Abusive Churches & Gender Inequality, Biblical Equality in Africa, Black Women & The Image of God, Church & Gender Inequality, Clergy Women of Color, Gender Equality for Women of Color, The Very Rev. Muthure

A Clergy Woman Of Color Too Series: Cries From Kenya

My parents divorced when I was a child, leaving our family of nine to be raised by my now mother. The challenges of raising children as a single parent put so much strain on our family, that there was hardly any peace at home. The only place that I could find peace was at church. This was because our Vicar exercised very good oversight of church members. 

The Lord called me at a tender age and at twelve, I was already preaching. In fact my classmates nicknamed me ‘pastor.’

At the age of twenty two, I was employed by the church as an Evangelist. My job included visiting church members and organizing missions. Because I worked collaboratively with the Vicar and conducted many church member visits with him, a rumor started that we were having an affair. The rumor was so bad that some women advised the Vicar’s wife to do something lest I take her husband. I considered quitting the job at the time, but the Lord encouraged me through the Vicar not to.

The following year I decided to attend seminary and upon graduation, I was ordained as a deacon. Fresh out of seminary, and an unassuming, soft spoken young lady,  my first post was to a very small church that was dying and which could not even provide financial support for me. The departing clergy informed me that he saw no future for the church and that is why he was leaving and practically discouraged from accepting the posting. However, I knew that “he who begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” (Phil. 1:6) and I had faith that the LORD would supply all my needs. So I accepted the posting and stayed. 

The following year, I was ordained as a priest and I continued to serve in the same parish as a Curate (Assistant Minister) to no one, for the next two years. I am happy to say that contrary to expectations and by God’s grace, my parish grew spiritually, numerically and financially.

When the diocese realized that the parish now had potential and was now in a position to financially support a vicar, I was transferred to another parish, yet again, as a curate, and a male clergy was brought in as the vicar. 

Later on, I learned that my bosses were competing to have me as their curate because I was a hardworking, loyal, agreeable, easy-to-get-along-with woman clergy.

I served in my second Parish for one year, and in a capacity where I was more to be seen and but not heard. During that entire one year, I did not preach in the church, neither was I allowed to call for a meeting or visit anyone without the vicar’s permission. [He actually told me that I was to be in the parish for only one hour daily and after that I was to go home to attend my son. But I couldn’t do that because that wasn’t me.]

In my diocese, a certain parish had become a thorn in the diocese. They notoriously rejected every vicar who was not of their choice. The last vicar they had departed under accusations of financial mismanagement and immorality. Following that, the parish requested a particular priest with whom they had shared history, but the diocese refused. Instead, the diocese sent them another male clergy. The parishioners responded by locking him out of his office. The Bishop decided to visit the parish, but he too was locked out. The parishioners didn’t even want to listen to the Bishop. 

It was amidst all this that, at 11pm on one fateful night when I was thirty-two years old and pregnant with my second child, I received a call from the Diocesan Administrative Secretary, informing me that I had been transferred to that parish and that I should report at the parish first thing the following day! 

I did indeed, report at the parish the following day, which was Sunday. To my great surprise and shock, their reception of me was also negative. However they did not lock their doors on me(!). 

Life in that parish was not easy! I was rejected, insulted, accused and threatened by some members. In addition, part of the leadership was very hostile towards me. Later on, I learned that the reason they were hostile towards me was because they viewed me as a friend of the ‘system’ (according to them, the system was not leading the diocese in the right direction). The opposition intensified daily and as it intensified, I prayed and trusted God for the way out. 

Three months down the road, God inspired me to call the leaders for a meeting so that we could discuss and both the problem and a solution. The LORD was faithful  to His call on my life and gave me a breakthrough with these folks because by the end of the meeting, we were reconciled!!! This reconciliation led to amazing things in our parish, including a great spiritual revival and church growth.

