Over the last two months, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa has been in the headlines where they have not minced their words on the issue of men and goat eating.
Many sittings and debates have been embraced by the church to discuss more on this.
The church, (PCEA) told its members to keep off a Kikuyu cultural practice referred to as “Mburi cia Kiama”, which involves slaughtering of goats and giving advice to men on how to become respected elders in the society.
This order from the church is said to be among the deliberations made during a general assembly meeting held from April 11 to 14, 2018 and communicated to churches during Sunday service in the weeks that followed.
“The highest body in PCEA church has distanced itself from Mburi Cia Kiama, terming it a negative cultural practice, among other practices like polygamy, female circumcision and witchcraft,” a Facebook post associated with the church read in part.
The church is said to be giving its members the order to abandon these cultural ways of worship or leave the congregation.
Nyeri county chair of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, Mr Muthoga Kirethi, responded to the church over its remarks in a way that indicates that there could be a gap between the church and them if not revisited and solved amicably.
This is what he said, “That is unwarranted and misguided. We do not rival the church by embracing our culture. In fact, we were born Kikuyu first before we joined the mainstream churches. People can opt to leave a church but you can never stop being Kikuyu.”
The debate has gained traction on social media; especially on Whatsapp groups.
Advocate Wahome Thuku, for instance, supported the church, saying: “PCEA only restricts its elders and deacons because they have voluntarily taken vows to serve the church; while others have demonstrated their anger and gone to an extra mile of disobeying the church order.
I want to have my say on this and give my two cents; take it or leave it.
Lets theologically and philosophically analyze this. In Acts 21:23-26, we note that Apostle Paul was previously against the necessity of following the Law (Gal. 2; Acts 15). Moreover, the author of Hebrews considers animal sacrifices as a case of apostatizing from Christ. Did Paul succumb to pressure in offering this sacrifice at the Temple? And how did he handle this?
The “vow” (Acts 21:23) most likely refers to the Nazarite Vow (Num. 6:1ff). If an individual wanted to take the Nazarite Vow, he would voluntarily give up wine, grapes, raisins, haircuts, and going near dead bodies (Num. 6:3-6). After he grew out his hair, he was to bring a one year old lamb and one ram (Num. 6:14). He would also bring food, grain, and drinks to offer (Num. 6:15). Then the priest would offer his sin offering before the Lord (Num. 6:16). Afterwards, the man would shave his head and offer this on the fire (Num. 6:18). The Nazirite would receive back some of the sacrifice (Num. 6:19). The rest of the sacrifice was to be a “wave offering” before God (Num. 6:20).
The Nazarite Vow was not a standard sin offering. For one, it is a “special vow” that a Jewish person could make to “dedicate himself to the LORD” (Num. 6:2).
We simply do not have enough details about the nature of this sacrifice and purification ceremony to make a judgment about Paul’s decision.
For one, the Nazarite Vow was a “special offering,” not a standard animal sacrifice. If an animal sacrifice was included in this ceremony, then we could resolutely say that Paul made a mistake in trying to contextualize this far. However, it’s also possible that the animal sacrifice was left out, and the four men merely brought their hair as the sacrifice. Whatever the case, God seems to have interrupted this event, perhaps showing that Paul shouldn’t have put himself in this situation in the first place.
Before the church was in Africa, African Traditional Culture was there and they used to worship God from where they believed was His sacred places. From the Hills, trees and in vallies.
Needless to say, they had different names towards Him but people believed in His existence and in His deity.
There were people who were set apart for all sacrifices be it from atonement to repentance. God would be worshiped during drought and would respond to their prayer with heavy downpour. People revered Him and taught their children more about Him and how to please Him.
From Mt Kenya to Mugumoini tree, the Ngai, Murungu and Mwene Nyaga would be worshipped and His miracles was a sign of His acceptance of the people’s ordinances.
The people in Muranga rejected the gospel from the missionaries (Gutiri mubia na muthungu). Why? Had they known something that others did not? Does it mean that sacrificing or giving out those goat as per Kikuyu culture is evil? Do we even have members of the clergy from this church who are victims of the same? If yes, what has the church got to do with them, will they excommunicate them? Do we have other cultures besides Kikuyu who are also affected in this?
This is the high time that the church should learn to contextualize issues from the jewish culture of the Bible to our African culture. Bible stories should made simple and practical to us through contextualization.
God Himself applied it when He told Abraham; “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2a).
How did Abraham respond to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac? With immediate obedience; early the next morning, Abraham started on his journey with two servants, a donkey and his beloved son Isaac, with firewood for the offering. His unquestioning obedience to God’s confusing command gave God the glory He deserves and is an example to us of how to glorify God.
Yes it is true that when we obey as Abraham did, trusting that God’s plan is best, we exalt His attributes and praise Him. Abraham’s obedience in the face of this crushing command extolled God’s sovereign love, His trustworthiness, and His goodness, and it provided an example for us to follow. His faith in the God he had come to know and love placed Abraham in the pantheon of faithful heroes in Hebrews 11. But God never allowed Abraham to sacrifice his son but instead offered an alternative. He gave a lamb.
Here is the most interesting thing, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” I then ask myself, why did He (God) get this idea from? To be honest, on this one I need more than for someone to tell me what I should do and should be. I need help to be that and do that. First of all, let it sink in that this act of giving his life as a ransom was intentional. It says he came to do it. Christ did not come to earth for other reasons and then get caught up in a plot that resulted in his death. He came to die.
So Jesus is knowingly walking into the jaws of suffering and death. Verse 45 says why: He came to give his life a ransom for many. Don’t miss this. Jesus is choosing to suffer. He is choosing to die. He is participating intentionally in his own execution.
The lying of the lamb on the alter is exactly what the Lord contextualized. This was the routine/practice of the ancient time during sacrifices. God could have introduced a new methodology but chose to use the commonly known way. This would make His message and purpose of salvation practical to both the Jews and the gentiles. Just as the prophet Elijah did in his mission to prove the true God between Ball and Jehovah. I guess that the purpose of this ritual simple to advise men what they should and should not do in their daily lives in terms of observing cultural norms, marriage and community responsibilities.
Note that that I am not objecting or promoting the issue of Mburi cia Kiama but the Church should come up clearly with practical reasons as to why this should be continued as well as give a constitute. They should do a thorough research and probably give a format or proper methodology/guideline as to how it should be done in a way to embrace both the culture and Christian;the PCEA leadership must decide what is more important – reforming the church or banning innocuous cultural practices. There should be a consultative sitting with the aged Kikuyu elders and the top church leadership and come up with a common solution.
On the other hand, men in this church should be patient and considerate. Being rebellious because the statement issued is demeaning does not add any point. The church brings us together for fellowship and nourishment. It holds our blessings and curses as well. Some actions and statement we make against the stand of the church should be avoided with a lot of repentance and forgiveness. In case there are the excommunicated, it should be done in love and not as way of punishment and be restored to the fellowship without any condition or intimations.
Further more, there are many issues that need to be straightened that are meant to change the moral lives of many churchgoers and leaders who are the exact opposite – people who live their entire adult lives in denial about their own venality, zealots who always see evil in other people and never in themselves.
The PCEA, one of the oldest evangelical churches in Africa, which has four-million strong followers in Kenya, has had its share of problems which remain unresolved; and it must come out and deal with it, as well as give a proper mechanism on matters goat rituals otherwise the church is unlikely to attract many new members who can see through the hypocrisy.
“Jesus Christ not only died for all, but died for each”- Billy Graham