By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
SUPREME Court Justice Ian Winder has ruled that it is up to the members of Golden Gates World Outreach Ministries to decide who will make up the church’s council, which in turn will be responsible for electing the executive committee that will manage the organisation.
The church’s executive team was embroiled in a disagreement stemming from Bishop Rostin Davis’ appointment of his son, Trent Davis, as senior pastor of Golden Gates Assembly.
Last year, a video showcasing protesting pastors refusing to move off the pulpit during a Sunday service made its rounds on social media. Seven of them were listed as defendants in a lawsuit headed by Bishop Davis and four others in their capacity as the executive committee of the church.
According to court documents, in the action Bishop Davis sought an injunction restraining defendants Alan Strachan, George Carey, Vandera Carey, Cleo Cash, Inez Pinder, Ruth Miller and Dwight Strachan or their servants or agents, from interfering with the business or operation of the church.
At the time, the protesting pastors also filed a counterclaim requesting the court to determine which members make up the church’s executive committee.
According to Bishop Davis’ July 2020 affidavit, in February 2020 he announced that he selected his son as the next senior pastor at the church’s anniversary service. He said this announcement was met with “disapproval” from some of the “other 14 pastors”, which resulted in a question being raised concerning his authority to appoint a senior pastor, despite the fact that he had “appointed all of the pastors.”
“The advice of Ms Krystal Rolle, QC, was that in the absence of a constitution one would have recourse to the customary practice of the church,” the court documents read. “It was agreed that the customary practice of the church was that as senior pastor I consulted the board of pastors on the position of the appointment of pastors, but in the end the choice was mine after prayerful consultation.”
Meanwhile, in Mr Strachan’s September 2020 affidavit, he stated that the “breakdown” between Bishop Davis, his family and the pastors was a result of Bishop Davis’ “unilateral announcement” that his son, Pastor Trent Davis, would be his “successor without knowledge or prior approval of the pastoral/executive committee”.
In analysing the case, Justice Winder said that the court only needed to determine who were the members of Golden Gates Ministries’ executive committee.
He said “having seen and heard the evidence of the witnesses” he was satisfied that there has “never been any election to any office” in the church’s council or committee.
“The evidence, which I accept, is that whilst there have been annual meetings of the company at the church, the business of elections did not take place at those annual meetings,” he said. “None of the names listed as officers and/or directors reflect the result of any election to those offices.”
Justice Winder added that despite the board of pastors’ “de facto operations in the church,” they were not the council or the committee of the church as they have never been “elected as such.”
He said “in as much” as the plaintiffs do not form the membership of the church’s committee, the board of pastors, were likewise not empowered to issue the resolution they did as the committee.
“In the circumstances, therefore, no committee having been elected, the officers of the committee are neither the officers indicated in the letter dated May 2, 2018 nor is it the board of pastors. The originating summons is dismissed,” Justice Winder ruled. “Ultimately it is for the membership of the company, in (an) annual meeting, to decide the make-up of the council which will be empowered to elect the membership of the committee for the management of the company and by extension the church. I shall hear the parties on the issue of costs by written submissions within 28 days.”