Kenya’s Oldest, Most Read Newspaper Reports on Bishop Obare’s Corruption Including Allegations Involving LCEF Loan, by Pr. Rossow

The Standard Digital (the internet arm of the oldest and most read newspaper in Kenya) has reported the corruption of Bishop Obare in an article titled “How Clergy Ate Cash Cows Intended for Church.” You can read the article online here.

The article title gets at the most despicable aspect of Obare’s corruption. He diverted to his own construction company funds that were donated by LCMS members intended for the “Cows Program” which was to provide cows for villagers to lift them out of poverty. This is a documented abuse based on invoices retrieved from Obare’s office. I have seen these documents myself in person and Obare’s accusers have posted them online.

The article also mentions Obare’s abuse of a loan from the LCEF. I had heard of this matter but the Standard online article quotes pastors from Kenya talking about this concern in some detail. I am not sure where the loan stands with LCEF but it has also been reported to me from sources who were inside Obare’s office that other monies were redirected to make loan payments and that there was and still is a massive shell game going on in the Bishop’s office.

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.


Kenya’s Oldest, Most Read Newspaper Reports on Bishop Obare’s Corruption Including Allegations Involving LCEF Loan, by Pr. Rossow — 41 Comments

  1. Just goes to show, I suppose, that any human bureaucracy is prone to human corruption, be it situated in Africa, North America, or Rome.

    Does the Lutherans In Africa organization which you support, find ways to avoid these corrupt systems? If so, how so?

    Thanks for the work you do, Pr. Rossow.

  2. Brad,

    The main reason that I support Lutherans in Africa is because they do not have these problems. I am not on either of LIA’s boards (US and international) but I have seen their books and am very aware of their systems. Their Director, James May, is one of the most virtuous and honest person I have ever known and he is cheap! The money you give to LIA goes for the proclamation of the Gospel.

    You are right though, even a group like LIA is susceptible and I suppose if it continues to grow, someday, years after I and James May are dead and gone it may undergo such problems.

  3. What about the August 11, 2011, WMTLblog article, “ELCK Visit to LCMS and Audit Report“? This article stated:

    Charlie Rhodes was pleased to report that for the audit period, all LCMS funds sent to the ELCK were accounted for and that they were used for the projects in Kenya as intended by LCMS donors.

    Charlie Rhodes reported, “We have concluded all funds have been utilized for their intended purposes and no one in ELCK or DCM personally benefited.”

    Charlie also reported that he was pleased both with the co-operation and hospitality shown to him by the members of the ELCK during his visit.

    President Harrison indicated both to Charlie Rhodes and to Archbishop Obare that he was pleased with the results reported.

    Charlie Rhodes is preparing a report of his findings for the Board for International Mission, which will provide them with an example of how project accountability is maintained.

  4. “Carl,”

    Good question. It is well known among the pastors and two of the three other bishops in the ELCK that there were two sets of books. This has been verified by someone in the past, inside the ELCK offices.

  5. @Pastor Tim Rossow #2

    Pr. Rossow,

    I assumed the people involved in LIA were more virtuous than what was posted regarding Bishop Obare. But having some exposure to the graft and corruption of attempting to bring anything of value into various African nations, I was curious how LIA would be able to avoid these pitfalls. I’m guessing that Bishop Obare’s corruption is of a feather with the way government officials operate in his neck of the woods, and that he’s pretty adept at navigating sticky fingered bureaucrats that take their piece of the pie. I’m curious how LIA navigates this mess, and if they’ve found a way in/through/under/around it.

    Some of the missionaries I’ve known directly, have attempted to deliver or personally escort resources to specific pastors, churches, or communities. Some of them have been more successful than others at dodging (or at least minimizing) the number of palms that expect to be greased in the process.

    And I won’t even dredge up the memories of government and military aid to many of these countries, which is now quite comfortably in the hands of just about everyone other than the people we tried to help…

  6. “We have given up devious, underhanded ways…” Apparently not in Kenya. I hope this can be given more attention by Pres. Harrison, so that this dishonesty can be exposed.

  7. This is very sad to hear. I hope it isn’t true. I remember my congregation giving about $1500 for “The Cows Program.” Our youth led the push for this offering and the whole congregation got behind it. I hope some of the offerings made where they were intended to go. If it is true it isn’t the first time I have given offerings to a Christian organization only later to find out there are swindlers in their midst taking advantage of unsuspecting Christians.

    Having read the article it is also troubling to see that the LCMS is tied the Lutheran World Federation. I thought this was a heterodox organization, but perhaps I am confusing this with another organization.

