Posted by: Titus Presler | July 27, 2009

Chad Gandiya, new Bishop of Harare, calls for “taking a chance for God”

HARARE, 27 July 2009: The Rev. Canon Chad Gandiya was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Harare in a joyful four-hour ceremony at the City Sports Centre in Harare on July 26.

Gandiya, a native Zimbabwean, is former Principal of Gaul Theological College in Harare and lecturer at the United College of the Ascension in Birmingham, England.  He was elected May 2 from his post as Regional Desk Officer for Africa and the Indian Ocean at the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG), the oldest Anglican mission society, based in London.  Bp. Gandiya and his wife Faith are the parents of three children.  He holds a doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe.

A capacity crowd of 5,000 people attended the service, which was held Sunday morning, with many parish services canceled for the occasion.  Bp. Peter Price of the Diocese of Bath and Wells in England read out a letter of greeting and support from the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, especially significant in view of major conflicts the diocese has seen in recent years.

“Is there no balm in Harare?” Bp. Gandiya asked in his enthronement address Sunday afternoon in the Cathedral of St. Mary and All Saints, relating the African-American spiritual and the prophet Jeremiah’s words to both the church’s conflicts and the political and economic turmoil of the nation.  He called for the church to turn outward and offer a ministry of reconciliation to society and to the church’s people.  “When we are angry, hurt, afraid, or feeling abandoned, it seems easier to turn our hearts to our own feelings and not toward God who gives liberation and healing,” he said.  “So what is it going to be today?  The old stuff or taking a chance for God? . . . God give us the grace to walk in a new direction today.”

After an extended meditation on the importance of Christians growing into the glory of God as expressed in the prophet Isaiah’s vision in the Jerusalem temple, the Most Rev. Khotso Makhulu, former Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, emphasized in the consecration sermon the servant role of bishops on the model of Jesus’ words to the apostle Peter, “Feed my sheep.”  Cautioning against “the tendency to prelacy,” Bp. Makhulu addressed Gandiya, “You are a brother and not a prince, a loving father, not a tyrant, loving even to the unloveable.”

Presiding  at the service was Bp. Albert Chama of Northern Zambia and Dean of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (which currently does not have a primate).  Bishops attended from throughout the province, which consists of 15 dioceses in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Greetings were expressed by Canon John Kafwanka, from Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, and the Anglican Communion Office; Canon Edgar Ruddock, from USPG; Bp. Michael Gear, from the Diocese of Rochester, England, Harare’s linked diocese; and Canon Titus Presler, formerly a missionary in Zimbabwe, from the Episcopal Church USA.

Bp. Gandiya’s consecration intensified the Church of the Province of Central Africa’s reassertion of its authority in the Diocese of Harare, which former Bp. Nolbert Kunonga attempted in 2007 withdraw from the province, which he believed was compromising on the issue of homosexuality.  Viewing this as a voluntary personal departure from the province, the province responded by declaring the see vacant and appointing Bp. Sebastian Bakare, then recently retired from the Diocese of Manicaland in eastern Zimbabwe, as caretaker bishop.  Bp. Kunonga had significant support from the government of President Robert Mugabe, and during 2008 Anglicans were beaten by police and forced to worship in other venues, prompting public expressions of support from the 2008 Lambeth Conference and Anglicans worldwide.  Government hostility was commonly attributed to a perception by the ruling party, ZANU(PF), that Anglicans were sympathetic to the opposition MDC party in the runup to the March 2009 national election.  Currently an interim court ruling stipulates that the contending sides must share worship spaces on Sundays, pending a final judgment in a legal dispute over diocesan property.  Until that arrangement, reached a couple of months ago, the cathedral was off-limits to the CPCA diocese.

On the morning of the consecration, the government-controlled Sunday Mail carried the headline, “Kunonga wins church battle,” and announced that a High Court judge on Friday had granted Kunonga authority to take control of the church’s property within seven days, on grounds that the province’s constitution required that Bp. Kunonga be charged, tried and removed from office before another bishop could be elected.  Clergy noted later that legal papers were served during the consecration and that the church’s lawyers had already filed an appeal.

Paralleling the province’s work in Harare, Dean Chama announced that on July 24 the electoral college for the Diocese of Manicaland, where a similar situation exists, elected the Rev. Julius Makoni bishop of the diocese, setting in motion the constitutional confirmation process.  Long a banking executive, Makoni has been in the UK since 2000, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest.  Like Bp. Kunonga, former Bp. Elson Jakazi sought in 2007 to withdraw the Diocese of Manicaland from the Province of Central Africa.  Declaring the see vacant, the province appointed Bp. Peter Hatendi, retired from the Diocese of Harare, to be caretaker bishop, and a court case is underway concerning property control and ownership.

One difference between the situations of the two dioceses is that in Harare Bp. Kunonga took the step of forming a new church entity, the name of which seems to be the Province of Zimbabwe, sometimes preceded with the word Anglican, and he appointed three additional bishops, presumably in order to meet the minimum number of dioceses required for such a province to be recognized as a province of the Anglican Communion.  In Manicaland, however, Bp. Jakazi has not formed such a new church and has, instead, insisted that his retraction of the withdrawal declaration of 2007 gives him the right to be considered the continuing bishop of Manicaland in the CPCA.  Rumors have made the situation on both sides less than clear.  In Harare there have been reports that Bp. Kunonga has renounced his own new ecclesial body, probably because he sensed it would weaken his case to retain the church’s property.  In Manicaland, to the contrary, there have been reports that Bp. Jakazi may be preparing to establish a new church.

Both the new bishop and the bishop-elect are sons of Anglican clergy.  Bp. Gandiya’s father David, now retired,  served  in the Diocese of Manicaland and the earlier Diocese of Mashonaland, and was present at his consecration, along with the immediate and extended families.  Bishop-elect Makoni’s father Alban, also now retired,  served in Mashonaland and then in Manicaland. – Titus Presler
For an illustrative instance of the nature of Bp. Kunonga’s polemics, see this material in the Church of England’s weekly newspaper, The Church Times, in which both Bp. Bakare and Canon Chad Gandiya (as he was then) respond.

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