The triennial assembly of the Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), that starts today, comes at a very critical time in the life of the church. A quick glance through the pages of newspapers bears testimony to an undeniable truth that the church is not at peace with itself.
The church has not found a common voice on many topical issues such as homosexuality in the church, how to respond to the challenge of HIV/AIDS, the role of women in the ministry, and the role of ministers of religion in party politics.
There are incessant bickerings and public spats among and between ministers of religion. Many commentators have said that if the church fails to attune itself with today's challenges and respond accordingly, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. Already, many young people are staying away from the church because it fails to speak to them, and for them. It does not minister for their needs.
The church is being challenged to take a leading role in seeking social justice for the underprivileged and the poor. The church is surprisingly silent when 47 percent of God's children go to bed everyday without food in a country endowed with so much mineral wealth. How do church leaders sleep soundly at night when so many of their followers have no roof above their heads? The church's prophetic voice is not heard when leaders trample on Botswana's democratic institutions like the Ombudsman. Except for Rev. Prince Dibeela and Rev. Cosmos Moenga, church leaders have not spoken out against the tendency to stifle the growth of Botswana's democracy. Rather than looking the other away, church leaders must lead the debate on issues like automatic succession of the vice president to high office, state funding for political parties, and introduction of proportional representation in Botswana's electoral system. Maintaining this kind of silence only serves to perpetuate the belief - widely held in some quarters - that the church in Botswana is the religious wing of the ruling party.
When the BCC comes out of its assembly on Saturday, it must be a rejuvenated and united body ready to tackle problems that are faced by Christians and non-Christians alike in the country.