This story explores the role of Christianity, in general, and independent African religious denominations, in particular, in Kenya and Africa. The subject of study is the "Power of Jesus Around the World Church." The examination is interested in the beliefs, convictions, and influence of the "Power of Jesus Around the World"'s founder. Through this examination, we will be able to discover the importance of religion in Africa.
You cannot fail to see it. The “Power of Jesus Around the World Church” building in Kisumu City. A big symbol of the cross stands a top a red hexagonal-sided roof on the large, brownish, brick building. In case you are not sure that it is the one, a big sign-post painted on the blue-colored gate and along the blue perimeter wall announces that this is building is the “Power of Jesus Around the World Church.”
Situated on the main Kisumu-Nairobi road, on the opposite side of the MegaCity building on the busy intersection Megacity, this large, ornate church is also the headquarter of the “Power of Jesus Around the World Church” with members all over East Africa. Its founder and leader is Arch-Bishop Dr. Washington Ogonyo Ngede.
Arch-Bishop Ogonyo Ngede says that the “Power of Jesus Around the World Church” has more than 2,000 branches spread around Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania and a membership of more than 1.5 million believers. The church has been there for a long time, but the magnificent church headquarter in Kisumu was built and officially opened in 2001 by President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya.
Kenya was first introduced to Christianity through the Portuguese in the 15th century. Roman Catholicism was the denomination of the Portuguese traders and explorers who visited Kenya during that time. As the years went by, various other denominations were brought in by other European missionaries and colonial settlers especially during the 20th century.
Today, Protestantism constitutes the largest percentage of Christian population in Kenya, roughly around 47%. More specifically, the denominations that can be classified as Protestant are the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Lutherans, and the Pentecostals. The New Apostolic Church, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, United Pentecostal Church International, and Brahmanism make up roughly 11% of the Christian population, categorized by observers as the Non-Protestant denominations.
The two oldest Christian denominations, the Catholic, and the Orthodox denominations, also have a strong foothold in Kenya. Interestingly, Kenya has the largest population of Orthodox Christians in Africa, beating out even Ethiopia. In 2016, the Orthodox Church created two new dioceses to cate for the large number of worshippers in Kenya, the Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya, and the Diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya. Both dioceses are under the Archdiocese of Nairobi, ran by Archbishop Makarios. The Catholic Church also has commands a sizeable proportion of followers in Kenya. The current head of the Catholic Church in Kenya is John Njue, a cardinal who has held various administrative positions before in the Church. While there are other religious groups in Kenya, including Islam, Hinduism, Atheism, and
Traditional faiths, Christianity is by far the largest in Kenya today.
Since the beginning of contact with Africans, European Christian missionaries have been interested in the religious aspect of life of the African continent. During the colonial period, colonial authorities and Christian missionaries made sure that Christianity expanded through colonial policies, the effort of the missionaries, and the work of the mission schools. But while the European missionaries were helping in expanding Christianity in Kenya, their own national convictions, religious beliefs, and personal principles led to clashes with the newly converted African Christians, and stubborn African adherents to traditional African beliefs.
These conflicts led to the rise of evangelical movements and independent African churches preaching against paternalistic European missionaries hostile to African views, sentiments and mode of worship in the church while at the same time advocating for and spreading a Christianity rooted in African traditional customs, beliefs, and practices. The emergent independent African blended Christian doctrinal teachings with African music, dance, drums, and practices. They delved into spiritual matters and addressed political concerns of their congregations. They wanted an end to the domination of the church by the European missionaries and demanded religious and political independence. They consequently became very popular and spread like wildfire in Africa during the 1920s and 1930s, and further deepened the reach of Christianity in the heart of the African continent.
The “Power of Jesus Around the World Church” emerged on the crest of the independent African church movements that were sweeping across Africa since the early 1920s and 1930s, and which were themselves the product of the European missionary campaign to spread Christianity in Africa during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is an example of the spiritual voices in Africa advocating for African religious independence. It can be compared to many other independent African churches that emerged across the continent during the early to mid-twentieth century. It seems to believe in a Christianity that has a spiritual voice as well as a political influence on the African continent.
