Let common sense prevail in church

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday February 18th, 2016

 Former head bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Giegere Wenge has failed in his to obtain an interim court order to restrain the church’s national council from acting upon the church’s synod decision to elect a new bishop last month. 

National Court judge Justice Ere Kariko in Waigani yesterday dismissed Wenge’s case describing it as an abuse of process.

Kariko dismissed the case because Wenge had filed a similar case in the National Court last year seeking the same declaratory orders – for the court to declare that the church’s 2010 constitution and by-laws were null and void and of no effect. 

Kariko after considering arguments from both parties said the grounds sought in the present case may be different to the earlier case but the same reliefs were being sought.  

He said to file multiple proceedings and seek the same reliefs was an abuse of process. 

The court has made its decision but the aggrieved former bishop may one last resort and that is to appeal that ruling in the higher court, to exhaust all possible earthly avenues of redress.

The Lutheran church faithful has held its breath when the former head bishop declared earlier that he would seek court determination on the proceedings of the church synod at Finschhafen last month.

And he has done so.  

And the court has made a ruling on his application. 

What now then?

We are not privy to what the learned former bishop or any of his sympathisers know or believe was wrong with the synod’s resolutions.  

He may have quite legitimate reason to commence his legal challenge of the national church synod decision.

However,  we call on the former bishop and all those who in their leadership capacity would affect the faith and livelihoods of the three million plus Lutheran faithful throughout the country to exercise common sense and humility.

And it is common knowledge that when the Lutheran Church or any of its commercial or social institutions are affected, it is not only the Lutheran faithful who are affected but Papua New Guineans of other denominations also. For instance, Lutheran shipping, which was literally the flagship of the church’s business concerns, was a very important service provider to the coastal peoples of Momase and parts of New Guinea Islands and Northern province. 

Its demise had very serious repercussions.

The Lutheran Church is a Papua New Guinean institution.  And it has been one that has been battered by all manner of controversy over the years.

We therefore appeal to not only the former bishop but all others in leadership and decision making positions of the church to exercise common sense and restraint at times like these when all we want is the church and its businesses to get on the road to recovery. There has to be a beginning somewhere and we were hopeful that the Finschafen synod would have set the mood and pace for such recovery.  

But alas, the election of the new head bishop was said to have been “rigged”, hence the failed bid to obtain National Court orders to prevent the church council to effect any synod resolution.

Again, we ask. What now?

The great apostle Paul, having himself witnessed similar situations in his missionary life, offered sound counsel which our present day church leaders seem to forget and run to civil courts.

If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?  

Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 

But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! 

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? – 1Corinthians 6

These are strong words from a seasoned man of God quoted here merely in the hope that leadership of the Lutheran Church would try to live up to its real mission, that of humble service to the church faithful and other Papua New Guineans. 

The church has gone through much in the last decade or so the Lutheran faithful want to see reconciliation and restoration, in the very least.