A tale of rival factions: St Mary of Debre Tsion

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of St Mary Debre Tsion is an unincorporated association and a registered charity; there is a trust deed establishing the charity which is dated 11 June 1992. The congregation worships in what was formerly St Philip’s Church,  Battersea: it leased the building from the Church of England from 2007 and acquired the freehold in 2011. There has been a long-running dispute as to precisely who are the persons entitled to control the trust: see Bisrat & Ors v Kebede & Ors [2017] EWHC 2123 (Ch). The two factions within the church had been to court several times and had agreed to establish a new Charitable Incorporated Organisation with a view to resolving their differences, but the disagreements remained.

At a recent members’ meeting, the supporters of one faction had elected their representatives to one of the charity’s governing bodies and none of the supporters of the other faction had been elected. Continue reading