'Snake' pastors are heretics - SA church council

2015-08-06 14:54
SA Council of Churches and church leaders. (Ahmed Areff, News24)

SA Council of Churches and church leaders. (Ahmed Areff, News24)

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Johannesburg - So-called prophets and pastors who make their followers engage in bizarre activities, such as eating snakes or parts of rats, are heretics taking advantage of desperate people, said the SA Council of Churches (SACC) general secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana.

"It is totally at odds with the Christian faith, it is not just unethical," he said on the sidelines of a meeting with various church leaders on Thursday.

"There are people who are trying to make money off the desperation of people, and that is exactly why you need some sort of mechanism for serving a standard on how churches are run."

He said charismatic heretical leaders have misled people for centuries.

"It happens everywhere, look at those Americans that committed mass suicide. If a person is charismatic and persuasive, they are able to make people do anything. Some of them are good at this. That's why a good coach can make a weak team win," Mpumlwana said.

"You can use that power positively or negatively."

One of the most recent cases was that of 'prophet' Penuel Mnguni, 23, who operates his End Times Ministries from a tent in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria.

He had his flock nibble on a snake, and bite off part of a rat’s tail.

Mnguni posted photos of some of his services, in which he made his congregants eat clothes and hair. He rode some of them like horses and made them strip naked.

Pastor Lesego Daniel, whose Rabboni Centre Ministries is based in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, made his followers eat grass, claiming it would "bring them closer to God".

One of the leaders at the SACC meeting on Thursday stood up and recited Matthew 7:10: "Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?"

Mpumlwana said the idea of bringing together church leaders was to see and hear their reactions to those incidents. 

Call for regulation?

"[We want to know] do they feel that this is bringing the faith into disrepute, is there something that they can do together to make sure that this kind of thing does not spread? Clearly there is a need for some kind of regulation - and this we believe should be self-regulation," he said.

"We also believe there is a role for government to play, for example to protect them [followers of the 'heretical' leaders] from harm. That's why we have appealed to the Human Rights Commission to go and investigate human rights violations in these places.

"We have got laws in the land that protect people, so it's not like we have to create new laws because there are churches. It doesn't matter in what name you do it, if you break the law, if you do something that is at odds with the spirit of our Constitution, the state should act on those issues."

Mpumlwana said leaders at Thursday's meeting unanimously condemned the behaviour of deviant pastors and so-called prophets.

The SACC did not invite those pastors to the meeting as they had only invited those from organised structures.

"If I had to go to Pastor Mnguni, he will say 'who are you to tell me?'," Mpumlwana told the meeting later.

"However, if we believe they [these pastors] should be confronted, we will do that. I am quite prepared to go with a delegation to quietly go talk to them and tell them we can give you a chance, if that is what you [leaders at the meeting] want?"

The leaders said yes.

The bishop said the SACC would consider creating a database of churches and their leaders.

"We must consider a kind of a process to build internal self-regulation where we need to bring together all the structures," he said.

These structures would then determine codes for pastors on how to conduct themselves.

Read more on:    sacc  |  johannesburg  |  religion

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