Irate congregation accuses Father Luonde of funding Father Bwalya

Father Bwalya - Red card

IRATE congregants at St Peters’ Anglican Church in Kitwe yesterday locked the church, accusing their priest, Father Richard Luonde of using church funds to finance priest-cum-politician  Frank Bwalya’s political activities.
The Sunday service was blocked at the church in Chimwemwe Township prompting some members to quickly call in police officers to forestall violence.
Some members interviewed said the wrangles had left the congregation divided with one group demanding the immediate departure of Fr Luonde and another opposing the move.
The anti-Fr Luonde camp also accused the priest of inappropriate conduct in the congregation.
A Times team that went to the church around 10:00 hours found the building locked as some members were milling around the premises.
Posters with messages denouncing Fr Luonde were pasted on the walls, with one of them reading that anyone who would enter the building ‘would be dealt with.’
Fr Luonde, who was also found at the premises, expressed shock at the development.
He attributed the development to a few people who he said harboured hatred against him.
Fr Luonde denied giving church money to Fr Bwalya, who has formed Agenda for Better Zambia (ABZ).
“First, they started by accusing me that I am indulging in adultery and now they are saying I am diverting church offering and tithe to Fr Bwalya which is totally untrue and I know even one priest is involved in this,” he said.
Fr Luonde, who was flanked by church treasurer Burton Phiri, said if people had issues, they should approach him rather than locking the church building.
Congregation spokesperson Cuthbert Chuza said the locking of the church came as a surprise to him.
“We came here for the service which starts at 09:30 hours but when we arrived around 09:00 hours, we found the building locked with a chain and a new lock and they have gone away with the keys,” he said.
Police were called in around 11:00 hours and kept vigil, while Fr Luonde and some members were still outside the locked building.
Information obtained by the Times indicated the congregation had been embroiled in the wrangle for the past couple of weeks now.