Advertisement: Facts of the Crisis at All Saints Anglican Church, Houston

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Advertisement: Facts of the Crisis at All Saints Anglican Church, Houston

 

 

 

LETTER TO OUR COMMUNITY:                                                                                                                                  THE FACTS OF THE CRISIS AT ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN CHURCH, HOUSTON

(An Advertiser’s Announcement in USAfricaonline.comCLASSmagazineAfricanChristians and IgboEvents e-groups).

 

October 26, 2011: All Saints Anglican Church (All Saints) was established in December 2000 by approximately 200 Nigerian Anglicans who were compelled by circumstances to found a place to worship in a manner that (a) conforms to Anglican orthodoxy that is our spiritual foundation, (b) consistent with our cultural heritage, and (c) avails an opportunity to build a legacy for our children. To our members, All Saints is a spiritual home. For Nigerians in Houston, All Saints represents the nerve center of our community life and cultural essence; it is a Houston landmark.

Soon after the Church started, our entire community opened its hearts and wallets to provide us immeasurable support. The imposing premises where we worship at 13403 Renn Road is the result of collective community effort and contributions. All Saints is the pride and joy of all Nigerians.  It is proof that Nigerians (Ndi-Igbo in particular) can work together for purposeful good.

The past 15 months was a crisis period for All Saints as result of serious disagreements with our former Senior Pastor, Venerable Augustine I. Ogbunugwu (Ogbunugwu) over his handling of affairs of the Church. Few of our members sided with the Venerable but primarily out of parochial sentiments. Unfortunately and rather than stay with the facts, our senior pastor of 10 years and his supporters chose the path of dirty onslaught against the church and those whose views differed from theirs. They did not care who their actions destroyed or how they impacted the Church.  They consistently misrepresented the nature, substance and flavor of the dispute.  During the past 6 weeks they decided to disrupt our services, denying us sermons, prayers, and other related worship activities.  The issues have been adjudicated through arbitration and our disgruntled brothers and sisters have moved on to form a new church.  Yet we are mindful that All Saints is an institution to which our entire community has vested interest. It is for this reason that we decided that you are entitled to know exactly what happened at your All Saints during these 15 months.  This publication is intended to give you the facts without embellishment, because All Saints belongs to our entire community.

All Saints is an incorporated tax-exempt non-profit organization with a Board of Trustees (Board) that is responsible for its affairs, as is the case under Texas law.  Our leadership/management structure is established in our Bylaw, and includes the 5-man Board that makes policy, a 12-man Parochial Church Committee (PCC) that runs day-to-day activities, and our Senior Pastor, who is the spiritual leader and presides over the PCC. This structure worked effectively and efficiently for 10 years, and enabled us to successfully undertake a $4 million construction project.

Late in 2009, Ven. Ogbunugwu introduced to the congregation a young pastor, Rev. James Ohaju he had known for nearly 2 years as his “son” (Rev James).  With consent and full involvement of the Senior Pastor, we employed Rev. James as Associate Priest. The young evangelical priest made an instant positive impact. Attendance to worship increased nearly 25%; Midweek Service and Monday Night Prayers grew over 3000% from under 10 to nearly 300. However, rather than appreciate these positive contributions, Ven. Ogbunugwu and his wife saw his enterprising new assistant as a threat. While attending the Monday Night Prayer on August 2, 2010, Mrs. Kate Ogbunugwu accused Rev. James of calling her “Jezebel”.

Three independent investigations established that the alleged incident did not happen, and Mrs. Ogbunugwu later confessed that she made it up. About the same time, the Venerable and PCC member, Dr. David Iloani, mounted a relentless campaign to challenge the existence of the Board and disrespect its decisions. Recall that All Saints is incorporated!

The combination of the false allegation against the innocent young priest by Ogbunugwu’s wife and the Venerable’s unjustified personal campaign against Board members and other lay leaders created a groundswell of resentment within the congregation. Other egregious act of the senior pastor, including violations of confidences and betrayal of parishioners’ trust, did not help his standing.  That is the root of the All Saints crisis.

After Ogbunugwu realized that his vengeful campaign was failing, he then introduced the divisive Imo-Anambra dichotomy in order to win parochial sympathy and sectional support within the congregation.  This is particularly sad because All Saints had always been one happy and united family, and where any of us comes from was never a factor. To further divert focus from real issues, Ogbunugwu instigated (through his supporters and surrogates) the subterfuge that the problem at All Saints was lack of accounting and misuse of its finances. But this was false, intended as a distraction.  We built a $4 million facility by issuing two bonds totaling $1.6 million, obtaining approximately $500,000 in loans from banks and the community, plus contributions from members and friends. Because the bond proceeds funded the construction on reimbursement basis, some of our members, e.g. Sir Forster Duru (Durek Investments) and Mr. Sam Ejekam, provided their private credit cards WITHOUT INTEREST to buy materials when we had no money and were later reimbursed by the bond company.  Such reimbursements are what the accusers have misrepresented as payments to individuals. The Finance Committee routinely issued Detailed Use of Funds with these details for each funding tranche.

