He was born a Christian of Church W. When he was studying at The Polytechnic, a constituent college of University of Malawi (Unima) in Blantyre, he joined his roommate’s Church X.
When he graduated from the college last year, he started work in Lilongwe where he joined Church Y. People thought he had finally found his ‘true’ church and God. However, he bent his feet again heading to Church Z where he is worshiping now. Yes, he is worshiping the same God he worshiped in the previous churches. God is one, so why do people change churches or religions?
“Of course, God is one but sometimes the way denominations praise and worship Him differs. That is why I have been changing churches. I will keep on changing churches if I am not satisfied with the way one church worships God,” says Derrreck (not his real name).
If Derreck was a parliamentarian in Malawi, he would be a possible victim of Section 65 of the Republican Constitution.
Section 65 states: “The Speaker shall declare vacant the seat of any member of the National Assembly who was, at the time of his or her election, a member of one political party represented in the National Assembly, other than by that member alone but who has voluntarily ceased to be a member of that party or has joined another political party, or association or organisation whose objectives or activities are political in nature.”
A Catholic faithful from Thyolo, Henry Mukhala, says it could be good if religion had a law to bar people from ‘crossing the floor’—moving from one church to another or one religion to another.
Mukhala explains: “In governance issues in Malawi, we have Section 65 in the Republican Constitution, which bars members of Parliament (MPs) from leaving one political party to another within Parliament.
“If we had a religious law like this it could help to solve the problem of changing denominations and religions anyhow. God is one; hence, there is no reason for people to change denomination or religion. This can be tolerated only when it is due to marriage, in case of women who usually follow their husbands.”
But Pastor Precious Chisi of Amazing Love Charismatic Ministries in Lilongwe says there is nothing wrong changing denominations because it is the right of everybody to do so.
“It is spiritually okay to change denomination, the reason being that everyone has right to association. Leaving one denomination for another does not mean you have ceased to be part of the body of Christ,” says Pastor Chisi.
A Muslim faithful, Akimu Simpokolo, from Lunzu in Blantyre agrees with Mukhala, saying a religious law similar to Section 65 could control unnecessary movement from one religion to another.
Indeed, lack of such law has made people to change denominations anyhow. People have ‘crossed the floor’ from one denomination to another. As if that is not enough, others have ‘crossed the floor’ from Christianity to Islam and vice-versa.
Section 65 has usually brought political standoff in Parliament. For example, between 2006 and 2007, opposition stood firmly refusing to pass the National Budget until the Speaker invoked Section 65. Opposition MPs put the budget at ransom because some fellow opposition MPs had ‘crossed the floor’ to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Therefore, one wonders whether ‘Section 65’ in religion cannot bring similar chaos and standoff.
“Definitely, instead of correcting the current problem, the suggested religious law can bring instability in churches because people can be forced to remain in a church which they no longer like,” says Stella Benjamin from Ntcheu.
Some Malawians argue that MPs should not cross the floor because that is not democratically necessary as the goal of all political parties is to serve Malawians and develop this nation. Benjamin argues people should not change religions or denominations because all these religious institutions have one goal, which is to serve one God.
Definitely, if a religious law similar to Section 65 could be introduced; many people would be victims as they have changed denominations at will.
John 4: 20-21 shows that Jesus dealt with the issue of changing churches when the woman introduced the subject of the place of worship. In reply Jesus said: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither worship on this mountain nor Jerusalem, worship the father that means the place of worship does not matter, but who you worship.”
Reverend Francis Kapheni of Dedza Assemblies of God says a religious ‘Section 65’ is impossible because churches differ in doctrines.
He says people move to another church because of new teachings they hear.
“Furthermore, people marry spouses from a different religion or church, which makes some of them to change according,” says Reverend Kapheni.
He agrees with Pastor Chisi, saying people, including Malawians have freedom of worship; hence, they can join any church or religion.
For Lilongwe-based evangelist Madalo Chimphepo, there is nothing wrong with changing the church, but people should do so when God gives them a go ahead.
“People should receive Jesus Christ first and He will be able to tell them about the right church from which to worship Him,” says Chimphepo.