    Is it common for African Bishops to have businesses on the side? I thought they would be like full time pastors. It seems if they can qualify for an $18000.00 a month LCEF loan they can pay their Bishop. It seems odd to me that the LCMS gives this African church offerings and loans at the same time, but I have no idea about how this stuff works.

    I hope St. Louis will address the issues raised by this article. I’m losing what little trust I had left in our church corporation.

  8. LW,

    It is true. I have copies of the “cow” documents and I have spoken in person, in Africa, with the bishops and pastors who have been fighting this for the last few years.

    Concerning LCEF, they are not to blame for this. They made a legitemate loan to the ELCK but then Obare started his shell game. My congregation deals regularly with LCEF, including a 5 million dollar loan 20 years ago (paid off 7 years early I amight add) and they are a top notch institution that has the church in mind.

    I do not appreciate the way they pump church growth principals down the church’s throat but they are a really effective lender.

  9. Brad,

    First and foremost, unlike LCMS Inc., LIA does not give out goodies! They teach the Gospel and hand out books and pamphlets translated by LHF. (James May is the LHF Director in Africa.)

    Also, I have seen James May stand up to the sticky-fingered government agents and refuse to grease their palms.

    In a nutshell that describes the LIA difference.

  10. @Pastor Tim Rossow #8

    I don’t question LCEF’s usefulness or motivation. It just seems odd to me to that a church body would presumably give animals to help pastors feed their families and then give them a loan and expect them to be able to pay it back. I guess it is kind of like allowing a man to borrow $100,000.00 for a pastoral ministry degree and then expect him to support his family and pay back the loan on a pastor’s salary. It almost sounds like a company store paradigm, and maybe that’s OK in the church. “I owe my soul to the company store.” 🙂

  11. LW,

    Thinking more about your question, I believe the problem was all of us getting too excited about the supposed confessional Obare. It turns out he was not confessional. He was a deceiver and a thief.

    I fell under his spell too. My first post about him here on BJS five years ago was glowing. It was then that I started to learn the truth. The bishops and pastors I met in Africa said it well. “He speaks sweet words.” They too had fallen for these words for several years until things did not add up anymore, i.e. the financial books.

    BTW – Most of Obare’s theological statements and prominent sermons are ghost written.

    I am musing over a comparison between Obare and the sainted Bishop Andrew Elisa of Sudan. The contrasts are stark. Maybe next week.

  12. Here’s a September 25, 2006, LCMS World Relief and Human Care article, “Cows for Kenya—Help Now; Provide a Cow!,” describing a LCMS World Relief project to provide a cow (for a $300 contribution by LCMS congregational members) to an ELCK pastor, evangelist or deaconess serving Kenyan congregations and communities, as a way to supplement the church worker’s income. The article includs a picture of then-LCMS-WR Executive Director Matthew Harrison presenting a cow to ELCK Bishop Walter Obare .

    Another description of the program is in the September 28, 2006, Reporter article, “African Lutherans embracing `Ablaze!,` says Kieschnick,” which shows Bishop Obare accepting another cow from then-LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick.

  13. Does anyone know the amount of Lutheran Malaria Initiative offerings entrusted to Bishop Obare’s stewardship?

  14. I’m a pastor in ELCK and would like to respond to Carl Vahse on “ELCK visit to LCMS and audit reports”Although we were not informed we heard about the supposed audit reports and raised alarm immediately but nobody listened to us. The procedure is that audited reports have to be read to ELCK in a General Assembly and accepted. LCMS representatives present will then take that same report to their sending mission for adoption. This process was ignored and is the genesis of Obare’s woes.

  15. I do remember I did write a complaint to Dr. colliver when I read the audit report. He kind of felt that I was just being flimsy and out to taint the good name of the Obare administration. (I guess it was one of the reason I was denied a chance to study at Ft Wayne even after being admitted) My point was that as a pastor in the ELCK verify that there was and is now a misuse of funds, not only donated by the LCMS but also even the little generated in our church. Unconfirmed reports indicated that the reports were doctored and the ELCK administration greased the hands of the auditors.

    One other thing is that the Loan was good intended and would have helped the ELCK fraternity, but unfortunately it fall on the hands of the ELCK wolves.For all I care, Obare is merely a deceiver and good sweet talker!

  16. We are headed by a group of leaders (Obare and his close allies)who have no time for innocent souls but hungry for money meant for spreading God’s word. They see every opportunity in terms of how much they can mint out of it. When people move to other churches or stop going to church, all they worry about is the reduction in offerings and not the souls they lose. Those who support him locally do it not because he is truthful and trustworthy but because they are either promised “heaven” or “taken care of” and will do it to death. He has taken advantage of the woeful financial position of many pastoral workers and blinded them by little “gifts” he gives them. He has ruled through division, he has created enmity among congregants (those in support and against his leadership style) thus disunity in the church. We have not given up, we will fight for the right things to happen. The truth exists and all we want is people to believe in that which is true. We are not bitter, let that be known. All we want to see is transparency and servant leadership, but it’s not coming soon…that I’m sure of.

  17. I just read a letter posted on Lutherqwest written to LCMS officials on November 11, 2010 by Bishop Thomas Asiago of the Southwest Diocese of Kenya and signed by 37 Diocese Pastors. The letter makes several charges against Bishop Obare. What if anything was the outcome of this letter? Were any of the allegations of nepotism and the amassing of wealth from church coffers ever substantiated?

  18. I found the attached article on the LCMS website about the dedication of Luther Plaza in Nairobi back in 2009. This article shows a picture of the impressive looking headquarter building mentioned in the Standard Digital piece. The article points out 75% of the building is being rented out to businesses so that the money can be used to support the work of the ELCK in Kenya. Now I understand how the loan is being repaid by this economically challenged church body.

  19. Now we know who you really are ( Rossow)….. You are busy supporting James May because u use his organization( Lutherans in Africa) to channel your contributions for evil deeds in Kenya and others here in Kenya who are also under church discipline. Stop acting as if you are God……. Give us a break.. We know u solicit funds for those slaves of yours here in Kenya to distort the name of the church through media so go ahead n continue doing it. If what u are publishing here is true n u have evidence as u purport then why can these pple go to court coz corruption is an offence n Kenya? Pastor??… I doubt wether u are. A pastor who solicit funds to propagate lies agairnst his fellow? Everything money, money …..why cant u use this platform to preach n change souls instead spreading unconfirmed roumors n giving judgement agairnst your fellow n the church of Kenya? You are operating in flesh my friend…. Repent.

  20. Those who defend Obare remind us of church discipline and continuosly divert our attention with fictitious allegations.Ok it’s fine. They should also be reminded that obare is a staunch critic of secular standards and is on record saying world standards are too low for a christian to follow.How comes they now want people to go to court today? In kenya,any leader merely mentioned in a corruption scandal steps aside to give way for investigations(the most recent case involved a host of cabinet secretaries sent packing in April 2015 to pave way).Those could be the low standards Obare refer to.For Obare and his high standads,to be mentioned in a corruption scandal is something to battle in court as you embark on defrocking pastors and extending your time in office by hook and crook.The indelible ink is already dry and obare will never white wash it !

  21. The other day obare put some pastors under church discipline for going to court.Things have dramatically changed and he now wants his accusers to pursue a court process.THE SAME COURT CASES HE SAYS bar him from leaving office(clever for him). how did John Michoro manage to leave office in spite of the court cases while obare cant? They shared everything including the court cases!why cant obare go the same way michoro went? The other important question is “was it a priority for John Halakhe to flee and hide in America than help solve ELCK problems?” but if Halakhe found it easy to drop the church and go why does obare think he cant drop the church and go? Obare should realize that his two graet friends have already abandoned him (Halakhe and Michoro). We know obare has promised somebody to be the next presiding bishop whether elections will be done with “street delagates” like he did for Lemosi in a recent stage managed “elections” in kapenguria .Another hypothesis we should try is to encourage obare to continue in office until he clears his name of the lost millions? would that be wise? am lost of words friends: A friend in need is a friend in deed.

  22. We know so well that the courts will never solve the current problems. I t is as simple as him going home and leaving the church in peace. If the court cases are barring him from retiring, why is he holding elections (of recent being that of the church secretary) despite the court cases??????????????Obare is a sycophant and we will never trust him. He should retire and go home with dignity which is no longer guaranteed if things continue like this. OBARE SHOULD RETIRE AND GO HOME, AND NOT BUY TIME WAITING TO PLANT LEADERS WHO HE TRUSTS WILL SECURE HIS STOLEN WEALTH AFTER HE GOES HOME. The church has more than able leaders to take it forward

  23. @Justus Ochieng Amayo #26

    Surely the courts won’t help much to salvage this wonderful church that obare wants to throw to the dogs. Can you imagine there are those who have always wanted to intervene to mediate in the ELCK menace and obare has repelled them with the might of his thorax.The Norwegian government even donated millions for peace and reconciliation that were supposed to be implemented by the church after the post election violence which obare misused in cheap public relations exercises around the country(we in ELCK were made to attend fruitless seminars dominated by obare and his team to whip loyalty in the name of cosmetic reconciliation).
    However,we cannot ignore the courts if we are to stop future fraud. Obare should be charged even if he “agrees” to leave office or even in his retirement. This will also give justice to the church since millions are unaccounted for.It is not a final option anyway because he may want to repent today and that will determine the next course of action.One thing we must keep reminding him is that the kenyan society believes in democracy and clinging on power is so alien. If obare has nothing to hide then he can go home even today but we think he is trying to groom a protector as Justus Ochieng said.

