Why it will be a difficult task for priests to minister after sexuality case

ACK Archdeacon John Njogu Gachau (center) Rev Paul Mwangi Warui (right) and Rev James Maina Maigua (left)celebrate outside the Nyeri Law Court on September 9,2016, after Justice Bryam Ongaya ordered the church to reinstate them. The three priests were suspended on allegations of being homosexuals in August last year. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]
At ACK Kariki Parish Church in Othaya Constituency, Tuesday morning is a day when local women volunteer to clean their church.

Windows are wiped, floors mopped and the compound cleaned.

The six women who volunteered this time shared an occasional joke, with the sound of their laughter bouncing off the tiled walls of the new church building.

It is difficult to imagine that two weeks ago, local parishioners were up in arms as they rejected the posting of Archdeacon John Gachau to their home church.

No changes

“We don’t want any changes here. We are happy with our current deacon. But if you want to discuss the transfer of deacons, you have to speak to the archdiocese,” one of the women politely answered.

Life has slowly gone back to normal in the conservative Kariki Shopping Centre but locals are wary of strangers and keep off from answering any question about the church.

This is the same scenario in St Stephen’s Thunguri and Witima parishes where locals rarely speak about the events that put their rural churches into the limelight.

What was supposed to be a simple administrative issue has exploded into an open rift threatening the church in Mt Kenya region.

The suspension of three preachers in gay-related accusations has seen the flock and clergy divided.

Although courts have come in to offer arbitration, there appears to be little success to bring harmony within the church.

Armed with court orders directing their reinstatement, the embattled preachers have found no pulpit to deliver their sermons from as a section of congregants have outrightly rejected them.

Three weeks ago, emotions were raw and devout Anglican Church attendees shut down their parishes protesting transfer of their deacons.

The events that led up to the protests date back to 2015 following damning allegations, a bruising court battle and a court order, and then three churches were supposed to receive new deacons.

In October 2015, Archdeacon John Gachau, alongside the Reverends James Maigua and Paul Warui were suspended by Bishop Joseph Kagunda who is the top most cleric of the ACK in Mt Kenya West on allegations of being homosexuals.

However, the three moved to court challenging their dismissal and after a court battle, they were reinstated in compliance with a court order of October 30, 2016, by Justice Byram Ongaya who found it was unconstitutional for the church to suspend them from pastoral work without evidence linking them to homosexuality.

Justice Ongaya quashed the suspension and ordered that they be reinstated and be paid Sh6.8 million for wrongful dismissal. 

Kagunda issued the reinstatement letters a day after he was sentenced to civil jail for contempt of court by Justice Nzioki wa Makau of the Nyeri Labour Court.

On July 14, however, when they went to report to their new stations, the priests found protesters, mostly women, had blocked them from accessing the churches.

Gachau had been posted to Kariki parish, Maigua was deployed to Witima while Warui had been posted to St Stephen’s Thunguri.

One of the men at the centre of the storm is Gachau who can vividly remember how crushed he was by the allegations and admits that he was expecting that the situation would be resolved within weeks.

He said since his license to officiate was withdrawn on August 22, 2015.

Retirement home

He moved from Nyeri County and retreated to what he hoped would be his retirement home in a remote village of Timbaroa in Laikipia.

“The calling to serve God is within me and I still believe in the ACK Church.

“I still attend my local church, and congregate like other Christians because I know where my heart is,” he said.

Spending days on end at the farm, his neighbours fondly call him pastor, and often pass by to chat and share their challenges and fears, to which he calmly listens and offers encouragement.

Rejected, the men retreated to their homes and jobs uncertain of the future all the while receiving messages of support and condemnation.  

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homosexuality hasAt ACK Kariki Parish Church