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AFM saga: Madawo speaks

A lot of things have happened in the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM). The church, arguably the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country, was in 2018 ripped apart with the formation of two factions — one led by Reverend Amon Dubie Madawo (ADM) and another by Reverend Cossam Chiangwa.

Reverend Amon Madawo
Reverend Amon Madawo

The split spilled into the High Court, with Justice David Mangota presiding over it and on Wednesday declared Rev Madawo and his team as authentic church leaders.

The Manica Post reporter Samuel Kadungure (SK) caught up with Rev Madawo to discuss events unfolding in the church.

Excepts. . .

SK: Congratulations Rev Madawo for being elected the new AFM in Zimbabwe president and presiding over the transition period from the old to the amended constitution. You took over the leadership of the church at a time things were tense, but you managed to host highly subscribed conferences. What is the secret to your success?

ADM: Since being elected President of AFM in Zimbabwe we have held four successful conferences. The Wismos, Young People’s Union (YPU), Ladies and the just ended General Conference. The secret of this success is prayer and teamwork. The success of these conferences can be ascribed to God and his children working together in harmony.

SK: Please tell me about your high school and middle school ministry?
ADM: I had a passion for ministry from my early years. The call of God became clear to me in April 1985. I had begun preaching in Scripture Union. I preached at school and would be given opportunity to minster during the assembly.

SK: Do you still hold to the fact that you are a “Missional church”? If so, what does it mean to you to be missional?

ADM: AFM is a missional church. To be a missional church means that every member of the church must be a witness of Christ wherever they are, in their families, in their neighbourhood and at the market place and at schools, colleges and universities. To implement Matt 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 is to be missional.

SK: We have seen the change in the administration of the church, with the inclusion of an evangelical slot, from the assembly level. What role do the people play in the evangelistic efforts of the church?

ADM: The inclusion of evangelism from assembly to national level is not change of administration. It is a revival of what is in the AFM’s DNA. This is what AFM used to do and had kind of gone to sleep although a few assemblies and provinces still did it. Now we are saying evangelism must be done in a robust way. We must fulfil the Great Commission as a church and focus on winning souls to Christ

SK: Are there any other major changes that need to be made in the church governance and staff?

ADM: Currently we are in a transition. The amendment to the constitution came with changes in the church governance. We need to see to it that the constitution is implemented. We are focussing on educating the church members in the amended constitution.

SK: What problems did you identify in your last position? Do you foresee any of those same problems in this position? Where do you see opportunities in this new role?

ADM: The problems were the weak and ambiguous constitution which was full of loopholes. Many pastors were taking advantage of the weakness of the constitution to enrich themselves well above the organisation. The current constitution ensures that while the pastors are taken good care of by introducing equity in their welfare, the church must be stronger than individuals. The opportunities we see in this new role are taking the pastors welfare to a higher level while infrastructural development of the church is done. We are talking of building of churches, clinics, schools, orphanages and our first university.

SK: Do you have a current communication strategy — internally, eternally, etc.?
ADM: On communication, the secretariat under the Secretary General’s office is doing a great job in communicating internally and we have an efficient media team.

SK: Has the church leadership’s decision to craft and pass the amended constitution maximised the church’s purpose and values? Do you think the decision purposefully maximise the church’s vision and values considering that it led to a splinter faction?

ADM: The amendment of the Constitution was designed to bring the church back to its purpose and mission, and evidence on the ground shows that the church is now on track. Pastors have all the time to do ministerial work, to plan, pray and execute their calling without worrying much about other administration burdens.

SK: What changes might you suggest to the amended constitution if you were the decision-maker?

ADM: The AFM has always practised the Presbytery church governance system and it has not adopted a new one. It is a concilliar governance. No one person runs the show. It is governance by consultation and consensus of the boards and committees.

SK: What kind of church governance system has the AFM in Zim adopted and how does it work out practically?

ADM: There is no new constitution that was crafted. The church amended its constitution. It is natural for human beings to resist change. No one is blamed for resisting the amendment of the constitution. Worshipping in a church is free entry and free exit. When one is not happy with what is being done, one is free to leave just like those who left the church.

