St Albans fights bishop - Court order to hold service
A PRETORIA parish had to obtain an urgent court order to hold its church service yesterday.
The move follows a decision on Thursday by South African Council of Churches chairman Bishop Johannes Seoka to close the St Albans Anglican Cathedral for worship.
Seoka took the drastic decision following the resignation of resident priest Father Rudolph Paulse. The priest resigned last week after he was allegedly threatened with death by parishioners.
The Pretoria High Court ruled that the 130-year-old church be opened with immediate effect for worship.
The court also ruled that Paulse be reinstated as a caretaker priest while mediation between the warring parties is being instituted.
Yesterday parishioners welcomed the court ruling and accused Paulse of lying about the death threats.
They also accused Seoka of misappropriating the cathedral's funds, dishonesty, breach of trust and corruption.
It is claimed that Seoka used R500,000 of the Pretoria diocese's money to pay for his bond. He is also accused of misappropriating R162,000 to fund legal representation against a church dean.
"He is a rascal bishop and we believe that he has lost his mind," a church member said yesterday.
Seoka, on the other hand, believes he is being targeted.
"Those are baseless accusations and 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," Seoka said
"They are trying to character assassinate me and discredit my leadership."
Seoka also laughed off the allegations that he is "a rascal that has lost his mind".
"I was not aware that I was a rascal and that I have lost my mind. I'm actually baffled by all of this talk and as far as I'm concerned, I still have my senses," he said.
In March it was reported that five men armed with guns threatened to kill Seoka and his wife at their home.
Yesterday Seoka confirmed the incident saying the case was in the hands of the police.
- The courts have recently been inundated with cases relating to battles between various factions within churches.
In Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, factions within the St Johns Apostolic Faith Mission Church have taken their dispute to court. The case is to be heard in the Johannesburg High Court at the end of the month.
The litigant is a faction led by a former secretary of the church, Simon Mofokeng, who wants to take power from Bishop Gladys Maragu.
Maragu is the widow of the late Archbishop Jacob Maragu, who led the church until his death in 2005.
In 2004, a court interdict stripped Maragu of his leadership after he was accused of wanting to amend the church's constitution to make way for his wife to lead when he died.
She succeeded her husband in October last year .
In Kwazulu-Natal the case between Vela and Mduduzi Shembe of the Nazareth Baptist Church is still before the Durban High Court. The church has been embroiled in a leadership battle since its leader Vimbeni Shembe died last year.
According to a will presented at Vimbeni's funeral, the deceased chose his cousin Vela as his successor. But senior leaders prefer his son Mduduzi.
In Randfontein, the Methodist Church has been divided after a regional bishop evicted a resident priest three months ago. The matter will be heard in the Johannesburg High Court on May 29.