Primate unable to lift defrocking without the Synod

Primate unable to lift defrocking without the Synod
Synod of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (photo credit: ECSS)

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) has said the defrocking of the former Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province Reuben Ngong Akurdid could not be lifted by the Primate without the consent of the General Synod.

The case between the two rival parties of ECSS led by Justin Badi and Reuben Akurdid was dismissed by the High Court under the ruling of Lawrence Jaja in a letter dated August 26, 2021. 

The Judge said he could not meddle in the Church cases thus advising that the case be handled in the Church Tribunal upon the agreement of the parties.

Defrocking null

Eyewitnesses also said the Judge commented that the process of defrocking Reuben Akurdid was nonprocedural and should be corrected by the Church to resolve the Church’s internal conflict.

The team of Reuben Akurdid appealed to the Court of Appeal claiming that the case should have been decided by the Judge. 

However, when Akurdid traveled to Jonglei State last month, he was welcomed by a multitude of faithful and declared himself as the Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province and the Bishop of the Diocese of Bor. 

He visited the Dioceses of Cueikeer, Anyidi and Makuac, and United with the Diocese of Malek as he carried out his duties within the state obstructing the entry of the newly enthroned Bishop of Jonglei Internal Province, Moses Anur Ayom.

The office of the Primate then wrote a letter asking the Governor of Jonglei State to enable them to recover ECSS property from Bor Diocese. The letter requested to allow Moses Anur— the newly enthroned Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province by the Primate—to replace the defrocked Archbishop Ngong to have access to Bor Diocese and start executing his duties.

The Bor Community elders including the chairperson of Greater Bor community Michael Makuei Lueth later approached the Primate Justin Badi to pardon Reuben Akurdid since ‘‘God is a God of forgiveness’’ but the Primate asked for him to write an apology letter to the office of the Primate for the defrocking could be lifted.

The ECSS Communication Officer, Manyang Gabriel Kon told The City Review on Wednesday that the Primate Justin Badi was not permitted by the ECSS Constitution to lift the defrocking unless if the General synod decides. 

“The elders of Bor County came to the Primate and pleaded with him that defrocking is not good to be on a person as people of God. The Primate told them that lifting of defrocking is in the hand of Akurdid and he is the one to apologize to the office of the Primate; the three dioceses should be canceled and then the church will just lift the defrocking,” Kon explained. 

“The Primate cannot approve any diocese in our constitution article 16. It says that the approval of any Diocese is a work of the General Synod which will be in November 2021.”

He added that the elders returned to Bor and came back with conditions that the Primate should go to the media and announce that the defrocking had been lifted.

Kon said the newly enthroned Archbishop of Jonglei Internal Province would assume duties soon in Jonglei State Capital, Bor.

“The house of Bishops said that if Akurdid tables his apology to the office of the primate, and seeks for that forgiveness, he can be forgiven. We as the ECSS, don’t have those three Dioceses in our system until November when those Dioceses are approved, then we can now talk about them,” he concluded.

The Spokesperson of Reuben Akurdid Ngong, Philip Maluak Deng, blamed the judge for having not announced his findings claiming that Article 25 of the South Sudan Constitution supported his argument. He said that they submitted the appeal document and the judges were still studying it.

“The community met with Justin Badi asking for reconciliation. So, those of Michael Makuei committed themselves that we will convince Akurdid to accept Dialogue. 

‘‘The community boarded a plane and came to Bor and convinced Akurdid and Akurdid accepted. When the community came back to Juba, Badi had changed his mind.

‘‘So the community wrote a resolution that Badi has to lift defrocking, confirm the Bishops and their Dioceses and no Bishop coming to Bor and finally that if he wants Moses Anur to be Archbishop, he will be Archbishop when Akurdid has retired,” Deng narrated.

He said that the letter was replied to by Secretary-General John Augustino. The community resolved that if the letter would be replied to before reaching the Primate, the community would sue the Secretary-General.

He revealed that their church activities were ongoing with some dioceses reporting to the Synod of Jonglei Internal Province, Akurdid yet churches reported to Dynods of Dioceses. He said they were autonomous.

Akurdid said that ‘‘it is not time to say I am from Akurdid or I am from Badi, you are praying as Christians and doing your normal duties. No one can say he is from Apolo or Paul’’.

The case between the ECSS and Reuben Akurdid Ngong Akurdid began while Reuben was nearing his retirement. He then approved three Dioceses of Cueikeer, Makuac, and Anyidi without the consent of the highest Authority, the office of Primate Justin Badi.

Badi then without calling a synod defrocked Reuben Akurdid on August 14, 2020, from his position as the Archbishop of the ECSS Jonglei Internal Province under church discipline. 

They started pulling ropes then leaving Christians shocked by the dust of their feet. Some of them gave up their faith, some supported any of the two wrangling parties while others remained neutral.

The other ECSS Bishops blamed both parties for having made mistakes in this case and thus the solution would be to resolve it amicably. Together with other faithful, they kept on calling for reconciliation which had been falling on deaf ears from either side.

The November Synod is sighted to be the final resolution of the case if both sides will drop their differences and accept that they had gone wrong at some points.