LUSAKA Diocese Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu says Fr Charles Chilinda is representing his own interests on the advisory board of the National House of Prayer and not the Catholic Church, ZEC or St Ignatius Parish where he is a resident.
In a statement released yesterday, Archbishop Mpundu, who is also ZEC president, said Fr Chilinda could not represent the Catholic Bishops Conference because he was not one of them.
On Thursday, Cabinet announced that President Edgar Lungu had appointed 12 members of the advisory board, fundraising and technical committee to spearhead the construction of the National House of Prayer, which includes Fr Chilinda.
But Archbishop Mpundu stated that the Catholic Church had not changed its position on the National House of Prayer because the motive behind the construction of a government church was not clear.
“I would like to bring to your attention the article which appeared in your newspaper…The article says in part that ‘His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia has appointed members of the advisory board, fundraising and technical committee to spearhead the construction of the National House of Prayer. Among the 12 members of this advisory board, fundraising and technical committee is Fr Charles Chilinda said to be of the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC)’,” Archbishop Mpundu stated.
“Please kindly be advised that Fr Charles Chilinda SJ is not a member of the Catholic Bishops Conference known as Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), therefore he cannot represent ZEC, an association he does not belong to. Fr Charles Chilinda SJ is a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), a Catholic Religious Order, and is resident at St Ignatius Church where he is ‘Rector’ (team leader) of the Jesuit Community of several priests resident there.”
He explained that Fr Chilinda was not the parish priest at St Ignatius Church in Lusaka and as such could not represent the parish on the advisory board.
“He is NOT the parish priest of St Ignatius Church, [that is] the responsibility of Rev Fr John Mwelwa SJ,” Archbishop Mpundu stated.
He further stated that Fr Chilinda was only representing himself on the government church board because he could not represent the parish or the Society of Jesus.
“On this government church board, Fr Chilinda SJ is representing only himself, not ZEC or the Society of Jesus or St Ignatius Parish,” stated Archbishop Mpundu.
Fr Chilinda becomes the second priest to be disowned by his church after Fr Robert Sihubwa who was disowned by the Council of Churches in Zambia yesterday.
Other members of the advisory board include Rev Pukuta Mwanza of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ); Bishop Peter Ndhlovu, who is the Bible Gospel Church in Africa overseer; Bishop Joshua Banda of Northmead Assembly of God Church,;Rev Akushanga Muyenga from Praise Christian Centre; Rev Mpundu Mutale and Apostle Elizabeth Alberts Chishimba from God of All Dominions.
The rest are Brigadier General Bishop Vincent Mwenya, Chaplain General of the Defence Forces, Apostle Bishop Dr Timothy Kazembe of Naiboth Church, Dr Edwin Zulu from the Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) and Reverend Lubinda Matongo Mukelebai of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ).
President Lungu also appointed 10 members of the fundraising subcommittee, whose core business was mobilisation of resources for the construction of the National House of Prayer, including Samuel Kalengo, Luwabelwa Luwabelwa, Dr Liya Mutale, Bishop David Nama and Musa Mulundika, James Mwenda, Simon Mwale, Chela Silwamba, Rev Florence Munyenyembe and Novious Tembo.
He further appointed eight members of the technical committee who would look into the day-to-day running of the government church.
The members of the technical committee are Brig General Bishop Vincent Mwenya, Chaplain General of the Defence Forces who is also the chairperson, Col Fr Eugene Nyambe (vice-chairperson), Colonel Rev Henry Matifeyo (secretary) and Lt Col Reverend Hendrix Moma, who is a member, Bishop David Nama, Lt Col Rev Tomothy Chipyoka, Major Rev Bossy Nkhoma and Major Reverend Judith Mutale.
But some church organisations have condemned President Lungu’s decision to start building a government church in Lusaka’s Woodlands area, saying the Head of State had misplaced his priorities because there was no shortags of church buildings in Zambia where people could go to worship.