A long-running dispute over three Anglican clergymen accused of homosexuality will be resolved through mediation, a court here ordered last week.
The three had sued Bishop Joseph Kagunda of the Mount Kenya West diocese in the High Court in Nyeri, challenging their 2015 suspensions over allegations that they were engaging in homosexual relationships and encouraging homosexuality among the church’s youth. They have denied all charges.
But last month, after a nearly three-year court battle, Justice Abigail Mshila of the Nyeri High Court ordered the parties to settle their disagreement by meeting with a mutually agreed-upon mediator. It is the first time mediation has been used to resolve a case of this kind.
“This is what we have been looking for,” the bishop told Religion News Service in a telephone interview on Oct. 26. “When we are in the courts, we cannot respect each other, but when we sit at the table, we come up with a way of working together. We are one people. When we sit at the table, we can start a new journey together.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, as it is in many other African countries, though a lawsuit seeking to lift the ban on gay sex is currently awaiting a ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court. For now, convictions can draw up to 14 years in prison.
A majority of Kenyans also frown at homosexuality, and LGBT people are frequently threatened. Anglican church leaders here hold that same-sex relationships contradict God’s teachings.
The trouble in the Mount Kenya West diocese began in 2015, when a young churchgoer came forward seeking prayers because, he alleged, he had been lured into an affair with one of the priests. An investigation ordered by the bishop eventually implicated five clergymen.
Three of them — the Rev. Paul Warui, the Rev. James Maina and Archdeacon John Gachau, a priest who oversaw one of Mount Kenya West’s diocesan precincts — challenged their suspensions in court. The other two settled the dispute out of court and were readmitted as priests.
In October 2017, the court, citing a lack of evidence against the three, ordered their reinstatement and redeployment. The diocese was also ordered to pay the priests — who had not been receiving their pay since the suspension — a total of 6.8 million Kenya shillings, or about $68,000, for damage to their reputations.
But when the priests and the archdeacon were deployed to new parishes in July after the court orders, the congregations blocked the priests’ entry into the churches and forced them to flee.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Fredrick Nzwili