An analysis of audited financial statements of some of Kenya’s leading churches show how religion has become a big financial enterprise with members contributing hundreds of millions in tithes and offerings every year. Annual earnings from Kenya’s biggest churches would leave any CEO in Kenya drolling, with some raking in revenues in excess of Ksh1 billion.
Christ Is The Answer Ministries (CITAM), for instance, continues to top the churches’ Rich List from tithes and offerings to close at Ksh1.3 billion as at 31 December 2017. This is more that what, for instance, the Standard Group, a major player in the media industry, earned from print circulation for the year, which stood at Ksh 1 billion.
CITAM, which has 15 branches countrywide and plans to ‘plant’ its newest church in Kitengela, reported a total income of Ksh1.48 billion in 2017 up from Ksh1.2 billion in 2016. The church recorded a net profit of Ksh88 million for the year.
The church, which owns Hope FM, CITAM Schools, CITAM Catering and CITAM Kadolta Resort, earned most of its revenue from tithes and offerings, which have been growing from Ksh1. 1 billion (as restated) recorded in 2016, according to its audited financial statements as at 31 December 2017.
The Nairobi Chapel – All The Assemblies – statement of comprehensive income indicates it collected Ksh632.3 million as at 31 December 2017 compared to Ksh434.6 million the previous year. Tithes and offerings accounted for Ksh355.7 million in 2017 up from Ksh272.2 million in 2016.
The earnings just confirm the poorly kept secret that churches are some of the most profitable organisations in Kenya. Little wonder then that churches dot every corner of the country and are now getting into town centres to tap the working population during the work-week.
Meanwhile, Mavuno Church reported a total income of Ksh250.3 million for the year ended 31 December 2017 down from Ksh258.4 million the previous year. Income from tithes and offerings was also lower in 2017 at Ksh229.8 million in 2017 from Ksh 236.3 million in 2016.
All Saints Cathedral, the largest Anglican church in Kenya, reported a total income of Ksh241.3 million compared to Ksh223 million in 2016, an increase of 8.3% . The church says the increase was as a result of the generous giving of tithes, offerings and project contributions.
Tithes are given based on the Biblical teachings of giving a fraction of one’s earnings, usually one tenth of annual produce or earnings, formerly taken as a tax, for the support of the Church and clergy. Today, tithes are voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, mobile money, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products.
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Offerings, which are financial gifts or contributions during or after service, also go into running the church affairs. But some church leaders are known to scam their faithful into contributing money and other items through sheer intimidation or misrepresenting the scripture.
At the Nairobi Baptist Church, which has already uploaded its independent auditor’s report for the year ending 31 December 2018, total income stood at Ksh208.6 million up from Ksh190.5 million reported in 2017. Income from general offerings was Ksh132 million a growth from Ksh120.8 million in 2017. The church also raised Ksh35.3 million from gift days in 2017. The report will be presented to members at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) slated for March 23.
While their audited financial statements were not available online, the Coptic Orthodox Church and Seventh Day Adventist Church are also in the top league as they pay millions of shillings to Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) annually, rivaling organisations such as Google and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT).
Churches are required to file annual returns but are exempt from most taxes under the Non-Governmental Organisations and Co-ordination Act. Religious institutions have lately ventured more into commercial investments to diversify their revenue streams in sectors such as education, healthcare, financial services, hospitality and real estate.
The Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS)’s statement of comprehensive income for the year to 31 December 2017 shows its total revenue stood at Ksh 42.4 million in 2017 compared to Ksh 36.5 million in 2016. Most of the income, however, came from its associates who contributed about Ksh 15 million while students gave Ksh 1.9 million in 2017.
A number of other big churches do not publish the audited financial statements despite being in the rich league.
Despite growing earnings from church-sponsored businesses, the government has maintained the tax-exempt status on churches on the grounds that they contribute to the fight against poverty through their charitable activities. Some schools and hospitals run by churches offer services at subsidised rates seeking to benefit the rural and urban poor. But also schools belonging to some of the churches have acquired elite status and are some of the most expensive.
While these religious organisations comply with the law by being financially accountable, other big churches do not publish their audited financial statements despite being in the rich league. Their leaders enjoy flamboyant lives, thanks to the generous tithes and offerings members part with during services.
They include the Roysambu-based Jesus Winners Ministry, whose pastors, through Jewel Complex Limited, a firm whose majority shareholder is Edward Mwai Kiongo, surprised many when it recently bid to buy Uchumi’s Ksh2.8 billion land in Kasarani.
Rev Mwai is a popular figure among the political elite. He hosted President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for prayers during their last church service, two days before the August 8 general elections and also hosted the President on June 30, 2013, about two months after he assumed power.
Others that have not made public their financial income and dealings include Bishop David Oyedepo’s Winners Chapel International, Bishop Allan Kiuna and Rev Kathy Kiuna’s Jubilee Christian Church, Rev Teresia Wairimu’s Faith Evangelistic Ministry, Bishop Wilfred Lai’s Jesus Celebration Centre Bamburi, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru’s Jesus Is Alive Ministries, ‘Prophet’ David Owuor’s Repentance and Holiness Ministry and James Maina Ng’ang’a’s Evangelism Centre.
Others are Pastor turned Bishop Victor Kanyari of Salvation Healing Ministry and Pastor Mark Kariuki of the Deliverance Church. It is not clear why the Catholic Church, the largest denomination in the country, does not publish audited financial statements.
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