In Summary
  • After beating the church in the Labour Court, the aggrieved clergymen instituted defamation proceedings against the bishop.

  • The clerics sought orders compelling the bishop to issue a written apology in the local dailies and compensate them for defamation. But to the guaranteed media attention of the proceedings, presiding Judge Abigail Mshila suggested mediation as a solution to the dispute, which both sides accepted.

For the Anglican Church Mt Kenya West Diocese, this year remains historical, having just marked the end of a long-running dispute involving homosexuality.

The court battle that started in 2015 also saw Bishop Joseph Kagunda being cited for contempt and sentenced to six months’ civil jail.

He had been sentenced by Judge Nzioki wa Makau of the Employment and Labour Relations Court sitting in Nyeri.

The judge once ordered his security detail to eject three journalists, including this writer, out of his courtroom for being in possession of a camera.

After sentencing the bishop, who was robed in his official ceremonial clothes, the church Chancellor Wachira Nderitu immediately applied for a stay of the execution of the committal order. The judge allowed the request and lifted the sentence.

The court bailiff had already whisked the bishop away and was processing him for accommodation in prison.

Urging the judge to lift the order, Mr Nderitu said he would ensure the bishop reinstated the suspended clergymen.

The bishop had been found guilty of disobeying orders issued by Justice Byram Ongaya on October 30, 2016, directing him to reinstate three clerics to their pastoral duties after he sacked them for allegedly engaging in homosexuality.

The church-registered trustee had also been directed to pay the clerics named as John Njogu Gachau (Archdeacon), James Maina Maigua (Reverend) and Paul Mwangi Warui (Reverend) Sh6.8 million as compensation for damaging their reputations. The court found there was no evidence on the claims levelled against the three clergymen.

After the prison scare, the bishop redeployed the three to ministerial duties while the Church Trustee paid them the damages. Archdeacon Gachau was paid Sh2,437,780, Reverend Maigua (Sh2,224,996) and the Rev Warui (Sh2,219,814).

But on resuming pastoral duties, the three clergymen faced hostility and were forced to flee.

Later the bishop and the judge met during funeral service of Lands Court judge Ndung’u Mukunya at St Peter’s ACK Cathedral church in Nyeri town.

Nearly all Kenya High Court judges were present and they were handed the microphone to introduce themselves in the event presided over by Bishop Kagunda.

When judge Makau’s turn to introduce himself came, he said “am Justice Makau, the judge who had jailed your bishop”, throwing the mourners, including Chief Justice David Maraga, to laughter.

After beating the church in the Labour Court, the aggrieved clergymen instituted defamation proceedings against the bishop.

The clerics sought orders compelling the bishop to issue a written apology in the local dailies and compensate them for defamation. But to the guaranteed media attention of the proceedings, presiding Judge Abigail Mshila suggested mediation as a solution to the dispute, which both sides accepted.

At the height of the dispute, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, perhaps fearing a possible split of the church, convened a special gathering of the regional church leaders in Nyeri town.

At the meeting, the Archbishop called for unity but stressed that the church could not force the priests on the congregations. He explained that pastoral duties are not conducted exclusively by the priests but together with the worshippers.

On November 7 this year, the bishop and the three clerics settled the dispute outside the courts.

The church awarded the clerics an eight-month salary as compensation for defamation, which Justice Abigail Mshila described as facilitation fee. The compensation is yet to be concluded.

“In the event the parties are unable to agree on an amount then it shall be based on the plaintiffs’ gross monthly pay at the time they were relieved of their duties payable in lump sum or monthly,” ruled Justice Mshila.

“This court reiterates that any payment made here is done as a favour and without legal obligations and the amount is but as compensation for injury to feelings,” stated judge Mshila.