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3 ousted priests sue Church of Kenya over gay charges

The Rev. John Gachau (Photo by Boniface Mwangi courtesy of Nation Media Group)
The Rev. John Gachau (Photo by Boniface Mwangi courtesy of Nation Media Group)

Three priests suspended for alleged homosexuality have sued the trustees of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Daily Nation newspaper of Kenya reported today.

The Revs. John Njogu Gachau, Paul Mwangi Warui and James Maina accused the church’s trustees of not adhering to the church’s constitution and the rules of natural justice when the Mt Kenya West Diocese disciplinary committee took action against them.

Bishop Joseph Kagunda of the Anglican Church of Kenya announces on Sept. 11, 2015, the suspension of five priests accused of homosexual activity. (Photo courtesy of Nairobi News)
Bishop Joseph Kagunda of the Anglican Church of Kenya announces on Sept. 11, 2015, the suspension of five priests accused of homosexual activity. (Photo courtesy of Nairobi News)

Last month, they sued the diocesesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Kagunda, for defamation.

Gachua, the most prominent of the three priests, has condemned and rejected the accusations of homosexuality that led to his suspension and that of four other priests by the Anglican Church of Kenya.

Gachau described himself as “a morally upright man with a loving wife and three adoring kids,” according to The Nairobian as reported on Standard Digital. “These accusations are false. I don’t get why a man can level such abhorrent claims against a servant of God. I have never had sex with a fellow man. This is just distasteful.”

An archdeacon, Gachau was second in command after Bishop Kagunda in the  Mt. Kenya West Diocese in central Kenya.  Gachau was the leader of the St. Andrew Anglican Church Kagongo Parish in Othaya, Nyeri County.

Gachau had unsuccessfully sought election to the position of diocesan bishop in 2004.

Kagunda announced the suspensions Sept. 10 after the five priests were found guilty by an appointed 10-person tribunal, Kagunda said. They will not be allowed to serve in any Anglican Church in the country, he said.

“Anyone who feels that homosexuals and gay marriages should be allowed in Church should find a different denomination,” he told the Daily Nation.

After Gachau’s ouster, parishioners at his Kagongo Parish church walked out in protest against the bishop’s action. Few people attended the day’s official service inside, while Gachau led a service for his supporters outside under a tree.  In subsequent weeks, attendance at the services inside the church remained weak, Daily Nation and Nairobi News reported.

Low attendance at Kagongo parish services after the ouster of the Rev. John Gachau. (Photo by Joseph Kanyi courtesy of Nairobi News)
Low attendance at Kagongo parish services after the ouster of the Rev. John Gachau. (Photo by Joseph Kanyi courtesy of Nairobi News)

Maina was ousted from St. Philip’s Thunguri Parish. Warui was barred from continuing to serve at Charity Parish.

The Daily Nation reported today that lawyers from the Wonge Maina and Onsare partners law firm said, on behalf of the priests, that the church’s hearing that led to their termination “was a farce … calculated at validating a preconceived verdict.”

The priests said they were not made aware of the charges when they were called to the tribunal. They also faulted the tribunal for not putting in writing the accusations made against them or making copies of the proceedings as provided in the church’s constitution.

They had earlier sued the church commissioners for defamation and wrongful termination of employment, but the suit was amended when the commissioners said they did not employ the clergy. Now the trustees of the church also have denied being the employer of the priests, or of any clergy.

“This is a trust that only holds funds for [the Anglican Chuch of Kenya] and it is purely an investment arm of the church that is run by a board of governors,” the trustees told the court.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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