By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SUPREME Court judge is set to decide whether the pastoral board of Golden Gates World Outreach Ministries has the right to protest the appointment of the organisation’s newly assigned leader.
The church is currently embroiled in a disagreement stemming from Bishop Rostin Davis’ recent appointment of his son, Trent Davis, as senior pastor of Golden Gates Assembly.
In July, a video showcasing protesting pastors refusing to move off the pulpit during a Sunday service made its rounds on social media. Seven of them are listed as defendants in a lawsuit headed by Bishop Davis.
In a hearing before Justice Ian Winder yesterday, the protesting pastors: Alan Strachan, George Carey, Vandera Carey, Cleo Cash, Inez Pinder, Ruth Miller and Dwight Strachan filed a counterclaim requesting the court to determine which members make up the church’s executive committee.
They further asked the court to examine their evidence to “interpret” whether a senior pastor could be “thrust upon” the organisation, or appointed through an election.
Wayne Munroe, QC, heads the counsel for plaintiffs Bishop Davis, Donna Turnquest, Genesta Williams, John Rigby and Joyous Picstock. He said he wanted to examine the defendants as it related to the composition of the executive committee, since the governance of Golden Gates is “set out very clearly”.
The church’s executive committee is formed by Bishop Davis who has the power to veto any decision the committee makes. The plaintiffs are claiming the pastoral board cannot make resolutions that could determine who is appointed as senior pastor, because they are not a part of the church’s executive committee. They argue only members of the committee –which only the plaintiffs are a part of – can appoint senior pastors.
On the other hand, the defendants, who are represented by attorney Ramona Seymour, argue that Golden Gates was run by the pastoral board with Bishop Davis as the head since 2001. Despite this, they claim the memorandums and articles of the church only refer to an executive council and committee with no mention of a pastoral board. Mrs Seymour added the church has not held one election over the past 18 years to determine which members get to be a part of the committee and council. She said her clients want the court to determine “where the pastoral board fits in”, as well as order an audit of the executive committee to determine who gets to be senior pastor.
“When you look at their actions and decision-making power, you would conclude they were a part of the executive committee,” she told the judge.
“What is before you from the outset is there has been a breakdown in the church. The defendants stated they are not in agreement with the 2018 resolutions and their role is not the role the plaintiffs wish to box them in.
“…We are asking the court to interpret the church’s memorandums and articles to determine whether or not the plaintiffs and defendants acted properly and determine how the church ought to move forward”.
Mrs Seymour said Pastor Davis already lost in a 10-3 vote among the pastoral board in 2018.
She said the defendants are calling for an election where people who have been members of Golden Gates from January 28, 2020 can elect a senior pastor.
After listening to arguments from both sides, Justice Winder said he would give Mr Munroe two weeks to respond to the defendants’ counterclaims. He also said the people who make up the executive committee and council, as well as the role of the pastoral board, will be determined as a preliminary issue during the next hearing.
The matter continues on September 25.