Watoto Church founder and leader, Pastor Gary Skinner has weighed in on the ongoing contentious issue regarding fellow pastor Elvis Mbonye, condemning his conduct as “distorted honor”.
Skinner expressed worry over Mbonye’s flamboyant lifestyle and his style of leadership which he said goes against Biblical principles.
Popular city Pr. Elvis Mbonye has dominated public debate and the media over the last week following an event at Kololo Independence Grounds in which his followers knelt before him and ‘honored’ him by kissing his shoes.
A storm of reaction has since ensued with many questioning the rationale behind the behavior of the self-proclaimed Prophet while some accused him of brainwashing his congregation.
Mbonye quickly rose to fame using his prophetic revelations on political events, disasters and foretelling occurrences in his followers’ personal lives.
His weekly fellowships at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds largely attract the elite.
In an exclusive interview with ChimpReports on Sunday, Watoto’s leader Skinner commented that while honor is Biblically accepted, it could be deliberately altered by some people to achieve selfish gains, in reference to Mbonye.
“Honor is good and the Bible recommends it. It is good to honor priests, political leaders, fathers, police officers and people with authority. But it is possible that one can be tempted to twist or distort this honor for their own personal benefits,” Pr. Skinner said.
He says that ultimately, honor belongs to God and whoever among earthly leaders receives it is obliged to pass it on to God.
“I don’t know Pr. Mbonye. We have never met personally. But for somebody who was a nobody and suddenly he is being the centre of attention and they have people opening cars for them, sitting on thrones, dressing in a flashy way, this should begin to show red flags that honor is being distorted.”
According to Skinner, honor is commanded not demanded.
He said that as the main pastor of Watoto church, he gets honored by worshipers and his fellow church leaders but he tries to avoid it because it can be tempting.
“I’m prophesying that it won’t end well. He [Mbonye] should be quaking in his shoes because he has taken glory that belongs to God and it’s going to hurt him, the kingdom of God and his followers,” Skinner told ChimpReports.
Asked about Watoto church’s safeguards to ensure it doesn’t fall prey to the same trend where its pastors become the centre of praise, he said there are systems and structures to manage that.
“I am the main pastor and founder of Watoto but I don’t personally make leadership or financial decisions. I drive a good car but it doesnt have to be the latest model, I don’t even have to show it,” Skinner who has led Uganda’s biggest Pentecostal church for the last 25 years said.
“There is a team of great leaders that I have surrounded myself with and I have to consult them before I make these decisions. And I have created a system where these pastors can question my decisions so they keep me in check,” he added.
He alluded to Biblical Peter who was known to be a great leader and priest that some even referred to him as a Pope.
“It is because Peter was surrounded by the council of elders who gave him counsel. He didn’t do it all alone.”
Last week, Aruu county MP, Odonga Otto proposed that Parliament enacts a law that regulates the mushrooming churches in Uganda which he said have begun to exhibit witchcraft-like behavior.
Minister of Ethics and Integrity Fr. Simon Lokodo would later reveal that a policy on churches and other places of worship will soon be laid and that churches will be required to register.
Regarding regulation of churches by government, Pr. Skinner said; “I am all in support for government formulating a law that regulates churches because that’s the role of government – regulation. But at the same time, it shouldn’t make laws and impose them on churches because then they won’t work.”
“It must be done through consultation with spiritual elders. And not just spiritual leaders that have been for 5 or 10 years but whose experiences has spanned over 25 years like myself.”
Unfortunately, he said, the dilemma that the country faces is that even where there are laws in place, they are not respected and there are no penalties for those who disrespect the guidelines.
Pastor Skinner is the latest religious leader to criticize Mbonye’s conduct.
Pastor Wilson Bugembe of Light the World Church Nansana last week similarly likened the ongoing controversy to Biblical events in Acts chapter 5:33 where Gamaliel who was on the council of elders gave advice on false priests.
“Gamaliel said ‘Don’t stop those people’. If they [priests] are from God, you will never win them. If they aren’t from God, they will disappear. People can come and worship but pastors and prophets must remember that they are a signpost to God, they aren’t God,” Bugembe said.