Christians are familiar with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 19:14: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
A Johannesburg-based branding specialist who regularly attends Rhema church decided to take his two boys to “expose them to African gospel experience” at Grace Bible Church. Little did he know his overture would be spurned.
Upon arriving at the Grace Bible Church’s Witpoortjie branch, west of Johannesburg, he was told his 13-year-old son must go to a separate room, while his seven-year-old would have to go a different room.
The churchgoer found this “disturbing”. He was told that if he objected to the instructions, he was welcome to go to a “parents’ room, probably [to] watch the service from a TV screen”.
The marketing professional said he was not “grandstanding” and he accepted “rules, as it’s a private institution. I will simply go elsewhere.”
He is also aggrieved by how the church communicates this rigid rule to parents and caregivers who are not regular church members.
“I accept that toddlers need care, but I don’t think it is fair to make this compulsory when I am a guest. I think the policy lacks flexibility.
“If my son was between 1 and 3, I would gladly oblige, but in this instance, we cannot paint everyone with the same brush,” he added.
Grace Bible Church was in the news recently when Somizi Mhlongo walked out during a church service in which he alleged a visiting pastor from Ghana peppered his sermon with bigotry and homophobia. Critics further accused the church of coddling the visiting clergyman.
The Citizen was told that Bishop Mosa Sono, who speaks on behalf of the Church, was overseas while his second-in-charge, Pastor Mathole, was at a spiritual camp.