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Methodist church accused of side-lining a Reverend at his lowest time, leaving him unemployed and homeless

Methodist church accused of side-lining a Reverend at his lowest time, leaving him unemployed and homeless

Johannesburg – The recent action by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa has prompted a post on Facebook by Reverend Zole Mlombi’s wife, Nandipha Mlombi, 35, saying her husband was informed in mid-September that he was not being stationed for 2023 and that he would be losing all benefits, including his home, salary and medical aid.

They were also recently told they’d be kicked out of the church premises by Monday to make way for a new preacher to move in.

Nandipha Mlombi wrote in her Facebook post: “So in mid September hubby got a call from Faith Whitby, the so-called Bishop of central district telling him that he has not been stationed from 2023 till only they know. Basically he is unemployed, homeless and humiliated as being foot of station (without appointment) is a punishment for ministers whose morals are questionable.

“The question many ask, myself included, is: What did he do to be dismissed with immediate effect, that no disciplinary (action) or intervention was needed?”

Reverend Mlombi is also a husband, father of six and the breadwinner. He and his family have been part of the Bedfordview community for the past five years and had hopes of remaining for another five years. However, these hopes were shattered by the unexpected turn of events that began to unfold in June.

The reverend, who is an ordained minister and has been since 2012, is currently serving at a Methodist church in Bedfordview. He began his journey at the Methodist church over a decade ago as a young man in his teens and went on to become a youth pastor and then a minister.

Rumours that Rev Mlombi would be leaving the church began out of nowhere, being followed by a burglary at his home that took a toll on the reverend's health, leading to his hospitalisation and eventually being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

The reverend, who now relies on chronic medication, was then hit with the unfortunate news as he was finding his feet following his health scare. However, until this day he and his wife are unaware of the reasons behind his hasty removal from the church, which has had a negative impact on their lives and family.

“So two months before the year is over, six kids, of which four go to school, which school is still open for applications for the New Year. Oh and the man who has inherited chronic illness is now off medical aid,” reads part of the Facebook post.

In a letter from the Methodist Church to Rev Mlombi, the church states: “This letter serves to sadly confirm that you are not stationed for next year 2023 and as such your name will be recorded in the Connexional Stations under 3115: Without Station.

“However, you remain a Minister in the Methodist Church, under the discipline of the Church and accountable to the Bishop of the District where you will reside.”

A Methodist minister is allegedly not allowed to work or even run a business. However, they are expected to be present at Synod, which could take place anywhere and they are expected to find the means to attend, despite having no income.

“Since you will receive no stipend there will be no pension contribution for the time you are un-stationed, unless you make an arrangement with the MCO Finance Unit that you will contribute both the personal and church contributions towards the Supernumerary Fund.

“Similarly, the Medical Aid will be available to you if you make an arrangement with the Finance Unit to personally pay for your Medical Contribution as calculated by the Finance Unit.” reads part of the letter from the church.

Other reverends have also reached out in support and have shared their own stories of how they were removed by the church and have faced difficult challenges, which include cars being repossessed and children having to drop out of university, among many other things.

The Mlombi family is only one of many that have fallen victim to what seems to be a brutal removal from the church, without any warning or back-up plan.

“We have been trying to move forward but how do you move forward when you are unemployed and there is no source of income? My husband is the sole breadwinner, I am in the entertainment industry and the jobs are seasonal.

“He has a stable income so if you take away the stable income then how do you expect a family to make any plans? This is all he knows. Ministry is all he knows, he doesn't have any other profession to fall (back) on. This is his calling,” said Mlombi.

The Methodist church of Southern Africa has responded, condemning and refuting what it called inaccurate statements made by the preacher’s wife.

Bishop Purity Malinga of the presiding Bishop’s office said: “The MCSA would like to categorically condemn and refute the inaccurate statements made by Mrs Nandi Mlombi, the wife of one of our ministers, Rev Zole Mlombi on her Facebook profile this morning where she maligns several individuals in the Methodist Church, including Bishop Faith Whitby.”

The church has also gone on to explain that Mlombi's suggestion that being at the foot of station (without an appointment) is a punishment for “immoral behaviour” was unfounded as there is no regulation in the MSCA and that some of her claims could be seen as misleading.

“Being without an appointment is not punitive and ministers often find themselves without an appointment for various reasons. The process of the appointment of ministers within the MCSA is clearly laid out in our regulations, and this includes a District Committee which reviews all appointments annually and recommends these to the Connexional Executive.

“It is to be noted that this process, at various times, given different contexts, leaves some ministers without an appointment. The MCSA understands that this broadly affects the families of ministers negatively. However, there is no intention to be insensitive, lacking in empathy and to cause pain,” said Bishop Malinga.

The church has also condemned the so-called attack on Bishop Whitby and has encouraged that members with frustrations should communicate those frustrations accurately and respectfully.

“We encourage everyone with a grievance against the church to follow the prescribed processes spelt out in the Laws and Disciplines to seek redress,” said Bishop Malinga.

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