Evangelicals and the Constitution Making Process

Congratulations to Mr. Musa Mwenya on beingelected as President of the Law Association of Zambia. I came to know about him at a meeting that was called by the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) to discuss the invitation from government that we select representatives to sit on National Constitutional Conference (NCC). At that meeting that was held at Salvation Army in 2007 he stated that for the process to be credible the draft constitution ought to be adopted by a broadly representative organ and only be submitted to Parliament after it has been approved by the people in a Referendum. This proposal was welcomed and the meeting resolved that EFZ decline the invitation from government to sit on the NCC because government had resolved that Parliament will adopt the new constitution.

Since the EFZ does not legislate for member bodies, individual church leaders who were invited to sit on the NCC refused to comply with the EFZ resolution and were able to participate on their own recognition and not as representatives of the EFZ. Those who participated must be commended for the spirited fight they put up to ensure that values the majority Christians holds dearly to were also included in the draft constitution that was ultimately rejected by Parliament. As it was stated from the onset by the majority of Zambians, the failure of the NCC process was because of the infusion of partisan interests. The voting pattern in Parliament demonstrated what Musa Mwenya feared would happen. This national undertaking was settled on partisan political affiliation.

With over K130 billion taxpayers’ money so far having been used someone ought to be taking responsibility and telling the Zambian people when the new constitution will be ready. In the past when such an undertaking hit a stalemate, the three church mother bodies would have quickly come together and sought the face of the Lord and then would have invited concerned parties to an insaka to discuss the way forward. Christians who were not there in the 1980’s and early 90’s should be forgiven if they think that the church in Zambia especially the evangelicals is not involved in the real world as instruments of change under the hand of God. The fact is the evangelicals have been ‘salt and light’ to society at critical times in our nation. Of late, however, the evangelicals have not been united in its witness when it comes to issues of governance.

The constitution making stalemate, therefore, provides an opportunity for the evangelicals to come together and discuss how this challenge is affecting our lives, our faith and in particular the evangelistic mission which is our concern. We must be thankful to God that up to date our people are acting with civility in the way they are responding to this impasse. Nevertheless, we must ask what our response supposed to be as evangelical Christians.

As it is the situation is not favorable to mass evangelistic campaigns and revival meetings because any statement related to the sins of governance, corruption or social justice will give the wrong idea that preachers are inciting people to rebel against the authority (Romans 13:1-6). In light of this concern it is important that church leaders provide theological and prophetic light in this situation. The church is the conscience of the state. In this case those of us who are concerned have a responsibility to come together and dialogue in how we can help our members not to use Christianity to legitimize a socio-political system. I pray that the predicaments confronting our nation in the constitution making process will awaken the evangelical family to evaluate the relevancy of our theology and it effectiveness to respond accordingly to the challenge facing our nation.

Lawrence Temfwe