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Judge blocks bid by Kenyan pastor to return to St. Stephen’s Church, Lowell


Dec,24-2017 19:06:20
LOWELL, MA__An attempt by Rev. Samuel Kimohu to return to his familiar position at the pulpit in front of the St. Stephen's church in Lowell was denied for a second time by a superior court judge, barely two days before Christmas day, one of the most important celebrations in the Christian Calendar.

The ruling, seen by Ajabu Media, was delivered yesterday after Rev. Kimohu had moved to court on Wednesday with a motion to reconsider the earlier ruling that barred him from conducting any priestly duties at the Kenyan community church.

In his ruling, Justice Salim Tabit said that there was no evidence of any new circumstances that would sway him from his prior decision on the preliminary injunction filed by the American Anglican church seeking to keep him out of the church until a full hearing of the dispute is heard and determined.

On Friday last week Justice Tabit denied another emergency motion by Rev. Kimohu seeking to overturn the ruling made last month hoping to return to church by last Sunday, indicating that both parties needed to make arguments in court, which prompted Kimohu's new attorney, Mr. James Leahy to file the motion for reconsideration.

While endorsing his earlier decision to keep Kimohu away from the church for now, the judge directed the court to hold a full hearing of the dispute on March 13, 2018, a blow to Rev. Kimohu who had hoped for a 'return to glory' before Christmas Day, although none of his party attended the hearing except his attorney and young daughter.

During Wednesday's hearing, the judge cast doubt on the validity of an alleged church council vote held on September 3rd, 2017 by some members of the church seeking to remove several members of the Vestry, the church body made up of several parishioners within the Anglican Communion charged with the responsibility of overseeing the day to day running of the church, some of  whom had openly questioned Kimohu's actions as the pastor that have left the church bitterly divided while others fear a possible loss of the church property valued at over $600,000.

However, there was no vote held for a new church council (vestry) on the particular day but elections were held for other church groups including the Father's and Mother's unions. Later the same night, Kimohu was defrocked and the vestry dissolved by Bishop Herzog who was alarmed by his defiance for conducting and illegal marriage against the bishop's advice.

On the following day, September 4, 2017, Kimohu convened an emergency meeting where a vote to disaffiliate St. Stephen’s church from the American Anglican church hierarchy was allegedly cast after the pastor had already defrocked.

Several members of the old vestry attending the meeting denied a vote ever took place, but added that several parishioners were handpicked to join the new pro-pastor vestry.

Several weeks later, the new vestry was accused of over stepping it's "authority" by electing new directors of the church who eventually "voted" to disaffiliate St. Stephen's church from the oversight and authority of the American Anglican church, a 'vote' that took place after Judge Tabit had ruled to ban Kimohu from the church on a temporary basis.

The judge noted that according to evidence presented to the court, members of the church were not properly notified of the planned voting for new vestry members in violation to the bylaws of the church as filed with the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as the Canons of the American Anglican church which St. Stephens church had willfully and knowingly entered into an ecclesiastical affiliation with.

Judge Tabit further said that the bylaws and canons of the church clearly indicate that no election for the members of the vestry can take place at the church without the bishop's permission in addition to the proper notification of the parishioners.

"People did not know about it. There was no permission from the bishop. It seems to me like father Kimohu was the one behind it. These pictures provided to me here don't mean anything. Photos are just photos and they don't even have dates on them," judge Tabit grilled Attorney Leahy, Kimohu's lawyer who was trying to counter allegations of fraud leveled by the American Anglican church. He further demanded that his client produce minutes from the meeting, but attorney Leahy was unable to produce any.

"A trial court has to establish credibility. There are no dates on these photos, no explanation or anything to tell us the full story," Judge Tabit continued.

"I have yet to find the minutes. Why this is so, I still need to find out," attorney Leahy countered while admitting he lacked immidiate evidence of a valid vote that ushered in a new vestry.

"In a regular corporation, this is negligence your honor. It does not rise to the level of fraud," Leahy added, adding that he would not have advised the vestry to hold the vote if he was representing them at the time.

Leahy charged that several parishioners opposing pastor Kimohu had attempted to grab power in the church by force when they recently changed all the locks in the church in an effort to lock out the new vestry members and board of directors, prompting the vestry to file a restraining order on two of them.

However, the judge dismissed Leahy's charge indicating that it was obvious that the church is now divided into two warring factions that were competing to grab power at the Kenyan community church, giving rise to the current litigation.

The judge further said that pastor Kimohu had no right to the church property located at 279 West 6th Street in Lowell to warrant the locking out of members who don't agree with him as Leahy sought to disassociate the current St. Stephen's church form any affiliation with the American Anglican church, but the judge remained unconvinced.

"Do you agree that this dispute we have today resulted from the decision by the American Anglican church to defrock father Kimohu," judge Tabit asked Leahy as he paced behind his desk where he had abandoned a sitting position when arguments heated up  in the courtroom.

"Prior to this, I would agree with that contention, but they are no longer affiliated. If Rev. Kimohu passed away today, this suit would still go on," Leahy responded.

Attorney James Doherty for the American Anglican church said that the problems at St. Stephen's church caused by pastor Kimohu were many, but an illegal wedding he performed is what precipitated the current dispute.

While making the ruling that keeps pastor Kimohu out of the church until the dispute is heard in March, the judge also ordered the plaintiffs to post a $5,000 surety bond to guarantee that they will be present during the hearing for the suit to continue to the end.

Mr. Samuel Mbugua, pastor Kimohu's right hand man who also serves as the people's warden took to social media posting the surety bond section of the ruling on WhatsApp while leaving out the main content in what was perceived to be an effort to cast the plaintiffs in a negative light, when asked for comment on why the left out the rest, Mr. Mbugua went mute and has not yet responded.

A few families at St. Stephen's church who are fighting to defend the church from collapsing and keep it under the over sign authority of the American Anglican church as a way of safeguarding the property have stated that they have worked hard to acquire and pay off the mortgage over many years and have vowed to fight on to the end to ensure that the church survives this rough patch in its history.

"It's very unfortunate that pastor Kimohu was defrocked for his own failures and negligence but wants to drag all members of St. Stephen's into his problems and misfortunes. He is now dividing members by directing them what to do or not to do from his home after he was banned from the church. The current vestry is only working to advance his agenda but not the agenda of regular members or the general Kenyan community who have helped us build this church through many fund raisers," said James Karuchi, a former chairman of the Fathers' Union during an interview with Ajabu Africa News while reading a statement from members opposed to Kimohu.

The group has set up aGoFund Meaccount in order to raise money from well wishers to help them meet the rising litigation costs.
"We are asking all Kenyans and well wishers in this region and beyond to help us with donations to defend this church we have worked so hard to acquire and pay off for our worship and for our future generations. Anything you can donate he highly appreciated," he added.

Read full ruling below