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Police rush to Kenyan Community St. Stephens’s church in Lowell as dispute deepens following pastor defrocking
Bishop Herzog
PHOTO:Bishop John Herzog of the American Anglican church(center) chats with Samuel Mbugua, the People's Warden at the Kenyan Community St. Stephens church in Lowell as David Ikanyi, former church chairman (right) and looks on. AJABU MEDIA PIC/H.MAINA

Harison Maina

Oct,01-2017 19:22:56
LOWELL, Mass.__Responding to a call from a supporter of the suspended Rev. Samuel Kimohu of the St. Stephens church, officers from the Lowell Police Department rushed to the troubled church before the start of the morning Service last Sunday looking to quell an alleged "planned disruption" of service by the presiding bishop, The Most Bishop John Herzog of the American Anglican Church.

At the same time, the embattled pastor and a group of his supporters have threatened to pull from the oversight authority of the American Anglican church if the recent "defrocking" is sustained.

In a letter sent served by attorney Pon Nokham of the Nokham Law office and obtained by Ajabu Media, attorney Nokam said that the board of directors has voted to disassociate itself from the American Anglican church.

"I write to notify you that the Board voted on September 4, 2017 during a meeting to dissociate from, and operate independently of the Diocese of the Holy Innocents in New York ("diocese"). I trust that St. Stephen's transition to operate independent of the Diocese shall be smooth and without unnecessary interruption.'"
(Read full letter at the bottom below).

However, in an instant rejoinder, Bishop Herzog wrote back indicating that there were existing questions as to whether the board meeting cited by attorney Nokham was held in accordance to the church by Laws and constitution.

He also said that vestry of the church, even if in good standing did not have the power to pull the church from the existing oversight authority of the American Anglican church.

"Be advised as well that the Vestry, even if in good standing, has not the power to take the action you''e suggested in your letter," wrote the bishop in the letter also seen by Ajabu Media.

Herzog threatened to prosecute any members of the church who may give false information to the law office or to any court that may be involved in the dispute.

"Please be advised that any legal action taken will lead to prosecution of the party or parties giving false information to your office or to any court that may become involved."
(Read full letter at the bottom below).

The shocking move came as several supporters of the embattled pastor sought to block Bishop Herzog from implementing the suspension, claiming that they still want him to continue as their pastor despite his apparent failure to adhere to the church Constitution, the bylaws as well as allegedly circumventing Massachusetts State law while conducting weddings without, a valid license.

Rev. Samuel Kimohu conducting a sermon last Sunday at the St. Stpehens church while under suspension. PIC BY COURTESY/AJABU DIASPORA NETWORK

Making a complete U-Turn from his earlier promise to stay away from the pulpit after the withdrawal of his license to preach under the American Anglican church, Kimohu openly defied guidance from Bishop Herzog to have his assistant pastor, Rev. Leonard Ngarama conduct the church services temporarily as the church seeks a new senior pastor--when he proceeded to conduct the service as soon as the Police officers left the church following reassurances from both the pastor and the bishop that the service would not be disrupted and no violence will occur.

Speaking to Ajabu Media, several parishioners present when the police arrived at the church said that two officers entered the sanctuary around 10.40am right before the service was scheduled to start at 11.

"I think John Njenga must be the one who called the police. When I arrived at the church for service, he pointed at me and told the officers that I was one of the people planning chaos at the church”, Kimani, a member of the Church Vestry and former chairman of the Men's ministry at the church told Ajabu Media.

"He then invited the police inside the church and led them to the pastor's office," he added.

The officers then proceeded to the pastors office where Rev. Kimohu was holed in a tension filled meeting with bishop Herzog, Rev. Ngarama, Samuel Mbugua (big Mbugua) who serves as the people's warden, Rahab Ikanyi and Peter Kimani (Vestry members) and John Njenga, the church's photographer.

According to Kimani, the scene inside the office was "very ugly"--as pastor Kimohu yelled at the bishop that if he has to go to jail, they would have to go together as they have done "a lot of things together" in the last16 years.

"It was very ugly. It was bad. Pastor Kimohu was screaming and swearing at Bishop Herzog and said that they have been doing a lot of things together for the last 16 years and so if he was to go to jail for anything that seemed to be breaking the law, he would make sure that Herzog comes along as well," Kimani disclosed .

He added the police officers said that they were answering a call from a parishioner who said that the bishop had come to disrupt the service, a claim that Herzog denied as false alarm.

Kimani added that the Lowell police officers said that it was unfortunate and very disappointing that they had to take their time away from other pressing issues to respond to threats of violence in a Kenyan church at a time when there was too much problems happening in other parts of USA including the deaths and destruction caused by the hurricanes in Florida and Texas as well as other serious problems around the world.

