28 January 2013

Liberia: Split in Episcopal Church

There seems to be a split in the St. Augustine Episcopal Church on Bardnersville Road between some members of the Church and their Priest-in Charge, Rev. Nyema Harmon.

Last Sunday, January 20, 2013, Rev Harmon conducted an election of the Vestry (Church administrators) in which the men walked out due to the manner in which they said the Priest conducted himself.

At a general meeting recently in the edifice of the Church, uproar ensued between the men and Rev. Harmon on grounds that the Priest was not following the proper procedure in keeping with the Canon (Constitution) of the Episcopal Church of Liberia.

It started when Rev. Harmon accused two members identified as George Tawallah and Wilson Garpeh of being delinquent in the payment of their dues to the Church for which they were not qualified to participate in the election of the Vestry. The two men earlier declared that they had no intention of contesting.

Rev. Harmon disclosed that the Finance office of the Church failed to submit financial report to his office which would have indicated the financial standings of all members especially those who intended to contest the election.

The Priest told the congregation during the general meeting that he obtained a copy of the financial report without the knowledge of the committee responsible to make such report available.

However, the Men frowned that the Priest should not have taken a financial document surreptiously because it undermines the Church's financial office.

According to the Episcopal Church's Canon, during a general membership meeting, a financial report must be made to the congregation, priest report and election of the Church administrators (Vestry) but no financial report was made; instead, Rev. Harmon who admitted smuggling a financial document without the finance Committee's knowledge was seen presenting the names of those he claimed have not been paying their dues.

As Rev. Harmon read his report, the men of the Church walked out accusing him of taking side in the election. The St. Augustine Episcopal Church Men accused the priest of engaging in tribal sentiment in the Church.

Amidst confusion and murmuring by the Men, the election was held in which eight persons were elected to administer the affairs of the Church for a year.

During yesterday's service, the Church administrators were inducted by Rev. Harmon but the men boycotted the induction ceremony on grounds that the officials did not get unanimous vote by members.

One of the two members who were accused of been delinquent in the payment of dues, George Tawallah has been cleared by the Finance Department of the Church.

In a report released, the finance Department said Mr. Tawallah has paid his dues up to December 2013 contrary to claims by the Priest that Tawallah was delinquent.

Our reporter who covered the Church service observed that serious tension is creeping in the St. Augustine Episcopal Church as some members have vowed not to support the leadership of Rev. Harmon.

The aggrieved members called on Episcopal Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart to remove Rev. Harmon as Priest of the Church to rescue the Church from collapse.

Meanwhile, the treasurer of St. Augustine Episcopal Church, Philip Nimene has resigned because according to him the Priest in charge, Rev. Nyema Harmon secretly took financial documents from his office.

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