Church Wrangles: Bishop Drags Pastors to Court

Kigali, Rwanda - The raging internal wrangles between Bishop Alex Birindabagabo and other church leaders of the Anglican Church of Gahini Diocese have hit a climax, with the Bishop dragging three pastors to Rukara District Court.

Trouble reportedly began in March this year, when Bishop Birindangabo announced the excommunication of his former close associates, Canon Patrick Butera and pastors Enoch Mutangana and Nathanael Kanyandekwe from the church, during a Sunday service.

Frustrated by the announcement then, Kanyandekwe snatched the microphone from the Bishop and condemned him for his 'dictatorial policies' before a congregation of about six hundred people."I did not think twice; I felt the congregation ought to know that the Bishop was running the diocese like his own home," Kanyandekwe told Court presided over by Jacqueline Mukagacinya.

He added that the Anglican Church does not empower anyone, 'not even the Archbishop' with powers of excommunication.Kanyandekwe, Mutangana and Butera are being charged with disrupting church services, a crime punishable under Article 293 of the Penal Code. However, Canon Butera disputes the charge.

"According to our liturgy, (a book outlining the course of church service), the time this happened is not regarded as a church function. It is a time set for announcements which might involve social activities, so I differ with the Prosecution on that," a charged Butera, said. Butera is also charged with authoring a letter, in which he allegedly condemned the Bishop's crude policies.

"We still think the Bishop's policies are crude, and he practices segregation and nepotism among others. We have concrete evidence attesting to this and the pastor (Kanyandekwe) was only overwhelmed by emotion when he did that," Canon Butera told Court.

He also appealed to Court to dismiss the plaintiff's plea that the defendants pay Frw 80,000 to compensate for the collections supposed to have been collected that day.

"I am challenging the pastor in charge of recording the collections to bring the book. Everything is on record, so let him bring it and Court compares the collections for that day to those of other Sundays," the Canon dared.

During the trial, the defendants also managed to produce some of the evidence portraying Bishop Birindabagabo's alleged excesses, which included a photo of a group of youths he allegedly took for publication in a foreign newspaper, claiming they were orphans.

"It is ridiculous for a religious person of this caliber to lie to the world! Some of those children are his, while others are well known to have been born outside the country; they are not orphans at all," the Canon charged, adding that the accusations against the prelate were just 'a handful of evidence they had against the Bishop'.

Through his lawyer Emile Rukundo, Bishop Birindabagabo is seeking damages of up to Frw2.5 million in a case in which Butera and Mutangana are charged as accomplices, while Kanyandekwe is the prime suspect.

The ruling was set for 30th September.