The congregation decisively rejected the lies, viciousness, and divisiveness of the pastor and his wife, and passed a no confidence vote on him during a general meeting in February 2011. The pastor’s response to this serious action was to resort to a campaign to malign, damage, and try to incriminate anyone who disagreed with him or who came close to discovering these facts.  He used surrogates that include a self-confessed mentally challenged individual in the name of Eric Ufom and a handful of his supporters within the Church (variously self-styled “Truth Commission” a/k/a “Truth Congregation” a/k/a “The Aggrieved Group” a/k/a “David’s Group”).  These surrogates did the dirty jobs for our priest without caring who they harmed. This is how our bishop, the mediator, auditor, arbitrator, arbitration administrator, bookkeeper, all became targets and victims of baseless accusations of fraud and a malicious media onslaught that is still continuing.  Not once did the pastor condemn such unchristian acts.

Disagreement within an organization is not unusual, but when members divert from the truth simply to destroy opponents with falsehood, it is indeed painful. That has been our experience.

By God’s grace and the intervention of our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Philip Jones, and support of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) to which All Saints is affiliated, we remained focused and worked through the issues.  The bishop first mandated mediation, but it did not succeed because the Truth Commission used every means to discredit and derail it. They believed they would get more mileage if the truth was never determined and their campaign of destruction continued.  The bishop then shepherded us through binding arbitration on September 15, 2011.  The arbitration addressed five issues: (1) validity of the voting membership, (2) propriety of an authorized independent audit of Church finances, (3) legality of the 5-man Board of Trustees, (4) whether a long list of serious allegations of misconduct against Ven. Augustine Ogbunugwu, were handled in a manner that preserved his due process rights and adhered to requirements of our Bylaw, and (5) whether our Bylaw Review conformed to proper procedure. The arbitrator found in favor of the church, represented by the Board and PCC, against Ven. Ogbunugwu and his supporters on all five issues.  

The All Saints dispute has now been resolved through proceedings that were open, fair, and fully conformed to the rule of law. We reassure our brothers and sisters who became frustrated and stayed away because of the crisis that peace, calm, uninterrupted invigorating sermons and prayers have all returned in our cherished environment of spirit-filled, vibrant worships. We have also begun vigorous pursuit of programs that address long-neglected needs of our youth, children and families.  There is no longer a reason to stay away; rather you now have every reason to come back to your All Saints.  The new experience will fill your hearts with joy.

Regular Church routines and activities are back in full swing. Our Annual Harvest and Thanksgiving season activities are progressing very well. The grand finale is on Sunday, November 6th.  We are anxious to receive you back in your spiritual home.

In summary, here are the facts:

Ven. Augustine I. Ogbunugwu resigned voluntarily from his position as Senior Pastor of All Saints effective September 23, 2011. We did not fire him.

• The bishop excommunicated five members (Benneth Okpala, David Iloani, Mrs. Ifi Ioani, Kanayo Obuekwe, and Ms. Joy Ilochonwu) after repeatedly admonishing them in person and in writing to stop their relentless, unchristian disruption of (and leading others to disrupt) sermon and other worship activities inside God’s Sanctuary for six (6) weeks.

• The Truth Commission participated fully in the arbitration (for themselves and on behalf of Ogbunugwu who pulled out against the bishop’s directives) and was given every opportunity to substantiate their repeated allegations of financial impropriety. THEY DID NOT PROVIDE A SINGLE PROOF.

• Review of the records, including one by the mediator, Dr. David Sims, confirmed that All Saints finances are intact and fully accounted for.

An independent audit by a licensed CPA is currently in progress and will address every aspect of Church finances. Ironically the Truth Commission tried everything to obstruct both the audit and the arbitration, concerned that the results might expose their lies.

• Our books and records remain open to members because there is nothing to hide.

• All Saints never knew Imo-Anambra dichotomy until Ven. Ogbunugwu sadly introduced the nefarious notion. Thank God he failed because that was never the spirit at All Saints.

Members of the Truth Commission took All Saints to court.  The Church merely got an order restraining their persistent disruption of sermon, prayers and other acts of worship.

• Our disgruntled members remain brothers and sisters in one Christian and cultural family, most of whom were misled into divisive and destructive notions.  We did not exclude any of them. They have formed a different church with separate worship arrangements, but we continue to love and wish them well. We pray they will find peace and spiritual fulfillment in their new church.

• Chijioke Ujoatu is the Communications Director for All Saints.  Please do not confuse our messages with any that may come from persons not authorized by our Church.

 

Signed: Sir Forster Duru, Chairman, Board of Trustees

(Signed) Ken Okorie, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees

Signed: Isi Ichie Alex Chiaghana, Trustee

(Signed) Emmanuel Oheri, Trustee

(Signed) Chuck Maduabuchi, Church Secretary/Member PCC

(Signed) Frank Aniekwe, Secretary, Board of Trustees

(Signed) Dr. Emmanuel Nwagwu, Peoples’ Warden

(Signed) Sir Harold Agim, Treasurer/Member PCC

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