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A row over the burial of a Bible has silenced the bells of a church in Nagaland’s Wokha district during Christmas.
On December 21, the Wokha district administration banned entry into the Assemblies of God Church in Wokha town’s Church Colony, citing law and order issues. Division among the congregation that could lead to breakdown of law and order and affect peace in the town during the festive season was cited as the reason.
“A division has resulted in bringing out separate programmes by two groups for Christmas and New Year at the same church at the same timings,” said an order by K. Mhathung Tsanglao, Wohka Additional Deputy Commissioner.
Officials said this could be the first time that a church in Nagaland, where Christians account for more than 90% of the population, has been shut down for maintaining law and order since Christianity struck roots in the State over 140 years ago.
Differences between two groups of priests and church elders surfaced after R. Sanga Keivom, general secretary of the Assemblies of God of East India published a notice a few days ago, announcing the “excommunication” of Pastor Nzio Ezung for “unscriptural practice”. “In the event of any untoward incidences that may occur as a result of his instigation at Wokha town AG Church, he will be solely responsible for the same,” Rev. Keivom said.
Four church members, including church secretary Zantsemo Ngullie, reacted by defending Rev. Ezung for placing a Bible at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the church. This practice, they said, was in conformity with the manual on service for priests and workers. The quartet also said Rev. Ezung conducted the Bible-burying ceremony on behalf of Moses Murry, AGEI’s general superintendent.