SA court overturns bishop’s order to close cathedral: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2012 p 6. June 4, 2012Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Cathedral of St Alban the Martyr, Diocese of Pretoria, Jo Seoka, Livingstone Ngewu
A South African court has handed down an emergency order overturning the Bishop of Pretoria’s decision to close St Alban’s Cathedral to its congregation.
The intervention last week by the Pretoria High Court into the dispute between Bishop Johannes Soeka and the cathedral congregation is the latest installment in a dispute that has seen charges of misconduct leveled by both sides.
On 17 May 2012 Bishop Soeka announced he was temporarily closing the church following the resignation of its priest in charge, the Rev. Rudolph Paulse. Fr. Paulse had resigned earlier in the week claiming he had received death threats from members of the congregation.
The congregation has long been at odds with its bishop, and last year the bishop suspended for four months its late dean, the Very Rev. Livingstone Ngewu, for contumacy.
The dispute captured local attention when the bishop clashed with the Ngewu family after the dean died in February. The cathedral scheduled the memorial service for 14 February 2012, but the bishop intervened stating that he wanted the funeral to be held on 16 February.
The congregation and the dean’s family responded by moving the memorial service to the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral, while the bishop – who also serves as the president of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) — held his own service two days later at the Anglican Cathedral.
It is not known whether the dispute with the cathedral lies behind death threats made against the bishop in March. On 17 March 2012 the SACC released a statement saying “five men armed with guns arrived at Bishop Seoka’s Pretoria home, declaring their intention to kill the bishop and his wife. The bishop and his wife were not at home at the time, but the intruders returned later in the day looking for them.”
The latest dispute was a continuation of the power struggle between the bishop and the congregation, a member of the congregation who asked not to be named told The Church of England Newspaper.
A nominee of the bishop, Fr. Paulse was unpopular with one faction in the congregation and was finally forced out of the church last week. The bishop responded by closing the church until order was restored. However, the congregation received an injunction late on 18 May 2012 from the Pretoria High Court overturning the bishop’s order.
Charges of misconduct were quickly leveled by partisans for both groups in the local newspapers. Members of the congregation told The Sowetan the bishop was corrupt and had misappropriated cathedral funds. “He is a rascal bishop and we believe that he has lost his mind,” one parishioner said.
However, the bishop said the accusations were “baseless.”
“If indeed I stole R500,000 I should be in prison. They should have reported the matter to the police because anybody who steals that much money should be arrested. They should also come up with proof that indeed I stole that money,” the bishop said.
Formal charges of misconduct by Bishop Seoka have been filed with the primate, Archbishop of Thabo Makgoba by two priests and two church wardens. The bishop’s assistant told CEN Bishop Seoka was traveling and unable to respond to a request for clarification. However, last week the bishop told The Sowetan the charges were nonsense.
The bishop stated his critics were “trying to character assassinate me and discredit my leadership.”
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.