Our friend Tom Engolu came to visit us for a weekend, all the way from Soroti, Uganda. We had a great time. He is a close friend who is a secondary school teacher, and an elder and treasurer in his Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) church. One of the highlights was that I set up a time for him to discuss with some of the students who were interested in talking to him. About 8 students came and discussed, mainly about the differences between the Anglican Church of Kenya and the PAG churches in Uganda. I did not get a photo of the historic event, but here is a photo of Tom walking with us near our home.
The discussion was a great time of mutual learning. Topics that came up included: marriage, searching for a spouse, family planning, sex, baptism, ordination, pastoral calling, theological education, salary, and more.
The most interesting discussion was when they compared what pastors are paid in the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) in the village, and what village pastors are paid in Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) churches in Uganda. In the ACK, pastors make the equivalent of $400 a month, plus some allowances, and almost every pastor has a vehicle. In PAG in Uganda, pastors in towns do okay, but in the village they get about the equivalent of $1 per month, and so have to be full-time farmers as well. It was so interesting to see Tom in complete disbelief about how much pastors in the ACK are paid, and seeing the students in complete disbelief about how little the PAG pastors are paid. The students themselves said that it's too easy for someone to become a pastor in the ACK just to make money and many refuse to work when there is no money. So they were inspired by the PAG pastors who serve their churches as near-volunteers. They wondered if the PAG churches might be more spiritually healthy because of that difference. The cost of living is higher in Kenya, but the difference in pay is still huge. The city pastors in Uganda still make way way less than the city pastors in Kenya. Excepting Kampala, it's rare to find a pastor in Uganda who owns a vehicle.
Similarly, Tom was shocked that the Anglican churches have full-time evangelists who are paid $300 per month. Tom said the evangelists in PAG are voluntary, and the whole church is expected to do evangelism. Clearly, Kenya is more developed than Uganda and doing better economically. In addition, it seems that the Anglican churches are doing a better job of stewardship and paying their pastors and church leaders compared to the Pentecostal churches. However, this does not always lead to spiritual growth. In some cases, the students said it leads to corruption, to buying and selling of church offices, and people joining the ministry just for money. Furthermore, since pastors have such a high expectation in payment, most churches in the Anglican Church of Kenya cannot afford their own pastor, so each pastor ends up overseeing 5-10 different churches. So you can definitely see positives and negatives for both the PAG system and the ACK system.
Another discussion that was very interesting was about ordination and calling. In PAG, you begin with being involved in active church ministry, and the church calls you to be a pastor or leader, and then you go to school to get trained. It's not so much about your personal calling, but more about the church recognizing your gifts. In the ACK, you begin by feeling the personal calling, then you go to school, then you get ordained after going to Bible school. So the result is that the ACK pastors are much better trained, but the ordination happens quickly without a long time relationship with a church who knows their character. The result in PAG is pastors who are trusted, their testimony is solid, and they have a lot of ministry experience, but most of the PAG pastors have very little training. In the Christian Reformed Church where I'm from, I think we have a nice balance of the two. People like me felt a personal calling, but I can't be automatically be ordained just from going to Bible college. A local church has to call me and accept me before I can be ordained, many other people had to be involved in recognizing my gifts, life, and calling.
It was a really wonderful discussion, where people were eager to learn from each other and appreciate new things. There is much more ecumenism of this type in East Africa now than in years past, so I'm told. This is a great thing. I see Pentecostal churches changing and taking on some good ideas from the Anglican Church, and I see Anglican churches becoming more charismatic as they are influenced by Pentecostals.
Other photos from our time with Tom on our walks near our home: