House of Bishops Grills Njoka

Cash-for-prayers Bishop Peter Njoka yesterday appeared before the highest Anglican Church of Kenya organ.

The controversial clergyman was grilled by the House of Bishops during a closed-door marathon meeting held at the ACK Garden House building in Nairobi's Upper Hill area.

The special meeting begun shortly after 2 pm and was attended by all the 29 ACK bishops led by Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.

A tense-looking Bishop Njoka, who arrived for the meeting at 2.45pm, declined to answer questions by Nation journalists.

Sources told the Nation that the bishop was made to wait as the bishops deliberated on his case involving the payment of Sh1.7 million by the scandal-ridden Nairobi City Council for offering services as the mayor's chaplain.

He was, however, later allowed to join the other bishops in the meeting room after 45 minutes.

On Sunday, in a statement read out to the congregation by the Rev Sam Mawiyoo, the St Stephen's parish synod defended Bishop Njoka over the payments, saying there was nothing wrong with the cleric being the mayor's chaplain.

The synod resolution was also presented to the House of Bishops for deliberation.

Sources told the Nation that the decision on Bishop Njoka's case by the church's top organ will be communicated during a press conference to be held today.

By the time we went to press, the meeting was still going on.

Bishop Njoka could face a three-year suspension if the church decides to take disciplinary action against him.

The church's constitution outlines several steps to be taken against a bishop who engages in "any act, habit, conduct or contumacy (obstinate and wilful resistance to authority), which is likely to give just cause of scandal or an offence likely to bring the ministry of the church into disrepute".

A defiant Bishop Njoka last week said he would not pay back the money he received as council chaplain between 1999 and February 2004, as ordered by a special inspection team sent to City Hall by Local Government minister Karisa Maitha last October.

The announcement by Mr Maitha that the bishop had illegally been paid the money stunned many believers and church members blocked the clergyman from conducting services or gaining access to the St Stephen's Church on Jogoo Road.

While opening the church on February 5, Archbishop Nzimbi said Bishop Njoka would continue heading the church until the House of Bishops decided his fate.

Later, Bishop Njoka headed a synod meeting, which brings together all the clergy from the diocese, to discuss development matters.

The church held a parish council last week during which, insiders said, "the City Council affair was discussed".

According to the church's constitution, if found guilty, a bishop could also be either admonished, censured, deprived of his position, depositioned or degraded.

According to the church's constitution, suspension would bar one from all ministerial functions during the period of the sentence and total loss of emoluments attached to the office.

While deprivation is defined as taking away official duties of the person sentenced, deposition is defined as taking away the responsibilities together with a suspension, as the tribunal may recommend.

The church defines degradation as total removal from the Holy Orders of the person whom sentence is passed.

The church at the same time provides for a charge of financial impropriety for its members.

But any charges against a bishop or an archbishop will only be heard if preferred by either 10 priests licensed in the church, five bishops of the church.

The articles of resentment should be delivered to the archbishop, who, within three weeks of the receipt serve a copy of the same to the accused bishop and to other diocesan bishops, the provincial chancellor and the chancellor of the diocese concerned.

The notifications should be served to the accused bishop personally or by registered mail.

The trial should commence within four weeks of the receipt by the archbishop. In the trial, the accused bishop may submit his defence in writing.

Among the prescribed sentence, it is the duty of the tribunal to decide which one to mete on the accused.

If found guilty and sentenced to a three-year suspension, a bishop is required to undertake in writing that he will not repeat the offence.

"If at the end of the period of suspension, such undertaking shall not have been given, the sentence shall be deprivation or deposition," the constitution reads.