Following this amazing turn around, I embarked on maternity leave for the birth of my second child. Meanwhile, a new bishop had been appointed to our diocese, and one day, during the second month of my maternity leave, I received a call that I was to go pick my letter in the diocesan office because I had been transferred to another parish, and that I was supposed to effect handover of my office immediately! The reason given to me for my transfer was that I was incapable of running a parish as a nursing mother. To make matters worse I was demoted and the implication was that my stipend was going to be reduced. Oh, and by the way, I had just taken a car loan!

Despite the injustice of the events, I complied and immediately reported to the new parish, and asked for permission to complete my maternity leave. The vicar generously and graciously acceded to my request, but refrained from informing me I would not receive a salary during my maternity leave. 

After my maternity leave, I resumed and served in that parish for two years and in those two years I was given handouts rather than a salary. I was subjected to and suffered so much abuse in that parish, and encumbered with financial burdens that stemmed from lack of a dependable salary (for two years, I was unable to make a payment on a previous car loan), but the vicar did not care! 

Soon after, another parish was in chaos. This was another parish where the vicar was accused of financial mismanagement and other malpractices. The parish was dying and its congregation was divided, and would you know it? You guessed it – I was transferred to that parish! This was my fifth parish transfer!

At this fifth parish, many members had left the church, financial giving was down  to almost nothing, and the construction of the church building had been stalled for a long time. The church was also swimming in massive debts.

My discernment process with the members revealed they weren’t confident about raising funds to resolve their parish’s financial issues. So instead, I recommended (and they accepted) the approach of cutting down church expenses in order to free up money to both run the parish and start paying off the debts. Within a few months of embarking on this approach, we were able to eliminate most of the debt. Shortly afterwards, we had saved enough money to complete the construction of the church office and bathroom. When the members saw this progress, they started giving more generously and within a few months, we were able to complete the church construction and purchase pews and a public address system. 

BUT, just as we entered the final phase of completing the finishing touches so we could dedicate our church building, I was transferred to Cathedral as backlash for refusing to sleep with my bishop! 

His excuse for the transfer was that I was unfit to be vicar of a parish, hence he demoted me!

This was an enormous blow to me. I was wounded and hurt for a long time and have had to accept that male leadership have made the church a place where evil is rewarded and good is punished. 

I quickly adapted to my new posting in the Cathedral and in the year 2016, I was honored as the Clergy of the Year. In the same year, a vacancy opened for the position of Assistant Provost. Well aware that my qualification met the requirements, I applied for the position. However, I was not accepted. Instead they chose a young man who had no parish experience. The feedback I received re my application was that “Cathedral is not ready to have a woman as an Assistant Provost.”

In my fourteen years of ministry, I have had to work harder than my male colleagues to prove my capabilities. I have had to raise my voice in order to be heard. 

When a man clergy sleeps with women in the church and steals money from the church coffers, he’s transferred and the issue is covered. But when a woman clergy raises her voice over justice issues, she’s negatively labeled and ostracized in ministry. And the punishment for such women clergy is heavy. 

Yet, in all these, we #persist as more than conquerors, because faithful is He who called us and faithful is He to perform the Call.

Blessed be the name of the LORD!!!

-The Very Rev. Muthure


 

A Kenyan Scenery

The Very Rev. Muthure is a woman of color clergy in the Anglican Church of Kenya , where she has served in full-time ministry for the past sixteen years. Her areas of focus are Discipleship and Prayer and her interests include helping young people and especially young mothers discover, embrace and develop their potential. As a result of her own humble origins, she is committed to providing educational opportunities for children from economically-challenged home and is developing a foundation which will cover the cost of schooling for such children. She has Bachelors in Divinity and a Masters Degree in Development Studies and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry degree.

Rev. Muthure has served as a vicar, a curate, as well as the chairperson of a hospital board in Nairobi, Kenya. 

She is married with children of her own, and an aunt and sister to many others. 

She loves singing and is also a motivational speaker. Her name, “Muthure” (pronounced: maw-tur-ray) means “chosen one.”

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