By Yiep Joseph/Mamer Abraham
Loopholes remain unresolved in the case between the defrocked Archbishop Reuben Akurdid Ngong and the Episcopal Church of South Sudan headed by Justin Badi Arama following the verdict by the High Court Judge Lawrence Jaja who dismissed the case with its cost in a letter dated 26th August, 2021.
The judge was reported to have advised that, the case would be solved within the church tribunal court, a decision which the plaintiff (Akurdid) disputed.
Eye witnesses said,the High Court Judge Lawrence Jaja also commented that the defrocking was nonprocedural and thus the church ought to follow the right procedures in resolving this internal church dispute.
The second defendant in this case, Justin Badi according to media reports had also rejected the court’s decision saying that Church disputes should be resolved within the Church not in the court of law.
This concurred with his previous interview with Juba Monitor where he clearly stated that he would not accept any court ruling.The rope pulled by the two parties in this dispute has remained unbroken leaving most of the Christians demoralized pertaining to the disagreement baked on both sides.
The province of the Episcopal church of South Sudan on Wednesday last week released a statement in which they welcomed the High Court verdict.
“The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan welcomes the ruling of the High Court on the case between the defrocked former Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province, Reuben Akurdid Ngong and the ECSS administration,” read the statement.
Akurdid left Juba for Jonglei on Thursday last week claiming that he would resume his duties as the Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province and the Bishop of Bor Diocese. On his arrival, he was welcomed by masses including the first Bor Diocese Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth. Akurdidclarified that, whoever would have a say would follow them to Jonglei State.
Since then, Akurdid carried out subsequent visits to the Dioceses of Malek and Chueikeer, promising to pay visits to Athooch Diocese, the Dioceses of Twic East and Duk soon whenever he could be allowed.
“What has come out of court is not what we expected, the judge said that the defrocking is nonprocedural and had to go back to the church. That one we have objected, so we have made an appeal that we have rejected the court ruling,” he said.
In an interview with Juba Monitor, the Episcopal communication officerwho doubles as Badi’s Spokesperson Gabriel Manyang Kon said that the judge simply dismissed the case because he had no powers to cancel the decision made by the Primate.
“I was there at the court, what happened was just the dismissal of the case because simply the judiciary do not have power to cancel the decision or the order of the Primate of Episcopal Church of South Sudan,” Manyang said.
He revealed that the church could not arrest people, citing the church was a place of peace andforgiveness
“We cannot arrest Akurdid or stop him from going to Bor, we in the church are for peace and forgiveness, his going to Bor remains his own decision,” he said.
He mentioned that Akurdidwas nolonger abishop or Archbishop in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.
“What came out of judiciary, we will work on it and we will see because already Akurdid is no longer a bishop within the Episcopal church of South Sudan, not Archbishop even because he is a defrocked Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province,” Kon said.
He confided that the ECSS would send the newly enthroned Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province, Moses Anur Ayom to assume office in Bor, Jonglei State.
“Going of Akurdid to Bor is none of our business but so far, the Episcopal Church headquarter(s),will soon send itsArchbishop of Jonglei Internal Province; the current one who replaced Akurdid soon to Bor to resume his duties,” he disclosed.
“We are not in hurry.We are following procedures because at the end of the day we do not want our people to be misled or get involved in this administrative issue.”
Kon confirmed the advice of Judge Lawrence Jaja that if Akurdid wanted to appeal, he should appeal to the tribunal court of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and that it was not an order, the order was the dismissal of the case.
On the other hand,the presssecretary in the office of Akurdid Ngong, Philip Maluakconfirmed that,they had rejected the court ruling and hadopted to go to the court of appeal.Claiming that the court of appeal would announce what the high court failed to announce.
“We have forwarded our document to the court of appeal because the court of appeal will announce what the high court failed to announce based on the context of the proceeding,” Maluak said.
