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Rebel Methodists now challenge court's authority in suit

Lawyer George Kithi speaks with Bishop Wellington Sanga as other believers of the Kenya Methodist Church Rabai look on outside the Mariakani Law court. [Mkamburi Mwawasi/Standard]

The dispute between the Methodist Church of Kenya headquarters and a faction at the Coast has gone back to court.

The dispute flared up after the Coast faction declared autonomy and ordained priests in Ribe, Kilifi.

Bishop Wellingtone Sanga, who spearheaded the consecration of the priests to take charge of the Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale, Lamu, Taita Taveta and Tana River synods, is now challenging a bid to stop him and his group from seizing the leadership and assets of the church in the Coast region.

Both sides have been locked in a fight for control of the Coast branch, a dispute that has been in court since early this year. The church’s headquarters had obtained orders against the consecration of the two priests by the coast faction, but the group went ahead with the ceremony.

Both parties were to meet in court yesterday for an inter partes hearing, but Bishop Sanga told Mariakani Senior Resident Magistrate Nelly Adallo that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the application seeking an injunction to stop him from being installed as the regional church leader.

Preliminary objection

Through lawyer George Kithi, Sanga told the magistrate that he was raising a preliminary objection to stop her from hearing the application because it had been overtaken by events.

Last week, Methodist Church in Kenya officials went to Mariakani court and successfully stopped the Coast Regional Methodist Church conference from proceeding with the meeting on January 27 when Bishop Sanga was to be sworn in as the president of the Coast Methodist Church Conference.

However the church’s officials at the coast, after being served with the court order, decided to conduct the swearing in of Bishop Sanga and six other bishops on January 26, a day before the ceremony was to take place.

The Methodist Church lawyer, Domnic Anaya, told the magistrate that he had not been served with the preliminary objection application raised by Sanga.

The magistrate ordered Sanga’s lawyer to serve the church’s lawyer with the application and his submission on the issue within 10 days. The church’s lawyer is expected to respond within 10 days ahead of the case highlights on February 26.

Devolving church

Speaking after the court proceedings, Bishop Sanga said the Coast faction would not leave the church, as demanded by East and Central Africa Presiding Bishop Joseph Ntombura.

“As members of Methodist Church and as the presiding bishop in the region we are firmly in the church because this church does not belong to a particular community or person.”

He said clergy at the Coast had decided to devolve the functions of the church to allow them to manage their own affairs.

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