  24. Justus Ochieng Amayo

    Your father was in office for close to ten years and during that time, Obare was as good as angel n now that he ( Your Father)is not the Bishop of lake Diocese then Obare becomes the subject.Why cant u pple serve God instead of scrambling for the leadership every now and then? two pple cannot lead at a time, one must leave is when the other comes in.

  25. Truth corner

    You constantly mention Obare in corruption deals , two questions 1. How do u confirm that? 2. It is the proper audit which reveals the financial improprieties so do u have any audit report to show us here?

    If not then u people are just rumor mongers so you better go to church , listen to the word of God n pray for your beloved church

  26. Whoever this “concerned individual” is must be out of the point. He must be naive on what is happening. The so called money he purports to say has never ‘greased’ my hands and I have been one of the guys who has overtly championed for the removal of this Bishop who has outlived his usefulness. It appears either you are unaware of what is going on or you are just fumbling to seek cheap publicity. This site has significantly and objectively helped to shed light to Lutheran fraternity the whole truth of who Obare is and the tribulations facing the ELCK. Unfortunately, this site has not succumbed to the whinnies of Obare, whose antics to silence every institution that stands up to discredit him has flopped.

  27. Ombogo

    And even if you had eaten it would u have been bold enough to accept that? come on! your problem is just cheap tribalism and backward mind that the ELCK belongs to the Kissis and if they are not somewhere near the church leadership then something is wrong.We know u faked documents indicating Obare’s name and my simple question to u is…. Why cant you publish a valid letter/document from the registrar of companies indicating Obare’s name as one of the Directors in the company u mentioned in the Nairobian newspaper? you purport to be so learned and highly exposed but am sorry u have totally missed the point.You must be one of the followers of Asiago but i pity u. don’t follow someone blindly…. seek to know the truth always and reconcile… thats what the scripture tells us or which theological school did you go to?

  28. @Concerned individual #29

    Dear concerned individual,
    Audit reports are of two natures. One, there is financial audit and two, there is social audit. In social audit, it is a question of value for money. Obare received $132,000 for the cow project translating roughly to KSHS 10,000,000.According to obare’s doctored list of recepients, 300 people benefited at KSHS 20,000 each. (we have evidence how non clergy constitution commissioners got cash)
    If you work with this figure, you get KSHS 6 million. With all respect to you ‘concerned individual’, tell us what the remaining KSHS 4M did ? Or at best, show us your audited report to donors which obare seems to be hiding from our eyes.
    There were funds signed by obare to Siany and Matongo congrgations totaling ksh 800,000. this money was never received in the said congregations. However, records show that a non existing pastor called Rev Joseph Onyang signed on behalf of Siany. Can you shed light on this if it was not a ghost dealig?
    In 2009, obare withdrew kshs 800,000 again for an AGA (Annual General Assemly)that never was.
    Obare conducted the 43rd AGA in 2012 held in kapenguria where his toothless delagates added him 2 more years in office. surprisingly, he conducted an AGA in march this year and it was again called the 43rd AGA. This implies that in his “wisdom” the 43rd AGA in 2012 was not important.How can this happen? does he annul an AGA probably because it didn’t fit into his bigger plan? or why does he hide the 43rd AGA held in 2012?
    Dear concerned individual, records held in government offices show that obare is a director of the company called ZAWAMGII which has had dubious financial dealings with ELCK. Do you deny? As if that is not enough,obare is the owner of a company called LUTHER MANAGEMENT LIMITED which collects rent at Luther Plaza. This effectively means Luther Plaza is owned by Obare, not the church!
    Concerned individual,the church cannot be reduced to somebody’s personal property where he is the master and the rest are slaves. If you need more facts we have them and obare regime is already crambling like a big rock from the cliff. Come and join us for posterity.

  29. It is clear that the situation in Kenya is difficult for everybody. On account of the numerous violations of our comment policy, comments have been closed on this thread.

    Some comments have been removed. The comments that remain are left to illustrate the serious strife among our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church in Kenya.

    We ask that everyone join us in continuing to pray for a God pleasing resolution that the Word of God may go forth unhindered to the praise and glory of God.