Why Bishop Sono and Grace Bible Church’s statement on musicians and singers as volunteers is flawed!

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By: Clyde Ramalaine

The Grace Bible church leader Bishop Musa Sono’s latest conviction on remuneration of musicians and singers opted to classify musicians and lead-worshippers under what he defines as equal to car-guards, who are also volunteers.

The dialectic and visible tension is what GBC and it’s leader use for a premise in departure point.

I can see at least principle, process and methodology errors in his articulation.

On principle: Principles are informed by what type of entity the church is and what it has as its fundamental and ordinary base. By this standard the church of Jesus Christ is an unusual organisation that must function in a democratic dispensation with for some an archaic Holy Writ. Yet believers, of which I am one, accepts the entire 66 books as God’s Word as breathed by His Holy Spirit and necessarily the history of mankind in relationship with the Christian God.

It is yet an entity that has 66 books defined in Old and New Testaments of descriptions as its Sacred Text defined in a canon as agreed much later than the churches birth. The Church, therefore, breathes in obedience to it’s sacred text as uniquely supreme.

We therefore, must ask when Bishop Sono speaks on this subject is he doing so from  with tradition of a biblical premise or a 21st century pure capitalist economic premise?

Following his statement carefully suggests the new ethos concluded is one arrived at solely on economic reasons, since he alludes to the GBC daughter churches complaining about paying musicians.

One involuntarily must ask what the stance of GBC and it’s leader would have been if the daughter-churches advanced a similar challenge on remuneration for its respective pastors? Meaning they expressing discomfort to pay their respective pastors monthly salaries. This shows the glaring contradictions in suspect of using economics as a premise.

If Grace Bible Church as it’s name leads is subjected to the dictates, instructions and didache of the Christian Holy Writ musicians and singers would fall under the Old-Testament Levitical designation particularly since the Pastoral or Bishop, overseer role is a derivative and finds essence in that same Priestly function. In that sense musicians and singers are distinct [as is the case of pastors] from any group who volunteer their service in their personal capacity be it in contributions of labour, time or money makes.

Off course there will be those who would refuge in what they would write off as an Old Testament principle and tradition of Levitical Priesthood. They will tell us the Church of Jesus Christ is under a New Covenant meaning these traditions are obsolete. Well Jesus said I didn’t come destroy the law I came to fulfill it. There are too many Old Testament principles defining the New Testament church and by implication the post 1st Century Church.

We must not confuse volunteerism as a human philosophy and trait for a read-in biblical meaning without being respectful of the cardinal aspect of context. The Temple of Biblical Israel was built by volunteerism in which the entire people sacrificed and offered from gifts to time and labour yet all of this did not alter the inscribe or dictate of how priests and levites in service of the Temple were taken care off.

I suggest Bishop Sono share what his church family has as foundational premise for a church life in this setting because his entire argument does not assume or identify  in biblical dictate of the role, place and designation of a Levitical Priesthood as advanced in historical and ontological footprint.

Secondly, Sono’s statement appears flawed in process too. While we are not privy to the inner-workings of Grace Bible Church, meaning we not sure how the communicated process with end result of the controversial statement unfolded. It however appears that the general assembly was misused amidst hallelujah shouts to “authorize” an already taken decision. This raises the question of the business dimension of the church meaning at an operational level immanent in employing someone and unilaterally deciding to change their contract to that of an assumed volunteerism dictate. This practice holds its own sets of ramifications that will not stand in the favour of the GBC church and leadership should any contracted musician decide to exercise their constitutional rights as explained in fair labour- law practice.

Unfortunately, it appears the Bishop had capitalist economics for his departure point which makes it a biblically unfounded and challenging argument for the church as body of Christ. While the New Testament is not as explicit as the Old Testament – paying pastors and leaders a wage is underscored in many of the Pauline writings.

We must desist unilateral claims of volunteerism as churches when we simultaneously prognosticate the Sacred Text as the axis for governance in the Ekklesia.

Perhaps the challenge for the GBC church is an honest assessment as to whether it can afford staff. Too often church leaders boast of a big staff-compliment they preside over when the local church simply cannot sustain the staff. Perhaps if it accepts it can’t it may either trust God like all of us to supply or it may begin a process of a negotiated settlement that may include labour law sensitive and compliant agreements that may include severance packages since it with this statement has broken both biblical and secular employment contract laws and practices.

Finally, I hold musicians and worshippers that lead the congregation in Biblical setting still resort under the levitical order since pastors in the 21st century still functions from the bedrock of that priestly order and is deserving of remuneration.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A Lifelong Social Justice Activist Political Commentator & Writer is a SARChi D. Litt.et. Phil candidate in Political Science with the University of Johannesburg. Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation – The Thinking Masses of SA