S. African churches urge pastor licensing after 'prophet' has congregants eating snakes

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The South African Council of Churches has called for the basic certification of pastors to protect people from "objectionable, heretical and alien" practices.

The Aug. 20 decision of the national Christian grouping follows after national anger about a man calling himself a prophet who made his congregants eat small animals and reptiles, News 24 reported.

The council represents all the mainstream Christians in South Africa including Anglicans, Orthodox, Protestants and Roman Catholics called on the State to protect the human rights of people attending churches.

This was a reference to the actions of Pastor Penuel Mnguni, who reportedly jumps on congregants and makes them eat snakes.

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The churches' council held discussion after what it called the unethical practices by a so-called prophet in Soshanguve, near the capital Pretoria, who made members of his congregation eat the creatures and also human hair.

"It is our responsibility in the name of the loving God to protect our community, whether they are members of our congregations or not," said South African Council of Churches acting general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, with about 30 clerics standing behind him.

"We wonder whether the next step beyond human hair is - that we will be seeing people's fingers snapped off," he said of the things congregants at Mnguni's End Times Disciples were convinced to eat.

NO TO EATING RATS AND SNAKES

In recent months the South African media has carried reports about Mnguni performing headline-grabbing acts including convincing followers to drink petrol and eat grass, snakes and rats. He claimed the rats would taste like chocolate and petrol like fruit juice.

After a march led by one of the parliamentary opposition parties, the Economic Freedom Fighter, Mnguni's tents was reported to have been burned down by Soshanguve residentrs angered at the pastor's actions.

"We condemn these harmful practices as totally alien to the gospel of the Christian faith," said Bishop Mpumlwana, stating that Christians only commemorate Jesus through the rite of holy communion, or the Eucharist ceremony.

"No other strange ritual or gimmick... can be represented as the saving work of Christ," said the churches' leader.

He said the South African Council of Churches knows there are many bogus pastors preying on the vulnerable, who in turn promise are solution to their challenges which can often be bizarre.

The national Church body also called on the South African public not to fall for fraudulent practices, saying a summit was planned to define what would be considered "objectionable."

Among actions the council defines as unacceptable are: jumping on people, getting people to eat grass, ants, snakes, bankrupting them, or selling them things to get closer to God which he said was "demonstrably extortionist, or, at best, the sale of grace."

Bishop Mpumlwana made the statement at the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches packed with journalists in Khotso House, Johannesburg, after a meeting by Christian leaders.

"We shall make sure that in order to protect people who are vulnerable, we will do everything we can to identify and work on the material needs that people have, to deal with their hunger and their poverty, so they are not driven to seek solutions that are bizarre and unacceptable."

While recognizing that that many people have a calling, but do not have theological training, the council of churches would help such people through basic training and licensing, and linking them with relevant training institutions and universities.

The South African Council of Churches represents 37 national Christian bodies and is affiliated to the World Council of Churches

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