"They urged us to resolve the dispute we are having peacefully and according to the law. Before they left, the police cautioned that is they had to come back to the church after being reassured of no violence or disruption of the service, they would have to arrest some people regardless of what side of the dispute they are from," Kimani added.

As the officers excited the church through the back door, bishop Herzog and pastor Kimuhu returned to the sanctuary where Kimuhu proceeded straight to the microphone to lead in a prayer, apparently to kick off the Sunday service as dumbfounded parishioners watched in disbelief.

Bishop John Herzog leaves the sanctuary at the St. Stephen's church. AJABU MEDIA PIC/H.MAINA

Taken by surprise by the open defiance and disrespect towards him displayed by Pastor Kimohu, Bishop Herzog sat silently at the front pew together with an accompanying Bishop also from the American Anglican church.

Moments later, Kimohu invited Herzog to greet the congregation and say a word or two.

During his brief speech, Herzog avoided addressing the pastor's suspension issue, preferring to inform the congregation that the American Anglican church was strong and growing in Faith and in numbers.

He said that the church has just opened a new parish located at Federal Way in Seattle, Washington and hopes to keep growing more in order to spread the Good News.

He wished the St. Stephen's church well and promised to do everything possible to support their growth and well-being before requesting worshippers to rise up and sing the "Blessed Assurance" hymn.

Shockingly, the clearly shocked worshippers, both for and against the pastor did not move an inch and remained tight lipped, prompting Bishop Herzog to cease his request at the end of his speech.

As Herzog took his seat, Kimohu resumed running the service when he asked the church choir to present a number, at which point bishop Herzog hurriedly exited from the sanctuary.

As he made his way out of the church, Herzog was followed closely by the People's Warden, Mbugua and the photographer, Njenga who was clicking away at the bishop relentlessly.

As they made out of the church Mbugua and Njenga sought to reassure Bishop Herzog that the church members love him and would like to remain under the oversight cover of the American Anglican church in order to protect the church funds and property from the risks of an independent church.

However, in order for that to happen, Mbugua urged Herzog to be willing to listen to concerns of other church members who would not like to see pastor Kimohu ejected from the pulpit as leader of the church.

Mbugua told Herzog that a letter sent to him by an attorney retained by the church threatening to secede from the American Anglican church was just a "letter of intent" that can be "withdrawn anytime" if an amicable solution is reached.

He admitted that while Kimohu was not a perfect pastor and there are things that he has done that are questionable, many members still like him regardless.

"I don't agree with everything that pastor Kimohu says and does. But it is clear that many people want him to remain here. The best thing for us is to sit down and talk about these issues as we do in our African culture to see if we can resolve them. We are willing to come all the way to your office in New York for such a meeting if need be," the people's warden pleaded.

St. Stephen's church choir performing during the tension-filed Sunday service following a face off between suspended pastor Rev. Samuel Kimohu and Bishop John Herzog of the American Anglican church. AJABU MEDIA PIC/H.MAINA

"You know we love you Bishop. All we need to do is sit down and sort out this issue," Mbugua continued.

Responding to the request, Herzog said he was not in a position to make such a determination as he was required by the church policy to report the developments to the House of Bishops in the American Anglican church who would then make a determination as to whether Kimohu remains suspended or not.

"I will report the issue to the House of Bishops and they will then decide on how to proceed. I am under their authority so I have to respect that," Herzog said as he left the church to attend another service at the St. Mathew's Anglican Church, another Kenyan community Anglican Church in New Hampshire affiliated to the American Anglican church.

However Herzog added that the American Anglican church will most likely order an audit of the church finances as there have been many complaints from parishioners regarding questionable transactions dating back 16 years ago.

"We will probably order an audit of the church finances as the house of bishops discuss the next step after today," he said while responding to a question by Ajabu Media as he left the church venue at 279 West 6th S

However, while addressing worshippers inside the church during the sermon, pastor Kimohu continued with his defiant tone when he said that he will no longer recognize the suspended license to conduct church service issued to him by the American Anglican church.

He said that Bishop Herzog was misleading Kenyans everywhere with his claim that he is the one who helped him come to the USA to preach while that was not the case.

Kimuhu said that he came to the US under the sponsorship of the Charismatic Anglican church under one Bishop Njoroge.

"Bishop Herzog did not bring me here. I came here at the invitation of the Anglican Charismatic church. The only people Herzog he helped bring over were my wife and kids, so he cannot defrock me or tell me not to preach with that silence," Kimuhu said according to various worshippers present who spoke to Ajabu Media under the condition of anonymity in order to avoid malicious blow back from the pastors supporters.

After the news of the suspension broke last week, pastor Kimohu penned a lengthy rejoinder that was published on the internet castigating Herzog for bringing the dispute into the limelight through the media rather than seek to resolve it quietly.

