Group Plans Court Action Against Dutch Reformed Church

The dispute over the ordination of the first woman priest of the Dutch Reformed Church in Botswana is continuing to haunt the denomination.

A tiny section of the Dutch Reformed Church in Mochudi - mostly women - who were against the historic ordination of Reverend Monnie Kgosiemang earlier this year are still bent on spoiling the party. The eight members who opposed the ordination, have now resorted to legal action.

The attorney for the group, Lizo Ngcongco confirmed that he is preparing the papers to sue the church over the ordination. However, Ngcongco could not divulge more details saying he needs permission from his clients before he could speak to the press about the case.

Mmegi has learnt that the legal action is aimed at challenging Kgosiemang's ordination as a priest. The bone of contention is the interpretation of certain clauses of the church order (constitution).

Some sections of the church choir say they are opposed to the ordination on the basis that the constitution barred the appointment of women priests. However, the church interprets the constitution differently, insisting that there has never been any discriminating clause regarding the calling of women ministers.

The "concerned group", as the dissenting members preferred to call themselves insist that the church should have amended the constitution before ordaining Kgosiemang.

In a previous interview with Mmegi, they indicated that they were not opposed to the appointment of women ministers. They stressed that they were merely concerned about the violation of the clause in the constitution.

After failing to resolve their dispute with the church, the "concerned group" enlisted the services of the Bakgatla paramount chief, Kgosi Linchwe. Linchwe, who was also vehemently against the ordainment of Kgosiemang, ordered that the church should amend its constitution before ordaining a woman minister. Linchwe, a prominent member of the church, boycotted the ordination even though he was invited to the ceremony.

However, the Dutch Reformed Church went ahead to ordain Kgosiemang.

The administrator of the church, Eskiah Mooketsi said the provisions of the constitution in dispute only referred to the appointment of "elders" and deacons. However despite this provision, he admitted that Kgosiemang and other women have served as church elders and deacons. He said there were never any protests over this.

Mooketsi said the constitution was silent regarding the ordainment of women ministers and this is why they went ahead to appoint Kgosiemang.

Since the ordination, he said, they have never heard from the "concerned group", adding that he was not aware of the pending litigation. As Christians, he said he was expecting that they would resolve their differences amicably. He added that they have always gone out of their way to accommodate the concerned group. However the group has not been willing to compromise. At some stage, they postponed the ordainment as they were still talking to the group.

Meanwhile Kgosiemang said she wanted the two parties to reconcile and she is willing to make peace with everyone. She said she does not hold a grudge against those who opposed to her ordination. She expressed concern that her opponents have continued to boycott her church services.