The mediator between Lighthouse Chapel International and six former pastors of the church has revealed that settlement talks broke down after the church’s founder, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills, demanded a withdrawal of the case from the court.
The founder of Jesus Generation Ministries, Rt. Rev. Nana Anyani-Boadum, confirmed that the former pastors had already made two concessions for the talks to go on but the third one, demanded by Bishop Dag Heward-Mills, led to the breakdown of talks.
The six former pastors of the church had sued Lighthouse, alleging economic exploitation including the non-payment of their Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contribution, as well as emotional and psychological abuse they suffered during their collective 75 years of service in the church.
Concerned that the case could “adversely affect the whole body of Christ”, Rt. Rev. Nana Anyani-Boadum said he reached out to the two parties to seek an out-of-court settlement.
The mediation team was composed of Rt. Rev Nana Anyani-Boadum; the founder of Victory Bible church, Bishop N.A. Tackie-Yarboi; and the Presiding Bishop of The Pleasant Place church, Gideon Titi-Ofei; who are all members of an Apostolic Fellowship to which Bishop Dag Heward-Mills also belongs.
He said he spoke to the lawyer for the six pastors, Kofi Bentil, who agreed to two things. First, that an out-of-court settlement was worth pursuing, and, second, that the mediation committee should be expanded to include Lighthouse and their lawyers.
If this condition was met, Kofi Bentil was prepared to “meet them without precondition for financial settlement.”
But after bending over backwards for mediation talks to continue, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills who had also agreed to resolve the matter “as a father”, demanded that for any meditation talks to continue with an expanded number, the pastors should “unilaterally withdraw the case from court.”
Kofi Bentil and the former pastors maintained that this demand was a tipping point. Rt. Rev. Nana Anyani-Boadum confirmed this in his rejoinder to a newspaper publication.
“I communicated this to lawyer Kofi Bentil in the presence of Bishop Tackie Yarboi and he refused the suggestion of Bishop Dag Heward-Mills. At this stage, I deemed the mediation process to have broken down.”
While talks may have broken down, the mediator and leader of Jesus Generation Ministries, who is also a trained journalist, expressed sadness that “sensitive” information shared in an “atmosphere of trust” was “leaked” and “erroneously misapplied out of context.”
The mediator was referring to a newspaper publication on August 24, 2021, that claimed the former pastors were demanding $12million which led to the breakdown of talks.
The publication, which also cast the ex-Lighthouse pastors as greedy, referred to Rev. Kwesi Dei as the source of the information for its publication.
In an 18-point rejoinder to the newspaper, Rev Nana Anyani-Boadum questioned the credibility of the newspaper and the credibility of the information which the newspaper sourced to Rev. Kwesi Dei.
The mediator explained that Rev. Dei could not have been a reliable source of information when he never witnessed any of the mediation meetings between the ex-pastors and the church’s founder.
“At no time did Rev. Kwesi Dei who narrated the story to your paper ever sit in our meetings,” the mediator and pastor said.
Nana Anyani-Boadum said, as insisted by Bishop Dag Heward-Mills, he was the only one who had direct access to the LCI founder and could convey proceedings of the talks directly to him.
The genesis of the $12million claim in the media
Long before the newspaper published the claim that the pastors demanded a $12-million settlement, the lawyer for the Lighthouse, Rodney Heward-Mills, first mentioned the figure in the courtroom to the anger of the pastors’ lawyer, Kofi Bentil, and much to the chagrin of High court judge, Frank Aboadwe Rockson.
Rodney Heward-Mills claimed talks between the church and the former pastors broke down after they “demanded” an “outrageous” settlement figure.
The judge wanted to hear none of that and tried to restrain the defendant’s lawyer from mentioning the figure. He explained that in his experience in arbitration, settlement is about an offer and a counteroffer. The judge found out from the church’s lawyer that the church did not even make a counteroffer.
The mediator breaks his silence
In a rejoinder to media reports that Kofi Bentil had been exposed in a $12million settlement, Rt. Rev. Nana Anyani-Boadum, who initiated the settlement talks between the two parties, said he wants to “set the record straight.”
He indicated that through the mediation talks, they pressed Kofi Bentil to give a figure. He said Mr. Bentil resisted.
“As part of the settlement process, we insisted that Lawyer Kofi Bentil should give us an idea of the compensations and other reliefs they wanted in figures. Lawyer Kofi Bentil resisted that request and said they had deliberately omitted monetary figures in their claims because it could easily be misconstrued. He further added that this case was not just about money, but about justice and bringing reforms to the lighthouse church,” he said.
