A High Court judge in Nairobi on Monday urged two warring camps in the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church to consider settling their differences out of court.
Justice Grace Nzioka said this while presiding over a case in which the global head of the SDA church better known as the General Conference has accused newly formed Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference (NCC) of illegally using its trademark and logo.
“I would like to see parties, consider negotiating this matter out of court. Mediation would work, explore it, we are not dealing with a logo for business, this is a church organisation,” Justice Nzioka.
Justice Nzioka noted that the dispute pitting the groups can be resolved if mediation is given a chance.
Considering that the matter touches on religious activities, the judge urged the factions to pray over the matter.
“It is a matter that can be discussed, meditate on it in prayer, I have no doubt that which we can’t have a breakthrough as men we can deal with it in prayer and like Paul says in the good book all these you are fighting for it’s all vanity ” she added.
In the suit, the General Conference, whose headquarters are in Maryland, United States, is represented by East Kenya Union Division President Samuel Makori.
Makori, through EKU lawyer Japhet Rachuonyo, accuses NCC of infringing on the SDA trademark which is registered under the Kenya Industrial Property Institute.
“The use of the SDA registered trademark by NCC have infringed upon the protection provided to the General Conference under registration with KIPI and under Trademarks Act, and such use by NCC has been without the conference’s authority,” Makori says in a sworn affidavit.
He alleged that the defendants are unlawfully receiving tithes, offerings, donations, gifts and other financial gains intended for religious activities with the organization’s trademark.
The pastor further accuses NCC of trespass and invasion of churches affiliated to the Central Kenya Conference (CKC).
“I am informed by Pastor Samwel Makori, the witness in these proceedings, information I verily believe to be true that the defendants have in violation of the law passed off or invaded where members of the SDA fellowship and taken over conduct of church services without the authority or consent of the local leadership and they threaten to continue doing so in disregard of the established organized structure of the SDA in Kenya,” plaintiff lawyer told the court.
The case will be mentioned on October 8.
Four churches recently announced their exit from the conference over strained relationship and mismanagement of resources by the CKC leadership.
The churches are; Nairobi’s KPCU SDA, Saika West, Mountain View SDA and Makandi SDA that is located in Meru County.
In letters seen by Kahawa Tungu, Saika West and SDA KPCU decamped to NCC last Saturday.
“In reference to the foregoings at CKC, SDA KPCU Church, through a church board on September 7, 2019, and thereafter church business meeting held on September 14, 2019, members unanimously voted that the church ceases to be part of CKC immediately,” a notice reads.
In a similar notice, directed to CKC President Pastor John Kiragu, Saika West Church, notified the conference of their decision, noting that the decision was ‘not contestable.’
“Please note Saika West SDA is united and peaceful. The members plead that their decision be respected under the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Religious Liberty Policies and the Constitution of Kenya on the choice association,” the letter signed by Church clerk Alice Mogambi and Head Elder Peter Nyakundi reads in part.
Mountain View Church members are said to have chased their pastor, Wilson Githinji, citing prolonged strained relationship with the man of the cloth.
This writer understands that pastor Githinji has since been replaced by NCC’s assigned pastor Joseph Parmanyari, who is the immediate Ministerial Secretary of the East Kenya Union Conference (EKUC).
The new developments continue to elicit mixed reactions among members of the SDA church with some asking the leadership of the two wrangling groups to embrace dialogue.