SK: On a scale from 0 to 10, if this church were thought of as an organism, how healthy is it? Can you identify the strengths that are contributing to the health of your church? Can you identify the factors that are weakening the health of your church?

ADM: AFM was not healthy. It grew in leaps and bounds numerically and spiritually while administration, management and constitutional matters were relegated to the background. The amended constitution is addressing administration, management and governance matters. Given a ratio of 0 to 10 I would safely say now with the direction the church is taking we are at 6.

SK: What is your perception of the events that unfolding in the AFM where we have two antagonistic factions, one aligned to you and the other to the former Deputy President Reverend Cassum Chiyangwa?

ADM: My perception is that nothing happens in God’s church without God knowing and allowing. People must not fight or create enmity. Differences of opinion on the constitution should not make us enemies. We should find each other and reconcile, if this does not happen we must part ways in peace and keep loving and respecting each other.

SK: What is the bone of contention? Are these divisions about the new constitution or factional?

ADM: The bone of contention on the surface was the amendment of the constitution. However, the real underlying issues are power and distribution of resources. Some people were hungry for power and failed to get it through constitutional ways and they decided to split. Others who supported the split were driven by greed. They want to enrich themselves at the expense of the church and other disadvantaged pastors.

SK: How many pastors left the church?

ADM: 460 Pastors left the church and the majority left with a handful of their loyalists following them.

SK: With a heart to regain those who left this church and have not found a new church home, what strategy have you to invite past members and attendees to the AFM in Zim?

ADM: Our hands are still wide open to welcome anyone who wants to come. We have communicated this to the AFM International which is mediating in the conflict. Members are free to come back to their church.

SK: There are allegations that huge sums of money exchanged hands as the rival camps, one of which you belonged to, try to outdo each other in buying votes to railroad the draft constitution.

ADM: I am not aware about that, maybe those who know about it can produce the evidence to that.

SK: Your presidency has been nicknamed a “creation or caricature” of the TN-sponsored draft, and now new constitution. Is he your political godfather or handler? In your honest opinion, has Mr TN captured the heart and soul of the AFM in Zimbabwe?

ADM: The decision to amend the constitution was made by the church leadership, which included those who are now saying the opposite. All the constitutional steps to amend the constitution were followed, whoever is saying the amendment to the constitution was a TN sponsored draft is misrepresenting facts.

SK: Your rivals also accuse you of roping Mr TN in your campaign across the provinces where he was allegedly threatening structures to vote for you. What is your response to assertions that the victory you are celebrating is as a result of interference by your godfather?

ADM: I don’t know what a political godfather is because I am not a politician and to my knowledge TN is not a politician. The church in its highest policy making body, the Workers’ Council, resolved that Mr TN be the leader of the constitutional amendment process, which he did together with a team, not as an individual. I think you are aware that the church is run by adults who know who they want to vote for and who they do not want to vote for. Even if when threatened they still would elect a President they want.

SK: What is your working relationship with Mr TN, former President Dr Aspher Madziyire and Rev Cossum Chiangwa?

ADM: Mr TN, Dr Madziyire and Rev Chiangwa are brethren in the Lord. I work well with Mr TN and Dr Madziyire. I have respect for Rev C Chiangwa as he is the former Deputy President of AFM in Zimbabwe

SK: Your critics also accuse you of surrounding yourself with weak personalities to create an aura of invincibility. What is your reaction to that?

ADM: As stated above in AFM we practice the Presbytery System of Church governance. Leaders are elected at their provinces for them to stand for national elections. The President does not have power to choose who to work with. It is the church that elects it leaders.

SK: Do you predict any changes in the AFM in Zim in the next five years? How do you plan to adapt your ministry to fit those changes? Do you think there are any changes that need to happen? Does the church have a yearly budget? If so, how is it put together?

ADM: Any organisation will always meet changes. As a matter of fact every living organisation will always be changing because times change and people change. The socio political environment is not static. I cannot predict the change but we as a team will be the agents of change. We will not want for change to just happen and we react, we are a proactive leadership that brings the change that we need. ManicaPost