In the o-ped, Kimuhu said that Bishop Herzog and the American Anglican church had no right to defrock as "once ordained, one cannot be defrocked by anyone else other than the one who ordained him."

However,according to several clergymen who spoke to AjabuMedia , also on condition of anonymity, Pastor Kimuhu was initially ordained by the Anglican church of Kenya (ACK) in the Kajiado Diocese who enentually defrocked him following another bitter church dispute in the motherland.

However, a leadership and succession power struggle erupted at the Diocese when the then bishop sought to retire, reliable sources told Ajabu Media.

Serving in the same diocese at the time, Kimuhu reportedly threw his weight behind Bishop Bernard Njoroge who was his friend, pitting them against bishop Tama from the Maasai community that dominated the region.

As the dispute boiled over, a physical fight erupted where pastor Kimohu was involved accosting the late Bishop David Gitari with a rock projectile, reliable sources told Ajabu Media.

The late Gitari had been appointed by the then archbishop of Kenya,  the late Bishop Manases Kuria to head a panel of bishops attempting to resolve the bitter dispute.

"Following the physical violence that was widely reported in the Kenyan media, both Kimohu and Njoroge were defrocked from the ACK," said two pastors who were well versed with the developments at the Kajiado diocese in the early nineties.

Njoroge them went on to found the Anglican Charismatic church, with Kimuhu joining him later on, before immigrating to the US.

In addition to defying bishop Herzog's order to cease preaching at St. Stephens's church, pastor Kimuhu also pulled the race card in an attempt to discredit the Bishop among his parishioners and the Kenyan community in USA.

He accused Herzog of displaying "colonial mentality" of divide and rule during his oversight of the church and with the revocation of his license.

However, several Kenyans disagreed with Kimohu's take, saying that it's a very worrisome trend by several Kenyan pastors in Boston who have been trying to mudsling their superiors within the larger church oversight bodies as a way to turn the parishioners against them.

"When they start telling us to remove the church from the authority of a Mzungu in USA, the pastors are trying to have no one oversee their activities in the church and hence are able to control and abuse the worshippers and their funds freely," said one Kenyan concerned by the "disgraceful and misleading" content of Kimohu's o-ped on the internet.

Soon after the end of the service last Sunday, pastor Kimohu rushed to nearby the PCEA Neema church in Lowell where a burial fundraiser was taking place in the afternoon for a dead Kenyan.

According to Kenyans attending the fundraiser, while addressing mourners present, Kimohu seemed to relish the developments that had just taken place in his church, claiming that his parishioners had rejected the "Mzungu" (Swahili for a Caucasian) who was trying to "colonize them" again.

"He was invited by pastor Karimi to address the people. He told us that his church had just chased away a Mzungu from his church who was trying to colonize them again," said a Kenyan present at the funeral fundraiser.

Apparently impressed with the, the PCEA Neema pastor reportedly asked Kimuhu to reassure Kenyans present once again whether what he just reported was true.

"Pastor Kimuhu then took the microphone again telling mourners that indeed, his church members had defeated the Mzungu," a disappointed Kenyan told Ajabu Media.

"Many people present just exploded with cheers and clapping. It looked quite saddening to witness the racist tendencies of the two pastors exploiting the past colonial history of our country as a tool to brainwash their gullible followers."

Many Kenyans from various cities in the USA who talked to Ajabu Media said that pastor Kimohu's openly racist comments against bishop Herzog were unfortunate and in bad taste, especially since Herzog has spend a better part of his last 35 years helping Kenyan clergymen and their families obtain valid US immigration Visas to come to the USA for missionary work, helped them obtain work for sustenance as they attend bible schools and establish churches.

As bishop Herzog left the church on Sunday, a brief altercation erupted when John Njenga, the church's photographer and staunch pastor supporter angrily lost his composure as he sought to silence David Ikanyi, one of the members against Kimohu who sought to ask a question.

Njenga, in an apparent moment of uncontrollable emotional outburst had to be restrained by other parishioners of both sides as he attempted to attack Ikanyi.

"It's very sad these things are happening to our church. How comes its only one person who is never satisfied with the things in the church and has to keep bringing up chaos? We love this church and our pastor and we will not allow this to continue," said Julius Karungu, a youthful member of the church.

Karungu insisted that there were no financial scandals in the church as there was a committee that works with the treasurer to make sure that everything was accounted for.

As for the plot donated in Kitengela, Kenya that many parishioners had sought to know its fate, Karungu said that that should not be a problem at all.

"If it's the issue of the donated plot, I am sure there is a title somewhere with the church. There is a reason someone thought it wise to donate the plot to the church. That should not be a big problem," he added, while admitting that he has never seen the tile himself or ownership documents.

At the time of going to the press, it was not yet clear what new steps have been taken by either side as they wait for another tension filled church service next Sunday.




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