According to the six pastors, they were never paid according to the church’s own salary structure. The church has indicated in its own HR book that “human resource management must assess itself by comparing itself properly with other secular organisations.”
Part of the church’s HR handbook also states that “the US dollar must be used to gain real value of the salaries and cost of living.”
The Lighthouse Chapel International Handbook also has a long paragraph on the “dollarisation of salaries” and explains that to mean “salaries will follow the US dollar value by being renewed every 6 months according to the prevailing dollar rate. The salaries will be upgraded naturally by the changes in the US dollar levels. Salaries are only adjusted upwards and not downwards even if the dollar rate falls.”
These three provisions of the LCI handbook formed the basis for the calculation of salaries which the pastors and bishops were entitled to throughout the period of their service but insisted they never received.
The Fourth Estate has a copy of the Bishop Governing Handbook. It shows that the Ministers may have been underpaid for several years in active service. The book explains five levels of employment named after the five books of Moses.
These levels are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and the highest being Deuteronomy. At Genesis, a level where a minister would be two years old in ministry, the monthly take-home pay was $300. After 18 years in ministry, an employee would have reached Deuteronomy level, the basic salary was to be $1,200.
All the six ministers said they were never paid any of the stated amounts in the handbook.
Rev. Edward Laryea, after 12 years in ministry, would have reached Leviticus level where he was entitled to between $500 to $1,000. But he said his highest basic salary ever was GHS 1,800 ($398.2 at the exchange rate of $1 to GHc 4.52 as of December 2017).
Rev. Seth Duncan, for example, was entitled to a salary of at least $500 but after 10 years of service, said his highest was GHC450 ($91.8 at the exchange rate of $1 to GHc 4.52 as of December 2018). These pastors said on many occasions they were compelled to beg for support from church members and friends to support their ministry and to take care of their homes.
The HR handbook stresses that “a bishop must know and implement all the policies of the human resource manual.” For the failure of the church to implement this, the pastors have asked the court to compel the church to do so.
Rt. Rev Nana Anyani-Boadum, said despite these calculations, he appealed to Kofi Bentil to consider “forgetting his calculations for financial settlement and submit to a settlement as between Christians.”
The mediator concluded that “I have not communicated any formal financial demand from the ex-pastors of Lighthouse church as published by this newspaper.”
“I am surprised that such vital information was withheld as your report inconsistently concludes,” Rt. Rev. Anyani-Boadum said.
He called for an end to the “social media war” and confirmed that the lawyer for the former pastors, Kofi Bentil, had assured him that his clients remained interested in an out-of-court settlement if the church wishes to engage them.
The court is on a legal vacation and is expected to resume in October.
TO THE MANAGING EDITOR: THE GHANAIAN PUBLISHER
1. This is a Rejoinder triggered by your publication of 24th August 2021, titled “LIGHTHOUSE BROUHAHA, IMANI LAWYER KOFI BENTIL EXPOSED OVER $12 M SETTLEMENT DEAL” in which my name was mentioned. I hope that this Rejoinder would set the records straight.
2. I am moved to send this rejoinder to bring clarity to what transpired in a Mediation Committee I put together to secure an out of court settlement in the case between the Lighthouse Chapel and the ex-pastors of the Lighthouse Chapel. And, to help clarify some points raised in your publication. Such sensitive issues need to be properly verified for accuracy before being published.
3. It is particularly sad that my efforts at settlement which were conducted in an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality between men of God, had been LEAKED into the public space and erroneously misapplied out of context. Such leakages, negatively impacts on Christian counselling and frustrates persons of goodwill who sacrifice to secure peace in such circumstances.
4. I have a personal relationship with the Managing Partner of Lex Praxis Incorporated, Lawyer Kofi Bentil spanning a period of over 30 years. Indeed, I have been a Pastor to him, and quite close to his family.
5. I called Lawyer Kofi Bentil myself to enquire about this case which was likely to adversely affect the whole body of Christ. He responded and attended to my call.
6. I had a discussion on the issues, and Lawyer Kofi Bentil explained his position (and that of his clients) to me clearly. I called Bishop Dag Heward -Mills and informed him that I had spoken to Lawyer Kofi Bentil (who was then with me). I explained to Bishop Dag Heward -Mills that I called the Lawyer to find ways of seeking an out of court settlement.
7. Bishop Dag Heward -Mills said to me that he didn’t know exactly what the ex-Pastors were actually looking for, and so I should find out from them and inform him.
8. I therefore informed Lawyer Kofi Bentil that Bishop Dag Heward-Mills had asked me to mediate and revert. Lawyer Kofi Bentil responded that out of reverence for me and our long association, he would cooperate with the mediation process.
