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28.02.2005 Crime & Punishment

General Overseer of DHC taken to court

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Accra, Feb 28, GNA -An Accra High Court will on Tuesday, March 8, hear an application filed by six members of the Divine Healer's Church (DHC), against her General Overseer, and three other officers for allegedly flouting the constitution of the Church. As a result of the suit filed and served on the four defendants on Friday, February 25, an ordination ceremony, which should have taken place the following day, had to be called off in the eleventh hour.

By their application, the six plaintiffs are seeking an order of perpetual injunction from the court, to restrain Reverend Apostle Amaziah Aflah Armah, General Overseer, and Reverend Maxwell Aryeetey Foster, General Secretary, from ordaining 29 members, including five females, as ministers of the Church, since they have no constitutional mandate to do so. One of the reliefs being sought by the plaintiffs is a declaration that by virtue of the church's constitution, the General Overseer has reached the retiring age of 65 years, and is therefore due for retirement this month.

Another relief is a declaration that at the end of this month, Rev Apostle Armah, has no right to hold himself out as General Overseer. An additional relief being sought by the plaintiffs is that the General Overseer be ordered by the court to hand over all church property in his possession, to trustees of the Church at the end of this month. Finally, the plaintiffs are praying the court to compel trustees of the Church to take steps to ensure that the General Overseer hands over to a new one to be appointed later.

The application, giving background information about recent developments in the church that led to the filing of the suit stated that, "founded in the 1950s, the administrative structure of the church is organised in a hierarchical form with her national governance vested in Congress as the highest administrative and policy-making body, presided over by the General Overseer. By virtue of the Church's constitution, officers are to retire at the age of 65 years, unless the National Executive Board, acting with Congress approval, exercises its discretion to permit an officer, who attains the retiring age to continue to serve on the grounds that "the officer is healthy enough to continue in full time ministry."

Rev Apostle Armah reached the retiring age in or about June last year, as evidenced by a letter he himself wrote in June 1999. As a result, he should have by now proceeded on retirement in accordance with the Church's constitution. At a meeting at the Headquarters of the Church on June 16 last year, and attended by members of the National Executive Board and Trustees of the Church, which was presided over by the General Overseer, it was decided that a Committee be appointed to deliberate on various matters relating to his retirement and the amendment of the church's constitution. At another meeting at the Headquarters of the Pentecostal Council of Ghana on that same day, the National Executive Board and the Board of Trustees of the Church, confirmed that Rev Apostle Armah should retire. At the meeting, it was agreed that the retirement of the General Overseer, and elections to Congress, ought to have taken place in September and October 2004 respectively, instead of February this year.

According to a letter to the General Overseer dated January this year, the Trustees of the Church asked him to refrain from ordaining members he himself nominated, as ministers, but that he ignored the demand and prodeeded with preparations towards his intention of ordaining the 29 ministers, which unfortunately, was called off at the eleventh hour. By virtue of the Constitution of the Church, the only organ of the Church which has the mandate to appoint persons to the position of ministers, is the National Executive Board, and that the mass ordination of 29 ministers did not receive the blessings of the board.

Notwithstanding the fact that the trustees of the Church are aware of the acts of the General Overseer, and have themselves condemned those acts on several occasions, the trustees have taken no steps to correct the unconstitutional manner in which he has managed the affairs of the Church. Since a breach of the Church's Constitution and any improper use of her funds by the General Overseer directly affects the plaintiffs or applicants as members of the Church, they are duty bound to ensure that matters affecting the church as well as the duties of church officials are carried out in accordance with the rules contained in her constitution.

It is appropriate and convenient, therefore, for the court to grant "plantiffs' application for an order of interlocutory injunction, which order shall preserve the status quo ante, and prevent the General Overseer and the General Secretary from carrying out an irretrievable breach of the Church's constitution."