Bishop Peter Morgan, the well-known evangelical head of Covenant Community Church (CCC) in Jamaica, is being forced to step down as senior pastor of the church he founded in the face of criticisms by members that he has abandoned his flock.
A meeting last Thursday night of the church's elders was expected to confirm Dr Morgan's retreat and outline what other ways he could serve the local congregation while he steps up his international apostolic mission - a development that has caused friction between Morgan and his congregation.
No formal statement has been released from that meeting, and Morgan last week declined to comment on the issue until after his meeting with the elders.
"I would not like wrong information to be carried around," he told the Sunday Observer. "I will do a letter and release it to the press next week."
However, senior church members told the Sunday Observer that elders and others in the congregation of Covenant Community were upset that Morgan was regularly away from the church, apparently on evangelical and apostolic missions.
The situation reportedly grew worse in March this year after Morgan was appointed Bishop by a group of his peers from the United States and established an episcopal centre in Downtown Kingston to minister to residents in the inner-city.
These developments were apparently without the knowledge or blessings of his elders.
"They are thoroughly against it and he has not been here now six weeks," one church member complained last week.
According to this female church member, Morgan had not given a reason for what she construed as an abandonment "of his pastoral duties" or for his seeming withdrawal from the membership of the CCC's Kingston City Church (KCC).
Until now, the church community have sought to manage the tensions and some church members have complained of a secrecy that was incompatible with Christian ministry.
"Everything is tight-lipped," one member complained. "They don't say anything to people like me. There is no respect and we are the foundation. All I know is this man (Dr Morgan) wants to travel all over the world with his wife, saying that they are preaching. He abandoned his church."
Tony Williamson, a co-founder of CCC with Dr Morgan and a former Life of Jamaica executive, dismissed as "rumours" any notion that the elders had evicted Morgan.
"The church has not evicted him, regardless of the rumours you have heard," Williamson said.
He explained that Morgan had on his mind outreach efforts to the inner-city communities, such as Southside in downtown Kingston. There were also the international branches of the Covenant Community Church in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia in the USA as well as in Toronto, Canada on which Morgan was concentrating.
"So when we saw him getting increasingly drawn into a ministry that took him away from Covenant City Church we said to him, 'If your heart is for the apostolic or outgoing ministry, we will keep you as a part of the payroll as the Bishop, but we will release you to do what your heart calls you to do and we will eventually find somebody, hopefully a younger pastor'," Williamson said.
According to Williamson, Morgan had agreed to the suggestion.
In the meantime, Williamson said he has been asked to be a part of a group of seven elders to run the KCC until a full-time, younger replacement for Morgan was found.
The Covenant Community Church started in October 1982 with 110 persons, but in May 1991 separated into seven churches, each with its own pastor. These churches were located on Windward Road, Washington Boulevard, Portmore, Constant Spring, Liguanea, Spanish Town and Trench Town.
The split came soon after CCC lost a court battle with residents in the Old Hope Road area who were angry that Covenant Community planned a building at 97 Old Hope Road to accommodate its growing congregation.
In 2003, three of the seven churches - Constant Spring, Liguanea and Trench Town - reunited to form the Kingston City Church, pastored by Morgan. It meets every Sunday at The Priory School on Hope Road.
The other churches maintained their autonomy, and had their own pastors, however the bishop was still recognised as overseer.
As for the property on Old Hope Road, it was recently sold for $50 million. The Kingston City Church is now planning to build on property it owns on Crieffe Road in Kingston.