9. I suggested to Bishop Dag Heward – Mills that I would include other concerned Bishops of the Apostolic Fellowship of which Bishop Dag Heward -Mills is a member. Bishop Dag Heward -Mills agreed and so 2 other Bishops (Bishops Tackie Yarboi and Titi Offei) were added to assist me in the process.
10. These Bishops and I engaged Lawyer Kofi Bentil and his clients over almost one (1) month where we sought to understand the issues at stake and give the necessary advice in our bid to settle the matter out of court.
11. I confirm that Lawyer Kofi Bentil and the six ex pastors agreed to settle the matter out of court if Lighthouse Chapel International would sit with them and hear out their grievances and accept to compensate them.
12. At all material times, I had to report to Bishop Dag Heward -Mills and update him on proceedings which I did as part of my duty whilst observing the confidentiality expected of us as senior clergymen, into whose hands the parties had entrusted this process.
13. As part of the settlement process, we insisted that Lawyer Kofi Bentil should give us an idea of the compensations and other reliefs they wanted in figures. Lawyer Kofi Bentil resisted that request and said they had deliberately omitted monetary figures in their claims because it could easily be misconstrued. He further added that this case was not just about money, but about justice and bringing reforms to the lighthouse church.
14. However, Lawyer Bentil later gave us an idea of a possible figure which according to him was modelled around one of the church’s documents. This figure which came up was $12m. This was communicated to Bishop Dag Heward-Mills not as a formal request from the Ex- Pastors, but as a calculation of a possible outcome. Lawyer Kofi Bentil further stated that both parties could meet to agree mutually on some figures if goodwill prevailed at subsequent meetings between the two parties.
15. Subsequently, upon reflection, I personally invited Lawyer Kofi Bentil to my office and asked if he will consider forgetting his calculations for financial settlement and submit to a settlement as between Christians. I offered to arrange so that we the mediating Bishops will see to the restoration of the relationships between the parties so as to stop the animosity between them. Lawyer Kofi Bentil agreed and confirmed that if we could expand the college of mediating Bishops, and invite Lighthouse and their lawyers, he will meet them without precondition for financial settlement to seek an amicable resolution of the matter. This was made known to the mediating Bishops. This new position was communicated to Bishop Dag Heward Mills.
16. Bishop Dag Heward Mills expressed his willingness to meet the ex-pastors as a father to resolve the issues but was not sure how much would be enough to satisfy them if he had to agree to Lawyer Kofi Bentil’s proposal “since they want money so much”. Bishop Dag Heward Mills further stated that for this meeting with the ex-pastors and the expanded mediating committee proposed by Lawyer Kofi Bentil to be possible, Lawyer Kofi Bentil had to unilaterally withdraw the case from court. I communicated this to Lawyer Kofi Bentil in the presence of Bishop Tackie Yarboi and he refused the suggestion of Bishop Dag Heward Mills. At this stage, I deemed the mediation process to have broken down.
17. Let me add at this juncture, that at the insistence of Bishop Dag Heward -Mills, I solely attended the meetings held with Lighthouse Chapel International. However, I duly briefed my fellow Bishops before and after these meetings. Let me also state that, at all material times, my meetings at the Lighthouse Chapel International were held with Bishop Dag Heward Mills and at times with a lady Lawyer at the Bishop’s office. At no time did Rev. Kwesi Dei who narrated the story to your paper ever sit in our meetings.
18. In conclusion,
a. I wish to confirm that I have not communicated any FORMAL FINANCIAL DEMAND from the ex-Pastors of Lighthouse church as published by this newspaper. All matters discussed were part of the settlement process, and no formal deal or conclusion was arrived. I am surprised that such vital information was withheld as your report inconsistently concludes.
b. I also confirm that I have received consistent assurances from Lawyer Kofi Bentil that he and his clients are ready to settle this matter out of court.
c. This is a matter not between just church members but Men of God, and I believe as the Bible says, if the elders of the church are called, this matter can be settled without the court coming in.
d. Unfortunately, the matter is already in court, and the court has suggested that the parties seek an out of court settlement. It is therefore not necessary for the social media war to continue. I think we should redirect our energies towards finding a lasting solution to this matter out of court as the Bible requires and preserve the integrity and sanctity of the Body of Christ. No church or human institution is perfect, but as the Body of Christ, we should not allow such matters to degenerate in this manner.
e. I am calling upon the Body of Christ, to sit with the parties and resolve this matter amicably. I will continue to hold myself ready to be part of any such process. I hope my name and good intention will not be made part of any war of words or accusations.
16th Kojo Thompson Avenue,
REJOINDER BY RT. REV. NANA ANYANI-BOADUM.
JESUS GENERATION MINISTRIES.