Some felt they were victorious, others left the courtroom disappointed. But to Judge Charles Mkandawire, taking church matters to court defeats love and reconciliation, which the Church encourages.
He strongly criticised Livingstonia Synod and followers of Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango for not handling their differences well.
The Judge made the observation in his verdict in a case where Livingstonia Synod dragged members of the Church at Kanengo Congregation in Lilongwe, over church property, who are opposing the transfer of Reverend Mhango.
“Do leaders, Reverends and Christians of the CCAP Livingstonia Synod really believe in the teachings of the great Shepherd Jesus Christ? This question might be subtle to be answered at this point in time because everybody is waiting for the decision of the court in this dispute. It is, however, not very late for the warring parties in this matter to seriously reflect on it as there is still some window of opportunity for the reconciliation as long as we believe in love and reconciliation,” Mkandawire said.
He said it is inconceivable that disagreements arose because of a posting instruction from authorities.
“To those in authority, were extenuating circumstances to Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango taken into consideration before he could be moved to Ekwendeni or Euthini? To Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, as a man of God, who has been sent to spread the word of God, does it really matter where this evangelisation takes place? If the calling he took to Kanengo had conditions attached before he could be transferred, are those conditions cast in stone?” asked the Judge.
Both camps were present in court and could clap hands when a statement was made in their favour.
Mostly, they could be heard agreeing with the Judge if they saw it was attacking the other camp.
While saying that the property at Kanengo Congregation belongs to the Trustees of the Livingstonia Synod, the Judge urged the members to use internal mechanisms of resolving their differences.
“To the Congregation, can any other reverend not come to continue ministering? Are you worshipping the Reverend or God? To the Synod leaders, try to listen to your followers. I’m pushing it back to you. You can resolve it without creating any splinter group. If you can’t forgive each other, I’m questioning your Christianity,” Mkandawire said.
He continued: “I have listened to the beautiful submissions made by both parties on the way forward as to how the court should approach the property dispute herein. Several cases have been cited as precedents and several provisions of our Republican Constitution on the right to property and freedom of association have also been brought to my attention.
“I, however, hasten to say that time is not yet ripe. These case authorities and constitutional provisions would be relevant only when the matter herein has passed the stage of the General Assembly. This court, therefore, directs that the orders sought by the plaintiff in the originating summons are hereby granted and costs of this action are awarded to the plaintiff,” stated Mkandawire.
According to lawyer Victor Gondwe, following the directions by the court, trustees of the Livingstonia Synod are in control of Kanengo Congregation premises.
“People [who are worshipping there] are free to continue using the premises as long as they submit to the decisions of the Synod. The Synod will take over management of the property,” Gondwe said.
But lawyer, Zeros Matumba, representing followers of Reverend Mhango, said nothing has changed.
“I agree with what the court has said: we should exhaust the internal channels of resolving the differences. The people will continue using the premises as we wait for those processes,” he said.
According to originating summons filed at the High Court in Lilongwe, Registered Trustees of the Livinstonia Synod wanted Mhango’s followers to vacate Church premises and residential property.
They also wanted the followers to surrender control of bank accounts and an order requiring them to surrender some pieces of equipment.
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