Lutheran church’s halo wanes in Morobe

Momase, Normal

The National, Thursday July 11th, 2013

 WHILE Catholicism remains the largest mainstream Christian faith in the country with well over two million adherents, it is not as intimately associated with any particular province as the Lutheran faith does with Morobe.  

Since its arrival at Simbang in Finschhafen on July 12, 1886, Morobe remains the stronghold of the faith, which is administered out of Lae to its 1.2 million members through its ELCPNG headquarters at Ampo.

With more than a century’s worth of prayerful association, the Lutheran faith is firmly woven into the province’s history and exerts considerable influence on its future destiny. 

But in recent times, corruption and church politics have edged the ELCPNG administration dangerously close to the brink.

The recent shock sacking of the long-suspended chief executive of Lutheran Shipping Agua Nombri by the ELCPNG council blew the lid on a festering pot of allegations and accusations dating back for years.  

Riding at the heart of this rot, as with most other cases of decadence, is the age-old greed for wealth and power to the detriment of all else. 

Many have notched May 14, 2008, the date of the passing of late Bishop Dr Wesley Kigasung as the beginning of the end of more than 100 years of untainted Lutheran ministry in the country.

Fight Corruption Group, a creation of the so-called ELCPNG “dark age”, claimed that new laws and systems drawn up since Dr Kigasung’s passing have raised serious issues of credibility and culpability. 

An investigation report released in 2009 picked out gross maladministration and financial mismanagement as the causes of ELCPNG’s business arm, Kambang Holdings, riding precariously on the edge of bankruptcy.

The report claimed that shares of Kambang Holdings trading company, Lutheran Shipping, worth K50 million, were grossly undersold for K8 million to another shipping line.

Consequently, Lutheran Shipping dropped drastically from operating 28 vessels at its peak operation in 2000 to two vessels this year.

Sios Wokman Retirement Fund (SWRF) is another victim of the culture of corruption that had entered the church, according to the report. 

The report stated that an accrued debt of K7 million forced the fund into receivership with the Bank of Papua New Guinea and its subsequent absorption by superfund Nasfund.

Many other instances of impropriety, including the purchase of a K600,000 Hunter property for  K2.5 million by ELCPNG, were highlighted in the report.