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Schism in Kenya’s Kitale diocese

Tribal jealousies prompt Pokoot people to seek to form their own diocese based in Kapenguria

The Standard newspaper of Nairobi reports that a schism has torn apart the Diocese of Kitale on the country’s western border with Uganda. Approximately 10,000 church members living in the northern part of the diocese announced on Sunday they were withdrawing from the oversight of the Rt. Rev. Stephen Kewasis (pictured) and hoped to form their own diocese.

Sources in the Anglican Church of Kenya tell Anglican Ink the split is driven by tribal jealousies. The diocese is based in Kitale, the principle town of  Trans Nzoia County. The majority of residents of Trans Nzoia County are members of the Bukusu and Luo tribe. However, the residents of West Pokot County, to the north of Trans Nzoia County are members of a different ethnic group, the Pokoot. The breakaway group has petitioned the Most Rev. Jackson Ole Sapit, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya to create a new diocese of Kapenguria — the capital of West Pokot.

The situation appears to come to a head after Bishop Kewasis turned down the request that a leading Pokot priest, the Rev. Samson Tuliapus, be appointed suffragan bishop for the northern region of the diocese.

The Standard reported Bishop Kewasis rejected the request, saying “Mr Tuliapus had integrity issues that needed to be sorted out.” In his letter to the breakaway group, Bishop Kewasis “you have been collecting monies, promoting division, discord and disharmony among the faithful, advocating for creation of the proposed Kapenguria diocese, campaigning against tithes and inciting church officials against transfers.”

“These people would not be causing problems if I had picked one of them as bishop. They are power hungry. They want to become bishops by all means possible, including dividing the church. They think they can become bishops through the back door,” the bishop said.

The constitution of the Anglican Church of Kenya does not permit the creation of a new diocese by a unilateral declaration of independence.  The Kitale standing committee last year unanimously rejected the plea for the division of the diocese, noting the region did not have the institutions and infrastructure or number of communicants that would permit the creation of a new diocese.

However, the lay leaders of the breakaway group have rejected this decision, saying that as they are the ones supporting the diocese financially, they should make the decisions. “We are their employers and our decision is final. We have taken this direction because the bishops are confused,” said Isaac Makaliko, the secretary of the Kapenguria diocese told The Standard.

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