A TV screenshot of alcohol-drinking congregants. Picture: Facebook

Pretoria - Bishop Tsietsi Makiti of The Gabola Church said the South African Union Council of Independent Churches must consult with him first, before making “false allegations” against him and his congregation.

This follows a media briefing of the council that branded the alcohol-drinking church as a cult and a disgrace to Christianity.

The council said talking about God in taverns was disrespectful to the Christian faith.

The council intends to close the church but has no concrete plan as yet, and says it will remain in prayer until it is shut down.

Within just four months of opening, Makiti said there were now branches in Bloemfontein, Klerksdorp, Sebokeng and Joburg and he had plans to expand to Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia and eventually overseas.

“They need to consult with me, before making up all these stories. I help combat crime in the various communities and assist with burials and the needs of community members that the church can’t because they are too busy judging people,” said Makiti.

He converted tavern owners to pastors and this improved the community drastically.

The council wants to embark on an investigation to find who ordained him and qualified him as a bishop.

President of the SA Church Union Council of Independent Churches, Archbishop Patrick Modiri Sithole, wants The Gabola Church to be closed down. “It’s a disgrace to use God’s name in taverns,” he said. Picture: Itumeleng English / ANA

“In order to be a bishop you must first have been a pastor under another leader for two years and must have attended Bible school, following your calling and being trained under a senior leader of the church,” said Archbishop Lena Perumal, who is the deputy general secretary of the council.

However, Makiti said he has been a deacon and pastor since 1993 and has long completed his theology studies.

“My church is a way of making people forget their troubles and the worries of this world. This is what Jesus also did with his disciples; he turned water into wine,” he said.

Perumal and the other members of the council argued that the wine in the days of Jesus did not have a high volume of alcohol.

“Jesus created that miracle to protect the family from embarrassment and it was not fermented and not high in alcohol, like the ones we get today.”

The council said it was disturbed that “this apostle or whatever he calls himself” is making men feel better about spending money at taverns and making them feel guiltless, all in the name of the church.

According to the council, a church is a sacred place for the holy, chosen people and its congregants need to be different and not partake in all the sinister shenanigans people who are not part of the church partake in.

Archbishop Patrick Sithole, president of the council, said it was the mandate of the church to win back lost souls, who include people who drink and smoke.

“You cannot drink beer while worshipping God. It is not acceptable to use the name of God while drinking,” said Sithole.

Bishop Owen McGregory, executive of the council, shared the sentiments of Sithole and agreed with the statement that everyone should come to church “as they are” but they needed to change for the “better”.

“Alcohol leaves you clouded and you cannot approach the throne of God in that state.”

The council concluded by saying that alcohol was destructive and one needed to be sober-minded when dealing with the things of God. We are not judging people, we are correcting and rebuking them, and that is what the Bible says we as the priesthood should do,” said McGregory.

According to the council, the Gabola Church was a clear sign or indication of the last days.

Pretoria News