Monday, July 18, 2011

Church Needs "Bersih"?

Amendment to Church Constitution

At the recent AGM of Calvary Church (CC), Deacon David Peter presented a motion to amend the Church Constitution to include “a new dispute resolution” clause.

The proposed clause to be included in the Constitution will be known as Rule XVI and basically sets out the procedures on resolving disputes in the Church. The new rule will “make it mandatory for any unhappy member to abide by the stated procedures, instead of subjecting the Church to a very public court process.”

Although David Peter proudly proclaimed at the AGM that the CC Constitution is the “most advanced Constitution among all the AOG churches in Malaysia”, nevertheless, he admits in the preamble in the motion that the Constitution currently does not have a satisfactory dispute resolution provision. So much for his proclamation of the church having the most advanced Constitution!

Or perhaps what he meant was that the CC Constitution is the most advanced in terms of concentrating total autocratic power in the Senior Pastor whilst paying lip-service to being a congregational church?

Or maybe, the most advanced in making it impossible for members to initiate any change to improve transparency and accountability in the church and by the church leadership?

It is certainly the most advanced in ensuring that the Senior Pastor cannot be removed by any means and the most advanced in denying the fundamentals rights of members to voice their opinions or to question the leadership.

Click on the attachments at the end of the Article to read David’s letter and the motion.

However, by presenting the amendment to the Constitution, indirectly Senior Pastor Prince Guneratnam (PG) and the Board of Deacons are actually acknowledging that the TTG (Truth, Transparency and Governance) Group’s process in their attempt to resolve the ongoing church crisis was correct and scriptural.

The entire process of negotiation, mediation and arbitration were proposed and attempted by the TTG on many occasions but all efforts failed due to the recalcitrance and defiance of PG.

The proposed dispute resolution process and the TTG’s various attempts to resolve the conflict are set out below:-

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Proposed CC Conflict Resolution Process
TTG’s Efforts to Resolve Conflict
 (6 Separate Attempts at different times identified as 1 to 6 below. These attempts are numbered in chronological order of time)
Negotiation: Parties in conflict to write to each other and meet up to try to resolve the issue in conflict.

1. Members of the TTG individually and/or collectively wrote numerous letters and petitions to the Board of Deacons to review a number of issues in contention including the extended ministries and the severely-flawed constitution.

They received either no replies or downright meaningless response to their letters and petitions. A number of the TTG members did individually and corporately meet up with the Deacons and Pastors at various times but nothing was accomplished. All the TTG’s negotiation efforts were simply disregarded and ignored by PG and the Board.

5. After failure of Steps 3 and 4 by NECF, PG’s lawyer, KK Wong, also tried for out-of-court settlement. PG’s lawyer requested the Plaintiffs (7 TTG members) to submit a proposal for an out of court settlement to PG and the deacons. The Plaintiffs complied.   

After sitting on the Plaintiffs’s proposal for almost two months, they rejected the proposal without any willingness to negotiate at all. PG’s slap in the face for KK Wong’s effort probably was the reason why the lawyer withdrew from representing PG and the deacons..

Mediation: If parties fail to resolve the issue through negotiation, then either party can initiate mediation. Mediator will be appointed by either the General Superintendent or Assistant General Superintendent of the AOG Malaysia.

2. TTG members agreed to the mediation attempt by a prominent ex-Calvarite and the AOG General Superintendent as co-chairmen.

Two days before the pre-agreed scheduled meeting, PG chickened out and informed the co-chairmen that the date was “not convenient”. The prominent ex-Calvarite gave up in disappointment especially since he had purposely rushed back from an overseas event for the meeting. (This ex-Calvarite who was an ordinary member was then subsequently demoted to an associate member by PG. He has now left CC and moved to another church)
To Read CT post click “PG Chickens Out”

3. NECF picked up from step 2 and tried to restart the mediation process (after waiting many months in vain for AOG to step in). The Plaintiffs agreed and supported NECF’s effort.

PG did not respond to NECF’s attempts and the mediation failed.
6. Plaintiffs made one last attempt at out-of-court settlement and initiated a “court-assisted mediation” with a proposal to drop the entire Originating Summons with only one request which is that the Constitution be reviewed by an independent committee made up of the two sets of lawyers representing the Plaintiffs and PG

PG and the Board of deacons, who had agreed to this court-assisted mediation initiative by the Plaintiffs, however, rejected this one simple request and preferred the matter to be tried in court.

To Read CT post click “PG Chickens Out Again”

Arbitration: If mediation fails then either party can initiate arbitration. Each party to appoint an arbitrator. The two appointed arbitrators will then appoint a third arbitrator. If the two arbitrators cannot agree on the third arbitrator, then the GS or AGS of AOG shall appoint the third arbitrator. Decision of arbitrators final and binding.
4. After NECF’s mediation attempts (step 3) failed, Plaintiffs agreed that NECF initiate Christian arbitration. Plaintiffs offered to withdraw the Originating Summons if the issues can be placed before an arbitration panel of Christian senior lawyers and/or ex-judges nominated by NECF acceptable to both parties.

PG informed NECF that he was not agreeable to mediation or Christian arbitration. NECF gave up.

After more than 2 years, the Constitution Review Committee has only managed to come out with this one proposed change in the Constitution. And this proposed change is not even addressing the core issues of the total lack of accountability and transparency and the abuse of power by PG and his Deacons, which were the primary causes of the crisis in Calvary Church.

The joke of it is that the proposed procedures in dispute settlement as highlighted above is something PG and his deacons do not subscribe to, anyway.

The purpose appears to be more of an attempt to muzzle the unhappy members and disallow them to refer Church disputes to external parties rather than a genuine objective of wanting to resolve Church issues amicably.

Anyhow, the members at the AGM approved the adoption of the amendment to the Constitution and it is understood that the Church has submitted the same to the AOG Malaysia for their endorsement.

It should be highlighted here that the approval and adoption of this Proposed Amendment to the Constitution may be invalidated, if challenged in Court due to the breach of the Rules and Procedures set out in the Constitution governing such motions. The breaches are:-

1. Rule IX (6) (c) requires that such motion must bear the full name and address of the proposer and seconder and duly signed by them.

If you look at the letter below from David Peter and the motion, there are no details and no signatures of the Proposer and Seconder. David Peter submitted the motion to the Board of Deacons but he did not specify if he was the Proposer or if he was merely submitting a motion he has received from someone else.

2. Rule IX (6) (d) requires that the Secretary of the Board of Deacons distribute the motion to all members at least 14 days before the AGM.

    This was not done. A copy of the motion was slotted into the Annual Report, which was not mailed to the members but was required to be personally collected by the members prior to the AGM. Since not all members collected their Annual Report, many attended the AGM with no knowledge of the proposed motion. The onus is on the Secretary to prove the distribution of the motion to all members at least 14 days before the AGM.

The Proposed Amendment is also not well thought out. It does not spell out what the aggrieved member can do if the Church, Pastor or leader or the AOG General Superintendent or Assistant General Superintendent refuse to cooperate and abide by the rules, that is, if they refuse to negotiate, refuse to mediate or refuse to join the arbitration. It is also not stated what happens if they abide by the procedures but refuses to abide by the decision of the arbitrators.
Continue reading here. 

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