Two feuding parties in the Apostolic Church-Ghana have been given a second opportunity by the Accra High Court to reach an out-of-court settlement.
The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, gave the directive last Tuesday following the failure of the two parties to reach an agreement as initially directed by the court.
The dispute that has landed the church in court involves the age of its General Secretary, Apostle Alex Kwaku Ofosu.
Three members of the church sued Apostle Ofosu for allegedly altering his age to enable him to continue to stay in office.
It is the contention of the plaintiffs — Elder Emmanuel Tetteh Nyumgor, Elder William Okyere and Elder Ernest Teye — that Apostle Ofosu attained the age of 65, which is the retiring age for officers of the church, on January 28, 2018.
They, however, aver that the General Secretary has “purposely misrepresented his date of birth to the church, claiming that it was January 28, 1956 when, indeed and in fact, his actual date of birth is January 28, 1953”.
Also joined to the suit as defendants are the Apostolic Church-Ghana and the National Council, which is the governing body of the church.
The plaintiffs further filed an application seeking an order for interlocutory injunction to restrain the Apostolic Church-Ghana from recognizing Apostle Ofosu as the General Secretary of the church until the final determination of the suit.
Although Apostle Ofosu is yet to file a defence in the suit, he denied the allegations levelled against him in his response to the petition by the three church members to the National Council.
“I wish to state emphatically that I am not liable or guilty of the offence of dishonesty or conduct that will bring the esteemed office of General Secretary of our reputable church into disrepute, ridicule or contempt,” he said.
Settlement agreement blues
When the case was first heard on March 5, 2019, Mrs Justice Asare-Botwe pleaded with the two factions to settle the matter out of court, since it was not the best for a church issue to end up in a law court.
She, subsequently, appointed a senior lawyer, Mr Solomon Adjetey, to act as a mediator to help broker an agreement between the two sides.
The case was adjourned to March 18, 2019, for the parties to report back to the court on the settlement agreement.
However, on that day, the two parties pleaded with the court to give them more time to enable them to reach an amicable settlement.
Mrs Justice Asare-Botwe agreed and gave them three weeks to finally reach an agreement. Once again, quoting various scriptures from the Bible, she encouraged them to settle the matter out of court.
After the three weeks had elapsed, the two parties went to court last Tuesday but without a settlement agreement.
The mediator presented his report to the court and explained that no settlement agreement had been reached.
“A church should not be in court”
Mrs. Justice Asare-Botwe was not enthused about the development and asked lawyers for the two parties if it was remotely possible for their clients to reach some sort of agreement.
Counsel for the plaintiffs, Mr Eddie McCarthy, submitted that the two parties had just one meeting which did not yield any positive outcome.
“Find a way to settle this matter. What are the leaders and the clergy of a church doing in a worldly court? Try one last time; Sunday is Palm Sunday and so use it as an opportunity to reach an agreement,” she said.
Mrs Justice Asare-Botwe directed the parties to go back and settle the matter out of court but said if they failed to do so, then she would hear the injunction and subsequently the substantive suit.
This time around, she advised that the parties could meet and have some discussions before they met with their lawyers and the mediator.
The case has been adjourned to April 16, 2019.