The imprisonment of Rev. Fr. Jacob Augustine Welbourne, former Dean at the St. Andrew Anglican Cathedral Church at Sekondi, for contempt of court, has sent shock waves within the Anglican communion.
Indeed, the news appears devastating to many members and it seems the effect might split the church in Sekondi. The Ghanaian Times learnt that the shock waves had even affected some clergy in Accra, some of whom came in buses to the Sekondi Police station to visit Father Welbourne and the three others.
An insider who spoke to the Times said, "we will go elsewhere and worship. Even if he (Bishop) thinks he has jailed the Dean to cripple our front, we can still have a catechist to lead our group".
As at 8:40 am on Sunday when the Times visited the cathedral, there was no sign that a mass will be held there. Later, it was learnt that the congregation were staying away in sympathy and solidarity with Rev. Welbourne and his colleagues.
Immediately after Justice David Ofosu Quartey had delivered his judgment in the contempt case against the four on Friday, the court became quiet and somber looks were registered on the faces of their friends and sympathisers.
A few of them who had gathered in court felt the four were "victims of history". Perhaps what Emmanuel Papa Assan (second applicant) told Times that day, captured the views of those who felt that the four were "victims". He said, "My brother, sometimes people have to sacrifice."
The cathedral group, the faction against the Bishop, in a resolution dated January 24, 2006, to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa, the Most Rev. Dr. Justice Ofei Akrofi, said they were breaking away because they recognised that the church has become "an oppressive institution without regard to due processes of law".
Meanwhile, the jailed members of the group, together with three others, are to face another legal battle on October 16. This time, Bishop John K. Otoo has filed a motion on notice at a Sekondi High Court for an order of committal for contempt against the eight persons.
The other respondents are Rev. Fr. Kobina Tawiah Eshun, Kwamena Benyarku and Joseph Quagraine.
The notice filed by Ekow K. Amua-Sekyi, counsel for the Bishop said "take notice that this Honourable Court shall be moved by Amua Sekyi and co of counsel for and behalf of the applicants praying for an order to commit the respondents for bringing the administration of justice into disrepute in preventing, obstructing the Bishop, the presenter and other clergy from holding service at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, Sekondi on Sunday June 18, 2006, in defiance of a court order dated June 6, 2006".
The case was called on Friday, but counsel for respondents, Mr. Bodza-Lumor told the court presided over by Justice Clemence J. Honyenuga that he was presenting two diskettes for the perusal of counsel for the Bishop, before the proceedings begin.
The case was therefore adjourned to October 16, 2006.A Takoradi High Court on Friday sentenced the Reverend Father Welbourne and three others to there months each in prison for contempt of court.
They were in addition ordered to pay a total fine of ¢34 million or in default, serve a two-year jail term each. The others were Emmanuel Papa Assan, Augustus Quaye and Daniel Assafuah, all members of the church.
The court, presided over by Justice David K. Ofosu Quartey, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of a fifth person, Kofi Abbey-Hart, who was not in court on Friday.
The case of contempt was brought against the five by Bishop Otoo.