By Mashudu Netsianda
The founding leader of the Family of God Church (FOG) Apostle Andrew Wutawunashe has been taken to court by five disgruntled members challenging his decision to expel them for allegedly aligning themselves with a breakaway group.
FOG is one of the country’s popular Pentecostal churches founded by Apostle Wutawunashe in 1980.
Messrs Francis Moyo, Victor Nyoni, Joseph Muleya, Crispen Mupfeka and Kwaramba Chimurudze through their lawyers Mutuso, Taruvinga and Mhiribidi Legal Practitioners, filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Apostle Wutawunashe and FOG as respondents.
The five, who are based in Beitbridge, want an order nullifying their expulsions from the church. They also want an order directing Apostle Wutawunashe to follow due processes of the law in the event that he seeks to discipline them for any violations of the church standing rules.
The five men were expelled from the church in December last year by Apostle Wutawunashe for allegedly sympathising with a splinter group Family Covenant Church (FCC), which is led by Bishop Henry Muzhari.
FCC broke ranks with the famed preacher’s FOG in 2016 following his well-publicised divorce case against his estranged wife, Dr Rutendo Wutawunashe, which emanated from allegations of alleged infidelity.
In papers before the court, the five applicants, led by Mr Moyo, a lay pastor, said they were ex-communicated from the church without a disciplinary hearing following an arbitrary decision by Apostle Wutawunashe.
“On December 8, 2018, we received notices of expulsion from the church on allegations that we have joined a breakaway church called Family Covenant Church.
“The genesis of the issue leading to this arbitrary decision by the defendant is that the overseer Prophet Andrew Wutawunashe divorced his wife, Rutendo, an action which did not go down well with most church members resulting in some disgruntled members renouncing their membership and joining other churches,” he said.
Mr Moyo said they were expelled because of their divergent views on the doctrine of divorce and remarriage, which inevitably led to the formation of two camps.
“We were part of the group that believed that it was a gross error and violation of our doctrines to institute divorce proceedings. It is common cause in our church that the Bible is our guide and standard of spiritual measure upon which all our doctrines are premised.
‘The Bible according to Matthew 19 v 9 and Malachi 2 v 13-16, is clear on divorce and it states that God abhors divorce and that a man is allowed to only divorce his wife once he has caught her committing an act of adultery,” he said.
Mr Moyo said despite infighting in the church, the warring parties had agreed to worship at the church buildings at different times.
He said they have been worshipping peacefully with their rivals until November 30, 2018 when Apostle Wutawunashe obtained a peace order issued by a Beitbridge magistrate against the purported rebels, which led to their eviction from the church premises. Mr Moyo said they have since filed a notice of appeal at the Masvingo High Court challenging the decision of the lower court.
“The root complaint is on our unlawful dismissal from church. The audi alteram partem rule (a principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them) was violated by the church.
“It is on this basis that we have elected to approach this honourable court with this application to review respondent’s decision to ex-communicate us from the church,” said Mr Moyo.
The expelled church members argued that there were no allegations of mischief levelled against them warranting the respondents to unlawfully expel them.
They argued that there was no tribunal set to determine their matter.
“The respondents were supposed to favour us with charge sheets clearly outlining the offence that we committed together with supporting facts.
“They were then supposed to invite us for a hearing wherein both parties would make representations and acting on the strength of those representations a decision is then made by the overseer,” argued Mr Moyo. The Chronicle