“Prayers That Preyed”: Critical Reflections on Robert Martin Gumbura's Church Saga in Zimbabwe

“Prayers That Preyed”: Critical Reflections on Robert Martin Gumbura's Church Saga in Zimbabwe

Fortune Sibanda (Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe) and Bernard Pindukai Humbe (Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9195-5.ch006

Abstract

This chapter was motivated by the manifestations and consequences of patriarchal theology testified through the increase in the number of cases in Zimbabwe involving prophets and church leaders accused of sexually abusing their followers after promising to help them out of their problems. The research focuses on the sexual scandals of the founder and leader of Robert Martin Gumbura (RMG) Independent End Time Message Church, Robert Martin Gumbura, who was sentenced to a 40-year prison term in Zimbabwe for sexually abusing four women from his church. The chapter posits that some churches are no longer safe havens for the weak and defenseless women who fall prey to some unscrupulous church leaders such as Robert Martin Gumbura. By using in-depth interviews and documentary analysis and insights from the historical, sociological, and phenomenological approaches, the study established that Robert Martin Gumbura brainwashed some women congregants and threatened to curse them with prayers that would commit them to the devil if they resisted his nefarious demands.
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Research Methodology

The study utilized a qualitative approach because it allows researchers to mingle with participants, describe and interpret data. Data collection was done through in-depth interviews with RMG Independent End Time Message Church members and non-members. Documentary analysis of the print and electronic media stories pertaining to Robert Martin Gumbura were also used in the process of data gathering. The study combined insights from the gendered cultural hermeneutics, historical, sociological and phenomenological approaches, which were combined to describe and analyze the data. The gendered cultural hermeneutics was the brainchild of Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Musimbi Kanyoro of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. It was developed as a tool for discerning God’s living presence in face of neo-colonialism, poverty, HIV and AIDS, religious and cultural gender oppression, among other challenges in society (Russell, 2004). Essentially, gendered cultural hermeneutics is interested in the marginalized people in society such as women and girls whose experiences are unveiled through the technique of storytelling. The advantage of cultural hermeneutics is that it “is the choice of combining an affirmation of culture and a critique of it that will have the potential to sustain modern Africa” (Kanyoro, 2002, p. 26). This method is important in capturing the experiences of women exposed to abuse in some churches such as Robert Martin Gumbura’s RMG Independent End Time Message Church.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gullibility: It is a tendency to be easily persuaded that something is real or true. In the study, most women were prone to sexual abuse partly because of their faith.

Spiritual Guru: Refers to the spiritual gifts associated with a church leader bordering on the ability to see visions, pray for the people, heal, and perform miracles.

Pentecostalism: This kind of Christianity is mainly characterized by its emphasis of being “born again” following a direct experience of the presence of God. In addition, they stress on the possession by the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, performance of miracles and preaching of the health and wealth gospel.

Patriarchal Theology: An ideology that virtually favors the rights of men at the expense of women.

Fundamentalism: Refers to any sector movement within a religion that emphasizes a rigid adherence to what it conceives of as the fundamental principles of its faith, usually resulting in a denouncement of alternative practices and interpretations. Robert Martin Gumbura was a fundamentalist church leader.

Cult: A system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a religious figure. In Gumbura’s church, a personality cult was created where members have extreme dedication to their leader.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual activity where perpetrators use physical force and using tricks on the victim to engage in any kind of sexual activity. The perpetrator can also make verbal threats for the victims to consent to their demands.

Leadership: The art of guiding a group of people towards attaining a specific goal; it about providing responsible service to followers.

Plenipotentiary: A person with all the power and authority to make decisions for the Church, for good or for worse.

Mainline Christianity: This is the brand of Christianity that was introduced by historic churches instanced by Catholicism and Protestantism.

Divisi: It is an agricultural enhancement charm of magic. This is believed to be a form of witchcraft among the Shona people.

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