my research findings last year where ELCK among other 8 protestant churches in kenya was part of my unit of analysis there is no, social and spiritual institution without such leadership challenges. I believe ELCK leadership needs a leadership transformation process to being servanthood oriented through listening and obeying the word of God. Let us remember that we are a product of a leadership and theological crisis about 500 years ago. “Aluta Continua!” – Reformation taking its course of action but through God’s Grace. There is light at the end of the tunnel or life beyond the cross. Leaders let us be sober and learn to revisit and adhere to our Biblical, doctrinal, constitutional and policy discourses and frameworks that define our identity, structures, procedures and practices. I wish you a quick recovery. You are in our prayers.

  29. Rev. Mwololo,

    Thank you for offering wisdom and leadership which demontrates prophetic voice of our biblical mission.

  30. From the argument above the one thing I find common is the agreement that our church ELCK Is in great trouble and needs divine intervention. I believe in the power of prayer. As you pray you believe that what you are asking your Creator shall be granted. After praying you go forth and live the life that you requested from your Creator, you don’t again begin doubting whether your prayers were accepted.
    When you pray for victory in war you don’t sit and wait for the victory, you fight. God doesn’t come down in His being to deliver His people, but He uses people on earth to advance His will. We should not sit and wait,we are the agents of God.

    The following are facts
    1. Obare’s term in office is expired.
    2. Two of the four bishops are under church discipline for reasons well known by the head office.
    3. Corruption and misappropriation of funds is rife in the church.
    4. There are factions in my church.
    my question now is when you have two bishops under church discipline,who is the problem? Is it the sheep or the shepherd? It’s either the church systems are rotten or somebody somewhere is using the church systems to advance his personal agenda.
    My prayer to the Lutherans in Kenya is ‘Lets all arise and save our church or else it’s headed to the dogs’ Our church needs professionals to manage it’s administrative functions. God bless you all. Happy Easter

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