TOP BISHOP SUSPENDED

JOHANNESBURG Central Methodist Church's Bishop Paul Verryn has been suspended from the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, a lawyer said yesterday.

JOHANNESBURG Central Methodist Church's Bishop Paul Verryn has been suspended from the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, a lawyer said yesterday.

"He has been suspended and charged in an internal process," said attorney Bongani Khoza, who works for a firm that acts on behalf of the Methodist Church.

Khoza said Verryn was suspended on Tuesday. He said the reasons for the suspension could not be disclosed. Verryn would appear before a church disciplinary committee.

The Central Methodist Church has given refuge to thousands of Zimbabwean immigrants and has been at the centre of a controversy involving the situation of women and children at the church in central Johannesburg.

"What is going to happen is that the church is going to put up a structure to take over the running of the Central Methodist Church in Pritchard Street," Khoza said.

There have been reports of tensions between Verryn and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Last year Verryn launched a court bid to have a curator appointed for children staying at the church.

The application followed ongoing wrangles between the church and Gauteng government, which accused Verryn of refusing to cooperate with social workers who had wanted to move the Zimbabwean children to proper homes and shelters.

Subsequently a children's rights lawyer was appointed by the Johannesburg high court earlier this month to act as legal guardian to 56 unaccompanied Zimbabwean minors.

According to media reports at the time the Methodist Church of Southern Africa said Verryn allegedly acted unilaterally in launching the application.

The church said it only allowed the presiding bishop or the church's general secretary to bring any application before a court.

"Bishop Paul Verryn has acted unilaterally and without the support of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa," the church's head, Ivan Abrahams, said at the time.

The curator, Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law, is expected to compile a report on recommendations regarding steps to be taken in the best interests of the children by February 8.

Last year the South African Council of Churches said the primary villain in the refugee saga was not Verryn but the government.

"These people moved into (the church) because it responded to a humanitarian crisis, to which few other people, including the local, provincial and national government, responded." - Sapa

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