From the Sun: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The Rector in charge of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Mkpogu, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Venerable Chimela Samuel, was yesterday, denied access to the church to perform his clerical duties, as angry youths locked up the church gate.
When Daily Sun visited the church premises at about 8:30am, thousands of the church members were seen outside holding their Bibles. Some were singing praises and some clustered in groups. The priest was also there in his cassock.
They accused him of high handedness, disobedience to constituted authority and also trying to introduce doctrines not practiced by the church. Consequently, they want the Niger Delta North Diocese of Anglican Communion to remove him from their parish. But the priest has denied the allegations.
It was gathered that there has been internal wrangling, between the rector and members shortly after he was posted there in October, 2012, which has caused disaffection.
Daily Sun gathered that the church elders, men and youths had written letters to the diocese calling for his removal, alleging that the pastor’s personal interest takes priority over the church’s interest.
Some of the elders, who spoke with the reporter said that the church, which is now 25 years old, has been known for evangelism and missions outreach and that has remained the mainstay of the church. According to them, the locking up of the church by youths was sequel to the priest’s high handedness on the missionaries, on Friday, December 20, 2013, who returned for their end-of-year programme.
Mr Victor Amachree, the ex-People’s Warden of the church explained: “Unfortunately, we came to church this morning to find that the gate has been locked and we began to ask why. The youths said they locked it because they were annoyed with the action of the priest.
“The priest refused missionaries the use of church bus for their party. However, I want people to know that this church is a church of missions; the main work of this church is missions. It might not be like any other Anglican Church. The mainstay of this church is evangelism and missions. Without evangelism and missions, this church would not be here. We started from here.
“So, these missionaries were invited for their end-of-the year party; persons, who have left their homes to go and serve God in places other than their homes. Some of them are in places that have no light, no network. They just want to serve God. There used to be an annual programme (Encouragers’ Ministry) for them at the end-of-the year, where they come and they are valued. People want them to relax from the labour of that year, make them feel like human beings; make them feel the facilities we have here before they go back.
“They came from all the places only for the rector to come and stop them from using the church bus and told them to find their way. That was the information we got. So, the youths got annoyed and locked the place. Amachree faulted the priest’s negligence to approach the elders on how to address the problem, which kept them outside.
“It is expected that as we came this morning and met the place locked, the pastor seeing it, would call the elders of the church, especially the People’s Warden and have discussion on how we can resolve this issue. Even as we speak now, he has not called; may be he feels that he can do it in his own way. We may not have supported these children to close this church, but there have been problems in the church before now, which might have provoked this.
“The men, the youths, the elders have written a letter to the bishop that he should be removed because of the way he has been handling issues in this church; doing things the way he likes, not the way the church likes. This church is 25 years old. But, I think we are going to resolve it. When we come down from anger and provocation, we are going to resolve it.
In his reaction, the Rector, though acknowledged that they had differences, condemned the action taken by the youths. He denied the allegations levelled against him, saying that the church authority was on top of the matter.