He claimed that Akurdid had gone to Bor to resume his normal duties as the Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province and the Bishop of Bor Diocese.
“The bishop is going to resume his normal duties.Since he came here, he had been doing his normal duties since the suspension and defrocking were rejected due to(nonprocedural) administrative defrocking because the misquoted Article 25, C iv that comprise of committee or trial by tribunal court was not done, someone cannot be defrocked without administrative procedures,” he said.
He outlined that they did not agree with the court ruling due to several reasons he mentioned as follows.
“We did not agreewith the ruling because the judge first of all got the content of the verdict since we opened a case about the order of defrocking when he found that Akurdidwas defrocked in wrong article citing someone who commit adultery or murder is the one to be defrocked but proper investigation has to be done first,” he added.
Maluak maintained his stance that Akurdid had done nothing wrong that could lead to his defrocking.
“You cannotdefrocksomeone preaching the word of God in line with the constitution of the church, no one is above the constitution of the church,” he said.
He mentioned that BorDiocese would not report to the Provincial headquarters in juba, but would work independently since they had international connections.
“We are not reporting to Badi Arama, we will do our things alone; we have international connectivity and we will operate autonomously,” Maluak concluded.
The court decision of dismissing the case has affected the faith of some Christians while others have remained neutral calling for peace in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.
In his post on social media, the Bishop of Wangulei Diocese Zechariah Manyok Biar cautioned Christians against division.
“My caution to friends and Christians on both sides is that we still remain one people of God whether we win or we lose. Disagreements are normal things among people working together,” Bishop Biar said.
Biar requested that Akurdid should be convinced to ask for pardon so that it could be tabled before the synod comesNovember, 2021.
“What remains for us in Jonglei now is to follow church procedures and table our four Dioceses of Makuach, Anyidi, Duk Padiet and Cueikeer in General synod in November this year as we have all along been saying,” he advised. “Another thing that we need to do is to convince uncle Akurdid to request pardon so that it is tabled to the General synod in November.”
Dau Mabior Atem, a Church goer, advised the Christians not to be carried away by individual interests.
“Let’s not be carried away by other (Christians’) interest forgetting our own way of salvation and God’s mission for us, Jesus did not die on cross because of church leadership, but to save us from our sins. Let’s not forget that we are all sinners and every one of us should work hard in order to be forgiven by God. I advise that we focus more on our faith in Christ not our faith in church,” Atem said.
On a separate note, Makolo Mabior said, “I am appealing to everyone in ECSS to drop politics and business and turn to God through Biblical doctrines.”
Mayol Kuol Mhawet said, “We Christians are not for Akurdid or for Badi, we are for Christ only that’s why we are all called Christians but not Akurdians or Baditians. We are not supposed to lose our faith in Christ when there (is) misunderstanding between Akurdid and Badi or even other Church leaders.”
Akurdid was defrocked by the Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan’s administration on fourteenth August, 2020 over claims of canonical disobedience, violation of the constitution, standing orders and bylaws of the church; and misleading and dividing Christians.
Akurdid, who independently approved dioceses and enthroned bishops and in Jonglei Internal Province without consulting the highest church authority of the office of Primate said that he would step down when the Dioceses of Chueikeer, Makuach and Anyidi were confirmed and him reinstated and issued a certificate to confirm the new dioceses. The office of Justin Badi failed to compromise; a decision which led Akurdid to open the case in a court of law against ECSS led by Justin Badi in January, 2021.
Bishop Peter Joh Mayom released a statement later claiming that both sides had loopholes.
Mayom said that both the Primate Badi, Akurdid and Jonglei Internal Province Standing Committee had violated the ECSS Constitution 2016 AD and Canons 2011 AD.
He said that, the Tribunal was supposed to be formed by the ECSS administration to investigate the case of the defrocked Akurdid.
On the other hand, he indicatedthat Akurdid’s reactions to his defrocking were to be counted asmisbehaviors according to the canon as well.