Court orders church to pay wrongly sacked cleric

Anglican Church Bishop Joel Waweru speaking at Green Cottage Academy in Murang'a during a prize giving day in 2015 [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

A court has ruled that the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Nairobi Diocese Bishop Joel Waweru erred in sacking a vicar nine years ago.

Consequently, the Employment and Labour Relations Judge James Rika has ordered the church to compensate Reverend John Kennedy Kinyua Sh842,912 for unfair termination as a curate at St Peters Church in Kahawa Sukari, when his appointment was revoked by bishop Waweru on September 19, 2012.

Reverend Kinyua was ordained on July 24, 1994, and rose to be a Vicar before being demoted and transferred to Kahawa Sukari on November 16, 2010.

Judge Rika faulted Bishop Waweru for sacking Kinyua after the latter got a part-time job at Carlile College as a lecturer. Kinyua did not immediately take over the job since according to church regulations, Waweru was to clear him.

The college is an ACK institution. The cleric was approached by the principal to start diploma programmes in the respective parishes, and issued with an appointment letter, which he signed before a copy was forwarded to the bishop’s office.

Meanwhile, Kinyua sought an appointment from Waweru over the offer. Two months later, on September 19, 2012, Kinyua got a call from bishop Waweru’s secretary asking him to pick his letter.

It turned out the bishop had revoked his appointment as a lecturer at Carlile College. Days later, Kinyua learnt that his appointment as a curate had also been terminated on grounds that he could not serve two masters.

Defending the church’s decision, Waweru told court, he did not terminate Kinyua’s contract; he revoked it after the clergy took employment with Carlile College. “In terms of the Employment Act, revocation of appointment simply means termination of that appointment. It may mean something else within canonical law, but the court is concerned with the law of the land, not canonical law,” said justice Rika on February 17.

The judge ruled that reverend Kinyua was wrongly removed from his position as a curate and directed that he be paid Sh648,360 equivalent of 12 month’s salary for unfair termination, Sh54,030 for notice, Sh100,000 being clergy training allowance and Sh40,522 annual leave all totaling to Sh842,912.

Kinyua told court that he was aggrieved by the decision to revoke his appointment, without notice, warning and hearing. He further claimed the allegations made against him were not true.

There were complaints were raised about Kinyua’s ministerial conduct. He was accused of divorcing wife as well as referring to worshippers as hypocrites. The court was told that at one point, he called bishop Waweru a terrorist.

“These complaints were addressed and were not pursued by the church,” said judge Rika, adding that he expected Kinyua to continue serving as a minister.

The issue at hand were whether the termination or revocation of appointment, was carried out fairly, based on valid reason, and if Kinyua was entitled to the remedies pleaded.

“It is unfortunate that even after the parties indicated to the court that they were negotiating settlement within their church structures, the Parties were not able to settle the matter conclusively out of court,” argued justice Rika.