Couples experiencing marital problems usually run to the church – but a leading Harare preacher is proving that marriages are also collapsing in the church.

Pastor Tawanda Makandiwa, the brother of the controversial Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa, is divorcing his wife of five years, Lovejoy Choto, citing what he describes as her “suicidal tendencies causing great embarrassment.”

In court papers filed recently, Makandiwa says the marriage “has irretrievably broken down to such an extent that there are no prospects of a reconciliation of a normal marriage.”

A divorce hearing will be held at the Harare Magistrates’ Court on November 8 – two days shy of the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary.

Pastor Makandiwa is claiming custody of their children and offering a share of their movable properties acquired during the marriage. He will also pay his wife USD 200 monthly maintenance as well as taking care of her rent at a rate of USD 500 per month until she remarries or passes away.

New blogger Adventist Lot Masiane says Makandiwa’s divorce showed Christians had “lowered the standard.” Divorces now seem to be as regular in the church as they are outside. “Without the benefit of the full facts, Pastor Makandiwa says his wife is suicidal. And on that basis he wants the marriage dissolved. Suicidal tendencies are a mental health issue and partners with that problem need help, not divorce,” Masiane said.

“If she was suicidal before, he has just increased the chances of her going on and doing it. As a Christian, and as a pastor, he cannot do that. Marriage is for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. As Christians we have to set an example. If we start doing this, divorce will be rampant in church.”

Masiane also oberved that, unlike in the traditional churches where the clergy is accountable to a senate, prosperity gospel preachers were only accountable to themselves. “The elders are appointed by the pastors and friendships are replacing God’s teachings. There is no standard to hold people accountable.”