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Clergy should be politically neutral on pulpit, say clerics


Joe Ejiofor

With the immense power they wield over their congregations, it is easy for clerics to sway church members’ opinions on political matters. But is it proper for men of God to show open partisanship and use the pulpit for campaigns? OMIKO AWA reports.

Church Must Encourage Members To Vote Credible People
(Rev. (Dr.) Samson ‘Supo Ayokunle
is National President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), President, Nigerian Baptist Convention and Visitor to Bowen University)
When Pastors use the pulpit to campaign, it shows they have left their primary assignments and path of objectivity. They should better leave the pulpit to practise politics full time.

In a situation where the pulpit is misused to gain advantage in political patronage, the church members are likely to be divided, because they do not all belong to the same political party.

There would be anger in the hearts of those that do not belong to the same party as the pastor, and might for this reason leave the church.

At the national level, wrong prophecies about the person to win election might be the order of the day. They may bring confusion and tension to the polity.

Politicians might equally begin to patronise such political pastors, so that they might gain advantage over other politicians through the pastors’ favourable commendation to church members and through false prophecies.

These politically motivated prophecies might mislead many and if care is not taken, the nation can be led astray in the choice of leaders.

The true church of Christ must encourage members to actively participate in the selection of credible people that would occupy different positions.

The church must emphasise the credibility of candidates seeking political offices rather than the political party. There is no party without credible people and there is no party without evil men and women.

Church members should be taught that their votes are their future and as such, should not gamble with their future.

Church leaders should equally teach members to shun every form of electoral violence and manipulation. They should refuse to be bought with money.

Churches should teach their members who are in politics to take it as the call of God upon their lives.

With this attitude, they would know that they are accountable to God in whatever they do.

Christians in politics should shun embezzlement and wickedness. They should run political offices with utmost integrity, and use the opportunity to build people and the nation.

If any church member is contesting, he/she should be introduced to members and prayed for, because the Bible says, ‘the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.’

If we don’t identify with our brothers and sisters going into politics, if we refuse to mentor them, we must never expect them to be responsible to us or listen to us when they get to power.

We must teach them not to be desperate to occupy positions or see winning as a do or die affair.

The fact is that pastors who collect money from politicians to campaign for them have lost their worth. They are commercial prophets like Balaam in the Bible, and their denominations must discipline them if they are caught.

Commercial prophets are becoming many these days. It is among the spirits of the End Time.

The use of pastoral office to campaign is becoming more rampant these days because of some churches’ policies, especially the modern day churches that do not distinguish between partisan politics and gospel ministry.

More circumspect churches require any of their pastors that receive call into full time politics to resign and quit the pulpit, so that the pulpit might not be used for politics.

The Main Purpose Of Church Is To Share The Good News
(Moji George, Christian Science Church Committee on Publication for Nigeria West.)

THE Christian Church is founded on Christ, the Rock, as we read in Matthew 16:18, and Jesus encourages Christians to abide by the Golden Rule.

Doing to others as we would have them do to us should, therefore, govern our thoughts and actions.

The main purpose of the Church is to share the good news, which Jesus preached and proved — the salvation of mankind from sin and suffering of all kinds.

It also serves as a place where congregants can worship God in Christian fellowship, regardless of their political inclination, and work out their salvation as Christ points out the way.

Churches of different denominations may have doctrines, tenets or creeds to guide members.

In the Christian Science Church, members are encouraged to think and pray for themselves on matters of political and social importance, and to pray for the government as well, as Paul instructs in I Timothy 2:1-3.

One of the tenets of this church says, “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just and pure.’

Whether during an election period or any other period, this is a good guide for a Christian.

No Need For A Pastor To Say Where He/She Belongs
(Asst./Ven./Sup. Evang. Okanlawon Adeboyeku (JP), Celestial Church of Christ, Model Province Superintendent/Host Shepherd, Iyana Ipaja, Lagos.)

THE church is for everyone. There is no need for a pastor to say he/she belongs to Paul or Apollos, because all members belong to God.

The church is to tell the people the truth about God; teach the word of God and make members to see the need to lead exemplary life.

It is not a political ground, and anybody using the pulpit to campaign for anybody or political party is seeking the wrath of God.

The church is to caution members on the consequences of their negative actions in the society and not for any pastor to use it as a campaign ground or to preach politics and spread political ideas.

It is wrong because pastors are not politicians, and if they want to become so, they should leave the pulpit.

Pastors are like shepherds; they are to direct members to God, make them see the reason to serve god. Pastors should not be partisans.

In fact, any church leader using the church for politics should be seen as a politician and not a church leader.

Anyway, many of them are doing this because they want to gain one favour or the other from these politicians and we should be wary of this.

The Church Must Be Apolitical
(Rev. Gabriel Agbo is a minister with the Assemblies of God, Nigeria.)

THE pulpit should only be used for preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. It should not be a place for politics at all.

Now, because the preacher and Christians are human beings and members of the society, you cannot also expect them to be apolitical. They should have political parties and candidates they think can perform well if voted into power. And sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, they may try to express those feelings. And you cannot totally blame them because it is not easy to keep quiet when things are going bad.

When things go bad, as is currently the case in the country, it affects the pastor, members, the church, your relations, everybody and the whole society. It is always painful.

In the Bible, the prophets also tried on many occasions to intervene by condemning the bad political leaders, the kings, or evil in the land, etc. It is not totally new, but be wise in doing that and let it be with love and leading of the Holy Spirit. I also advise they use other informal platforms to express this, and not the pulpit.

The church must be apolitical, because its members belong to different political parties. It must see everybody as a member of the family, which means it must act like a father to all.

I condemn totally those priests that have made it a practice to predict political events and winners. But that does not mean you should keep quiet at the face of evil and bad leadership. No. You can give directions without calling names or being partisan.

Church leaders who collect money to campaign for parties or candidates, especially from the pulpit risk curses from God. But identify a good candidate who is the will of God and give him/her all the support.

The Pulpit Should Be A Sacred Desk
(Joel Ejiofor is a minister with the Assemblies of God, Nigeria.)

The pulpit should be a ‘sacred desk.’ This is so because it is the physical space where God’s Word is normally declared to God’s people.

So, no clergy should be found recommending political parties and candidates to church members.

However, don’t forget that the Nigerian Constitution gives every individual the right to belong to any political party of his/her choice, as well as right to personal opinion.

This implies that people may belong to one family as a church, but could share different personal/political opinions. It will therefore be wrong for a clergy to market a political party or a candidate in an election.

A clergy should be politically neutral on the pulpit, while also holding his personal/political opinion to himself.

He should not be seen trying to sell his personal political views to members of the congregation.

A church should be and only remains a place where the gospel bell is rung and no other bell, be it political or otherwise should be rung.

The implication of this on members is that it cheapens the Lord’s sacred worship into a means to vet politicians.

It is right to encourage the saints to practise good citizenship as an implication of the gospel (Rom. 12:17–18; 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17).

The other implication is that it will cause division among members because a clergyman is expected to unite the people and not cause disunity.

The church’s role at this time is to pray to God for enabling environment for peaceful and credible election. The church should pray and trust God to give us leaders that will lead according to His Will.

The church should be politically neutral while encouraging members to go out and exercise their civic rights; to vote candidates of their choice based on their conscience.

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