‘Synod finally has results-oriented GS’

The 32nd Biennial Assembly of the Synod of Blantyre of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) has elected Reverend BILLY GAMA as the new General Secretary of the synod. Our News Analyst ARCHIBALD KASAKURA engaged him on a number of issues.

Gama: I want to improve the welfare of serving ministers

Q

Why do you think the 32nd Assembly has shown unprecedented divisions within the Blantyre Synod?

A

I would not say the Assembly this year has seen the language of divisions more than any other Assembly in the past. These have been the trends even in the past. I remember even in the 2015 elections there was a similar kind of situation. This has been a thorn in the flesh of the Blantyre Synod for a long time. Even some eight years ago some church ministers were summoned to answer charges of bringing divisions in the church. So you can see this is an old age problem within the Synod. So the question should rather be why there have been such divisions within the church?

Q

Don’t you think as GS you need to manage this problem of divisions in the church, once and for all, before the church splits?

A

Now that I have started work, I will not sit down and relax. We will try to identify the underlying factors from all stakeholders. I will even reach out to those that I competed with during the elections. I will listen to them and if they have better solutions we will work together.

Q

Some people think your campaign for the GS position was well funded. Do you think that is true and did that give you an unfair advantage over your fellow contenders?

A

Allegations and rumours will always be there. What I think is that if that was true I would have gotten nomination from all the 18 presbyteries, but I got eight only. I even failed to get nomination from some presbyteries that I naturally thought I would easily get, for example Blantyre North. But I can tell you this; you cannot bank on money to win a church election because it is a secret ballot. You can get cheated by people. But people will always find something against someone when they see that you are making progress.

Q

How did you manage the challenge of vying for the GS’s post when you were facing accusations of towing the political line of the DPP, being unfaithful to your wife and embroidered in a tribal conflict?

A

The more people were accusing me, the more they made me stronger. People should know that whatever was thrown at me over these years is what has made me what I am today. If someone accuses me of being a sympathiser of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP], for example, they have to justify that with evidence. No one has ever seen me getting involved with DPP as a party. No single person can stand and say we saw Billy Gama at a party rally shouting the DPP slogan. I have also been accused of being UTM because someone saw Michael Usi [UTM vice-president] at Mulanje Mission where I have been stationed.

These are allegations that are made without backing facts. I have been working with the State as a partner of the church—not DPP as a political party. You should also know that people only point at people like me when you associate with those in the ruling side. But there are a lot of clerics and churches who are apparently sympathetic to opposition parties yet they do not get this tag.

QIn your view, did the Synod handle the issue about your alleged picture on social media well?

A

I cannot fault the church in the way it handled that matter. Remember the Synod does not act on issues based on social media rumours or reports. There are laid down procedures that are followed in the church. Once these are activated, disciplinary measures are taken. But outside those, I do not think there is anything the church should have done differently.

Q

Do these personal attacks affect your resolve in your new role as GS?

A

No, like I said I am more focused because of what some people say about me. Look at this, I have been liked in many stations I was posted. One wonders why all these accusations are coming from people who are not from my church. I have not been summoned by any disciplinary hearing on infidelity. Not even my own wife has accused me of such a thing. Check with the Synod if there is a record of me being summoned for any misconduct. But you find people who are very far from me pointing fingers at me. Check with my congregation at Mulanje Mission, there has been peace and calm. I think that is not fair.

Q

There have also been complaints of moral decadence and of some church ministers using the pulpit to advance political agenda. As the new GS are you going to stamp your authority over such waywardness?

A

Decisions within the synod are not made by one person. Thus all issues will be handled using the existing guidelines. If, for example, a minister uses the pulpit to advance a political agenda or is accused of being morally bankrupt, the evidence shall be examined and the verdict passed accordingly. Only during elections the clergy are allowed to guide the flock on attributes of good leaders and not necessarily political colours. This should be clear to everyone.

Q

What are your medium and long-term plans for the Synod?

A

Blantyre Synod has finally got someone who wants to see results. I will not sit down on my laurels instead I want to help the synod develop. First is the issue of financial sustainability. I have a number of projects that I would like to help implement. We want to improve the welfare of serving ministers and those that retired. Our serving ministers should be remunerated on time and retired ones taken care of by the church. We will introduce revenue-generating ventures. Our education department will also be a huge area of interest with my goal of having the Blantyre Synod University growing to more faculties and getting accredited, just to mention a few.

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