The Methodist Church has launched a court challenge against a ruling that ordered it to pay a preacher Sh214,000 over unfair dismissal.
The 31-year-old preacher was sacked by the church in 2017 for allegedly engaging in premarital sex.
The Labour court last year found that her dismissal from pastoral duties was unlawful and discriminative.
The church, in a judicial review application, said it was not aware of the case filed at the Labour court in Nyeri since it was not served with court documents.
Through lawyer Wabandi Gacheru, the church wants Justice Nzioki wa Makau to stop execution of the judgment and be granted permission to enter appearance in the case so as defend its decision to sack the preacher.
“The case proceeded undefended and the judgement was entered against the church on October 9, 2018. We want the same court be pleased to review, vary and set aside that ex-parte judgment,” said lawyer Gacheru.
He observed that allowing execution of the judgment, the church will suffer irreparable damage, prejudice, hardships and be condemned unheard.
It will also have been denied rights to fair trial and natural justice, stated the lawyer.
He explained that the church learned about the case upon service with the court order on October 24, 2018 requiring it to pay the 30-year-old evangelist for dismissing her from pastoral duties.
The superintendent minister of the church in Central Kenya, Wilson Njagi, also denied that the church chairman was served by a court process server with the court documents on April 30, 2018 before hearing of the case commenced.
“The name of the chairman who is said to have been served with the summons is not provided. If at all the said summons were effected as alleged without prejudice, the said process server having introduced himself to the alleged chairman could not have failed to indicate his name in the affidavit of service,” said Mr Njagi.
In the disputed judgement, Justice Makau found that it was discriminative and unlawful to sack the preacher on grounds of becoming pregnant before she got married.
She was sacked through a letter dated November 1, 2017 which was signed by Reverend Wilson Njagi, for the Synod Bishop. The letter indicated that she failed to behave as an evangelist.
“As noted, you did a church wedding on May 27, 2017 and you gave birth in the month of October the same year. That is five months instead of expected nine months,” the dismissal letter read in part.
It added: “After investigations, it was noted the pregnancy had gone full cycle of nine months, showing you involved yourself in sex before marriage far much before your wedding, thus compromising the moral standards of the church which you are supposed to uphold and lead as an example to those you were preaching to as an evangelist.”
After consultation with the relevant committee, the letter further continued, it was decided that your duties and payment be terminated to maintain the moral standards of the church.
But Justice Makau noted that the preacher did not deny engaging in premarital sex and did not deny the fact of her pregnancy and the birth of her first born child.
The judge said the dismissal from ministerial duties was harsh in the circumstances since she was neither given the pastoral counselling or maternity leave.
The court further noted that she was not afforded the safeguard that the canons of the church made available for those who may slip and fall like she did.
The ruling on the church application will be made on February 26.