Anglican Church leaders in the Diocese of Niger Delta North and foundation members of the Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church, Nkpogwu Deanery, Rivers State, have locked horns over who should be signatories to the church’s bank account.
The leaders of the church had frowned on a situation where only foundation members were signatories to St. Matterw’s bank account. Their argument was that the vicar of the church must be a signatory.
The issue escalated after a new vicar, Ven. Chiemela Samuel, assumed duty at the church and was not allowed to be a signatory to the church’s bank account.
The leaders subsequently took on the foundation members, which led to a crisis in the church.
The crisis, however, took a fresh turn when the foundation members openly challenged the leaders at a peace meeting and embarked on a spontaneous protest outside the church premises.
The meeting was called on Saturday to settle the issue amicably, but rather, it escalated the crisis in the church, with the foundation members demanding the removal of the pastor. Electrical connections to the vicar’s lodge were also disconnected.
Archibishop, Province of Niger Delta and Bishop, Diocese of Niger Delta North, Most Rev. Ignatius Kattey, who had tried to broker peace, said withdrawal and use of church funds without the knowledge of the vicar was wrong.
He blamed the problem of the church on “some foundation members, who had been parading themselves as a cabal in the church.”
He said, “This church has been giving problem since its inception. Members use money anyhow without the pastor’s approval. We feel there should be a check to these things.
“In Anglican churches all over the world, pastors are chief signatories, but it is not like that in this church. The foundation members of the church use money anyhow because the pastor is not a signatory to the church’s account.”
It was learnt that the diocesan management team had met with some of the church members and came out with a communiqué sighted by our correspondent on Thursday.
The communiqué, signed by Kattey and two others, reads in part, “The Diocesan Board maintains that henceforth and in line with the provisions and financial instructions of the Diocese (Niger Delta North), signatories to all church bank accounts should be the chairman (rector or vicar), treasurer and secretary with the chairman as the only principal (‘A’) signatory.
“To this end, the Diocesan Board further directs that all current signatories to all bank accounts of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Nkpogwu Deanery, be replaced with new ones from the caretaker committee until such a time when elections will be held in line with diocesan regulations.
“The relevant provisions of the diocesan financial institutions should be adhered to in order to forestall further abuse of church funds.”
The Chairman, Resolution Committee, Ven. Richard Okpara, condemned the invasion of the pastor’s residence to disconnect electricity to the house.
He added, “The pastor brought a generator. They went there again and destroyed it and spread faeces on the pastor’s premises. We consider that to be witchcraft.
“About three pastors were driven away by this group of persons and now they want to drive the current pastor away.”
A member of the church, who prefers anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, described the allegations against the foundation members of the church as fallacies, adding that the congregation had agreed that the pastor should go.
“All these allegations are fallacies. The bishop is bringing ethnic coloration to the whole issue. The pastor is trying to change the vision of the church and members are saying that the pastor should go.”
When contacted, Samuel said that he stood by the position of the diocese.
He added, “But we should know that the truth always stands with two legs and falsehood stands with one leg. Very soon, lies will get tired and the truth will prevail.”
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