The Lighthouse Chapel International (LCI) Ghana has mounted a defence against six former pastors who have, among other things, sued the church over Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributions.
LCI contends that it operates an extensive lay system, a system that allows individuals to serve as volunteers while maintaining their secular engagements as workers or students.
It said there were thousands of LCI pastors who had been volunteers for many years.
Again, the church argued that LCI-Ghana was a legally, financially, administratively and governmentally independent organisation from other LCI churches outside the country’s jurisdiction, adding that the Church in Ghana only shared a spiritual relationship with the others worldwide.
The church added that pastors who left LCI Ghana to serve in other jurisdictions were not in the employment of LCI-Ghana.
The six pastors, Bishop Larry Odonkor, Bishop Oko Mensah, Rev. Edward Laryea, Pastor Seth Duncan, Pastor Edem Amankwah and Pastor Faith Makafui Fiakojo, filed their suits at the Labour Division of the Accra High Court on April 19, this year, seeking an order to compel the church to pay their “unpaid SSNIT contributions”.
They are also seeking an order to compute and pay balance of salary due them.
Also, a compensation to cover some investments they made in schools, churches of the LCI and for rental of cars while in the service of LCI as well as monies they spent on accommodation.
They are seeking damages for breach of contract and the pain, unfair termination of contract and suffering caused as a result of what they described as bad treatment from the church during the period of their employment and loss of income by their spouses during transfers.
Bishop Larry Odonkor
Bishop Larry Odonkor claimed that he had been employed by the church from 2001 to 2020. However, the church in its defence said between 2001 and June 2005 he was a volunteer pastor.
The church said Bishop Odonkor worked for LCI-Ghana for five years (July 2005 to June 2010) and January to April 2020 (four months ), adding that SSNIT contributions for this period had been duly paid.
LCI said he was employed by LCI South Africa from September 2010 to 2018 and again employed by LCI Madagascar from 2018 to December 2019, and earned all his salaries and allowances directly from South Africa and Madagascar and not from Ghana .
The church further said he was not in the employment of LCI-Ghana during this period and hence, LCI -Ghana owed him no SSNIT contributions.
Bishop Emmanuel Oko Mensah
Responding to Bishop Oko Mensah’s suit, the church said it had paid all SSNIT contributions owed him for his 16 years as an employee of the church contrary to his claim that the church owed him over 14 years of unpaid SSNIT contributions.
Again, the church further said it provided free accommodation for Bishop Oko Mensah throughout the 16 years of employment contrary to his claim that he was deprived of accommodation and a car.
LCI further indicated that it assigned a Hyundai Elantra to Bishop Oko Mensah to be used in his official duties but he refused to return the vehicle when he resigned, and that the vehicle was the subject matter of a counter claim and criminal action being pursued by LCI.
Rev. Edward Laryea
The LCI said, Rev. Laryea was a volunteer from 2005 to 2008 and became an employee from August, 2008 to March, 2017 during which period LCI paid all his SSNIT contributions without any default.
For Pastors Faith Makafui Fiakojo, Seth Duncan and Edem Amankwah, the LCI noted that the plaintiffs were volunteer pastors and hence it owed them no salaries and SSNIT contributions.
Allegations by Pastor Fiakojo, Ps Duncan and Rev Edward that they used their own monies to build LCI churches was vehemently denied by the LCI which contended that it built those churches without their direct or indirect financial involvement.