In any organization, there are tendencies for group rivalry that can and sometimes to lead to infighting. Whether it is in church, scout troops, or social clubs, petty squabbles for power can lead to large amounts of fighting over small matters.
However, sometimes fighting can turn deadly. Such was what happened recently in South Africa, where factions within a megachurch attacked each other with guns, sticks, and bricks in a contest over church leadership gone rotten:
A group of men at a Pentecostal megachurch in South Africa opened fire and pelted rocks at each other over a rivalry concerning a vacant leadership position at the church.
News 24 reported that the clash happened on Thursday outside International Pentecost Holiness Church in Silo, Zuurbekom, which left three people injured and hospitalized.
Gauteng police spokesperson captain Mavela Masondo explained that the battle began early local time, when a convoy of vehicles carrying worshipers parked outside the church.
“As they were about to enter the church premises, another group that was inside the church charged at them. They confronted each other. During their confrontation, firearms were pulled out and three people were injured,” he added.
Another 12 cars were badly damaged in the fight, while police confiscated the firearms.
A witness who chose to stay anonymous told TimesLIVE that the two rival church groups at first held talks, but then started pelting each other with rocks, which led to the shooting.
“The people who were shooting did not look like church members'” said the witness. “They were heavily armed'” he added.
IPHC, which has over 3 million worshipers in South Africa and neighboring countries, has reportedly been divided following the 2016 death of its leader, Glayton Modise. Fights over the vacant leadership role have led to a number of court battles, but the issue remains unsolved.
The 3 million-strong IPHC has been split apart in leadership battles following the 2016 death of Glayton Modise, who led the church for nearly 18 years.
Some church members said they were in shock at last week’s shooting, which also reportedly included church members throwing stones at each other.
“All I could think about was God. God was with us because they fired many shots but only one person was injured,” said one man, who wasn’t named.
“God knows why this happened and He will avenge us,” he added.
Another congregant claimed that the convoy of vehicles were attacked “for no reason.”
“They just arrived in a large group, armed with guns, sticks and bricks, and charged at us. We then fled on foot, leaving our vehicles behind. They then damaged our cars and fired shots in our direction,” he said.
SowetanLIVE reported that it was “business as usual” at weekend services at IPHC, though tight security was present to ensure order.
Guards stood at the entrance of the church while a private security patrol vehicle travelled up and down the road outside the worship building. A number of other police vehicles were stationed nearby.
Some church members who said they were from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Mozambique, also gave their version of the clashes on Thursday.
“We found the road closed with several vehicles. We got out of our vehicles to inquire what was happening and we were told that we have no right to be at the church. All of a sudden there were rocks being thrown. We started running once we started hearing the gunfire,'” said one congregant. (source)