As we have already mentioned, the founder of the “Power of Jesus Around the World Church” is Arch-Bishop Dr. Washington Ogonyo Ngede. Ogonyo Ngede sees himself as a “re-born” Christian who wants spiritual independence from the mainstream Christian churches. He says that, ever since he was a child, he had always wanted to preach the Gospel and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ. While he does not state what denomination his family was, he says that he received a lot of flak and resistance from his family and local community. Despite these hurdles, Ogonyo Ngede persisted with his vision of founding his own church. He says that he believed that he had the will of God on his side, and that everything that was happening in his life was the Lord leading him towards his goals.
After graduating from Tokyo University in Japan with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Washington started working at the Auto Mechanical Engineering Career in Nairobi, Kenya. One day in 1979 while at work, Ogonyo Ngede witnessed an angel that come down from heaven to remind him of his duty to preach the Gospel. The angel gave Washington some money to buy lunch that day and to help jumpstart his new church. From that day forward Washington set out to preach the teachings of Jesus as he saw fit. He resigned, travelled to the US, and then came back to Kenya to establish the “Power of Jesus Around the World Church.”
Based in Kisumu, the “Power of Jesus around the World Church” is an example of the expansive foothold that Christianity has in Kenya and Africa in general. It is also an example of the role of the church in spiritual, economic, and political affairs of its members and the continent as a whole. Ogonyo Ngede believes that the church must lead in promoting and building peace in the African continent. His belief in the role of Christianity in promoting peace can be seen from several photographs adorning his expansive office, showing him meeting with Kenya’s heads of state, foreign ambassadors, and many other dignitaries. Ogonyo Ngede has met with several leaders of Kenya.
Following the election violence that took place after the disputed General Election of December 2007 to February 2008, Ogonyo Ngede held a press conference on the violence that further amplifies his belief on the role of the church in politics in Kenya. He was involved in trying to resolve the political dispute during the 2007/08 disputed election. He discussed the political conflict in Kenya with various leaders. He decried what he called a series of broken agreements between President Mwai Kibaki and Hon. Raila Odinga, and he said that, “it is on that ground therefore that we appeal to our two leaders, that is, Hon Kibaki and Hon Raila to be sincere with one another and to the country by going to what they signed in power sharing on how to govern the country.” While not providing any specific details of the Church’s influence in the country, this press release not only shows that Ogonyo Ngede wields some sort of voice in the political atmosphere, but also underlines his belief in the role of the church in the spiritual and political affairs of a country.
In 2015, Ogonyo Ngede opposed an attempt by the government to put regulations on activities of the churches in Kenya. He wrote a published appeal, exclaiming, “We appeal to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee administration to redirect its energies to other more pertinent issues instead of regulating the activities of the church in the Republic of Kenya,” insisting that the regulations were made in bad faith. Certainly, it would seem, that Ogonyo Ngede has, at the very least, a strong voice in the religious community and is active in political participation in Kenya. Ogonyo Ngede was also involved in trying to resolve disputes following the controversial 2017 election, which also led to violence and protests, including a strike at Maseno University.
From these examples, it is clear that Ogonyo Ngede believes that the church should play an active role in promoting peace, stability, and unity. He does not just preach about spiritual affairs, but also delves into the socio-economic, and political issues of the day in his country. For him, there is no divide between the spiritual and the material, the religious and the secular. They are all intertwined. He sees Christianity as a driving religious force in Africa, especially in Kenya.
Through the “Power of Jesus Around the World Church,” Ogonyo Ngede seeks to see Christianity continuing to play a major role in society. As should be clear from his beliefs by now, Christianity is a driving religious force in Africa, especially in Kenya.
By John Martin, Salano Nathaniel, Walter Elbrecht, Daniel Hunziker, Leah Waruguru Mathai, Winfred Mueni Mutisu, and Dennis Breeding
Outer Wall, Power of Jesus Around the World Church: This wall sign beckons to passersby on the busy Nairobi Road. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 11, 2018
Power of Jesus Around the World Church: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 11, 2018
Sanctuary, Power of Jesus Around the World Church: Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 11, 2018
Foundation Stone, Power of Jesus Around the World Church: Kenyan President Daniel T. Arap Moi opened the church building in 2001, as this foundation stone commemorates. It marked the first time a Kenyan president ever dedicated a church building. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 11, 2018
Bishop Washington Ogonyo Ngede: Bishop Ndege is the pastor of the Kisumu church and archbishop of the larger Power of Jesus Around the World Church organization, which spans three East African countries. ~ Photo by J. Mark Souther, January 11, 2018
Nyalenda Junction next to Lion High School, Nairobi Rd, Kenya ~ www.pojaw.weebly.com