Axed AME church Bishop Paul Mulenga Kawimbe.
Johannesburg - A “homophobic” bishop from an international church with roughly three million members has been ditched from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church as the furore surrounding the controversial clergyman rages.

The Star reported on Friday that Bishop Paul Mulenga Kawimbe - who heads the more than 40000-member strong 19th district of the AME - was accused by Reverend Teboho Klaas in court papers of waging a concerted battle to get rid of him as a pastor due to Klaas’s public support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community.

Klaas has hauled the AME and Kawimbe before the South Gauteng High Court over unfair dismissal as the head of AME’s Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, branch, with Klaas alleging that his removal was because the bishop was homophobic.

It has now emerged that Kawimbe was officially removed on Thursday “for the good of the church” by AME’s judicial council - the church’s US-based highest judicial body.

Among others, allegations against Kawimbe - who held the post since 2012 - were that the 19th district was riven with problems, including the alleged looting of the Sanlam provident fund, and that the bishop flouted AME processes by axing pastors without following the church’s procedures.

On Monday, Kawimbe told The Star that he would not comment “as a matter of principle”. He did not elaborate.

However, in transcripts from his hearing, Kawimbe acknowledged that the Sanlam fund was a “major concern” for his district.

“After review of the matter, I made the necessary changes in improving, reporting and updating the pastors’ (pension) deposits. The issue has been quieted,” Kawimbe contended at his hearing.

“There are no real problems. The church must not allow a few people to destroy the whole,” he added.

But the AME’s judicial council found against Kawimbe, saying: “The problems in the 19th Episcopal district are well documented. The responses of Bishop Kawimbeto direct questions by the grievance committee were incomplete and unresponsive.”

In court papers, Klaas alleged: “He (Kawimbe) does not believe that the LGBTI people should be accorded similar privileges in the AME or that, as an active pastor in AME, I should be seen actively campaigning for the respect of the human rights of the LGBTI people.”

Kawimbe’s lawyer, advocate JH van der Berg Lubbe, did not respond to the allegations of homophobia against his client in court last week.

Judgment has been reserved.

The Star