The court decision to reinstate three Anglican Church of Kenya priests who had been suspended on claims of homosexuality raises fundamental issues.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court ordered the church to reinstate Archdeacon John Njogu, Rev James Maigua and Rev Paul Waweru to pastoral duties three years after their suspension on allegations of engaging in homosexuality.
Three churches in Othaya, Nyeri county, rejected the priests and staged demonstrations against them.
That presents a Catch 22 situation. It is instructive that the courts may easily have issued orders that cannot be fully complied with; in other words, the court may have acted in vain.
It is pertinent that courts of law, though the last port of call for litigants, insulate themselves from acting in vain. They can do this by drawing a line between matters legal and matters, say, pastoral.
Granted, the case of the three priests is neither legal nor social. It is a complicated hybrid of religious, social and legal issues that are intertwined to a degree they cannot be separated.
That is why the congregation still feels the three are unfit to serve them. This position was adopted by the church head, Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit.
As of now, moving the three from Othaya to another location will be just a transfer of the problem. It is not a solution.
Courts of law must remain the bastion of the dispensation of justice, but they must also draw a line between orders that can be obeyed and complied with and those that would add fuel to the fire.
In other words, it is imperative that certain issues be left to institutions such as churches to arbitrate on. For instance, if the position of the church is that gayism is a sin, no court will change that thinking among the congregation.
The words of the archbishop after the court ruling are telling. He said: “Pastors must be accommodated by the congregation. It will depend on how they (priests) will be received by the congregation.”
We see sense in the position adopted by the church, that the ruling by the court that the three priests be compensated financially may be complied with.
However, we see the conundrum in the orders to reinstate the trio, in the sense that not even the courts can order church members to accommodate individuals deemed to have contravened church dogma and rules. In short, it is not easy to police matters of morality unless the law has been breached. In this case, no law was breached.
Both courts and church need Solomonic wisdom to settle the matter. The issue requires more than just legal direction.