US COURT RESTRAINS ANGLICAN CHURCH OF NIGERIA FROM DISSOLVING INDIANA-BASED DIOCESE, CANADA

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US COURT RESTRAINS ANGLICAN CHURCH OF NIGERIA FROM DISSOLVING INDIANA-BASED DIOCESE, CANADA

An Indiana commercial court has issued an order temporarily restraining the Anglican Diocese, church of Nigeria from dissolving the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, Inc. (ADOTT).

The Motion for Temporary Restraining Order was filed on January 24, 2024, before Judge Heather A. Welch Judge, of Marion Superior Court, Civil 1, Indiana Commercial Court.

The Plaintiff is Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, Inc. (ADOTT) while the Defendants in the case are Olukayode Adebogun (“Bishop Kay”), Nathan Kanu (“Bishop Kanu”), and Henry C. Ndukuba (“Primate Ndukuba”).

The court document obtained by SaharaReporters shows that the Defendants did not file any motion or brief in response.

A hearing on ADOTT’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order was held on January 29, 2024.

ADOTT appeared by counsel, Bishop Kay appeared pro se, and Bishop Kanu and Primate Ndukuba did not appear. Two non-parties were present at the hearing and made statements, but the Court could not consider such statements as evidence.

At the hearing, witnesses were sworn, evidence was heard, and exhibits were presented.

Regarding the parties involved, ADOTT is a religious nonprofit organization incorporated in Indiana and comprised of around 80 churches and parishes across the United States and Canada which serve somewhere between 800 to 8,000 members.

According to the court document, Bishop Kay is the current bishop of ADOTT and has been enthroned in that position since 2021.

Bishop Kanu is the Coordinating Bishop of the Church of Nigeria North American Mission (“CONNAM”) while Primate Ndukuba is the leader of the Church of Nigeria.

The document noted that ADOTT is governed by a Board of Trustees which currently includes the following: Amos Fagbamiye, Emeka Nwankwo, Jacob Olupona, Dame Dorcas Imasuen, Taye Iyashere, Oluwatobi Fagbamiye, Obafemi Ajayi, Dokun Adewunmi, Bishop Kay and Femi Adetoro.

It added that although ADOTT is an independent organization, it has historically maintained an affiliation with the Church of Nigeria. However, since ADOTT’s inception in 2011, the Church of Nigeria has never given any financial or other property contributions to ADOTT, it was stated.

Further, ADOTT noted that the Church of Nigeria has never provided any priests or other clergy to the Anglican Diocese.

ADOTT argued that there is no provision in its Constitution which allows the Church of Nigeria to dissolve it.

It said, “Historically, once a diocese is formed, it is never dissolved, even if the diocese is in crisis.

ADOTT’s Board of Trustees has not passed any resolution to dissolve ADOTT. After the Church of Nigeria’s resolution was announced, ADOTT was subject to spiritual and economic harm. ADOTT’s clergy and membership have split, causing divisions within ADOTT and harming its finances and resources.”

Also according to ADOTT, its Board of Trustees opposed the Church of Nigeria’s resolution.

ADOTT’s Board of Trustees met on January 11, 2024, and voted to oppose any attempt at dissolution, including pursuing the present legal action, it disclosed.

It said, “Although all members of the Board of Trustees were notified of the meeting and informed of its purpose, only five members attended, four of which voted to oppose the Church of Nigeria’s resolution and the other abstaining.”

Meanwhile, ADOTT asked the Court to issue a temporary restraining order enjoining Defendants from dissolving ADOTT.

Temporary restraining orders are “used to preserve the status quo as it existed prior to a controversy pending a full determination on the merits of that controversy.”

Conclusions Of Law

According to the court, ADOTT’s Constitution includes no provision regarding the dissolution of ADOTT—and notably does not provide authority allowing the Church of Nigeria to dissolve ADOTT—and thus the Indiana Nonprofit Corporation Act controls the procedure of such an action.

The court said, “There are various procedures for dissolving an entity pursuant to the Indiana Nonprofit Corporation Act. These various procedures, outlined in Ind. Code 23-17-22, have not been followed by the Church of Nigeria in attempting to dissolve ADOTT, nor have they been followed by ADOTT’s Board of Trustees.

“In fact, not only has ADOTT’s Board of Trustees never agreed to dissolve ADOTT, but it adopted a resolution opposing the Church of Nigeria’s attempt to do so. Because no lawful procedure for dissolving ADOTT has been followed, ADOTT has proven that it has a likelihood of success on the merits of its declaratory judgment action.

The Court “finds that ADOTT has demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law”.

It added, “Since September of 2023, at which point the Church of Nigeria’s legislative body passed a resolution to dissolve ADOTT by February 2, 2024, conflict has developed within ADOTT, and division has begun.

“ADOTT has lost members and clergy, causing harm to the goodwill it has created and grown since its inception in 2011. ADOTT also faces risks to its finances and resources in light of the potential dissolution.

“Further, ADOTT has suffered spiritual harm which cannot be compensated by damages. Thus, the Court finds that ADOTT has demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law.

“As mentioned, the impending dissolution has already affected ADOTT in various ways, and any further actions by Defendants toward full dissolution have the potential to permanently harm ADOTT.

“On the other hand, no evidence was presented regarding the harm Defendants may suffer resulting from the granting of Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order. Thus, the Court finds that the threatened injury to ADOTT outweighs the potential harm to Defendants.”

Regarding public interest, the court “finds that granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order does not disserve the public interest”.

It said, “Evidenced by the Indiana Nonprofit Corporation Act, public interest favors the autonomy and self-governance provided to nonprofit organizations in Indiana.

“Further, public interest favors the operation of Indiana nonprofits without interference, especially in light of the services provided by such organizations. Thus, the Court finds that granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order will not disserve the public interest.”

Court Ruling

“Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining Order is GRANTED,” it ruled.

It further said, “Pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 65(B), which shall remain in effect until the hearing, which is set on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction February 9, 2024 at 9:00am for 1.5 hours in person.

“The Court requires the Plaintiff to post a security of as required under Ind. T.R. 65(C) in the amount of $200.00. The Court notes that ADOTT must properly serve Defendants for this hearing pursuant to the Indiana Trial Rules.”

Judge Heather A. Welch delivered a ruling on the application on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, The Most Rev’d Ndukuba had approved the suspension of the Rt. Rev’d Olukayode Adebogun as a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria (in both his erstwhile role as a Bishop of ADOTT and as the Area Bishop for Canada Missionary Region Area 1 in Canada).

According to a statement signed by Korede Akintunde, CoN Communication Officer on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, the directive was pending an “immediate full investigation into his conduct and willful disobedience to the authority of the Primate generally, and the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) with immediate effect”.

The suspension followed a “series of utterances and actions attributed to Bishop Adebogun since the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria (CON) held at Nnewi from 12 to 16 September 2023, which seeks to undermine the authority and lawful directives of the Primate of the Church of Nigeria and the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria with regard to the Church of Nigeria Mission in North America and Canada generally, with regard to decisions lawfully taken by the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)”.

The statement added Bishop Nathan Kanu, the Coordinating Bishop of CONNAM, would take over all responsibilities as a Bishop of the Church in North America pending the assignment of a Canon Missioner Area to superintend Canada Missionary Region Area 1 in Canada pending the investigation into Bishop Adebogun’s conduct.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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