Posted by: Titus Presler | November 9, 2009

Canon Titus Presler appointed USA commissary for Diocese of Harare

In a letter of Aug. 14, the Rt. Rev. Chad Gandiya, who was consecrated bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 26, asked me to be “commissary for the Diocese of Harare (CPCA).”

“I would very much appreciate your assistance in acting as a commissary for the Diocese of Harare, and so representing the Diocese in the United States and exploring partnerships,” he wrote.  “I would welcome you keeping us in your prayers as the Diocese continues to face many challenges and as I commence my work as Bishop.”

The bishop said he had informed the Episcopal Church Center of this request through Ms. Antoinette Daniels, director of the Partnerships unit.

In subsequent correspondence, I accepted the appointment, which we had discussed during my July visit to Zimbabwe for Bp. Gandiya’s consecration.  This non-stipendiary task, by the way, does not involve moving back to Zimbabwe, for this kind of representation arises out of residence and networking in the USA!

Several initial major tasks of being a commissary present themselves.  First, I intend to keep the life of the Diocese of Harare – major developments, reflections of the bishop and others, important needs – before members of the Episcopal Church through the blog, and through circulating news to church publications.

Second, I intend to stimulate companion relationships between the diocese and church entities here.  This will include congregations, dioceses and agencies in church.  People in Zimbabwe have been through a harrowing time since 2000: agriculture’s collapse as commercial farms were seized; the economy’s deterioration, culminating in last year’s hyper-inflation at millions of percentage points weekly, the worst in monetary history; the collapse of education and healthcare amid the economic catastrophe; and successive waves of political violence, culminating in the debacle of election fraud in the March 29 presidential election this year.  Since 2007 Anglicans in Harare and Manicaland have endured intra-church conflict between breakaway bishops and duly authorized diocesan bishops, and then Anglicans nationally were singled out for violence and intimidation by government forces during the 2009 election period.  Church people need to know that sisters and brothers in Christ in other places care about them.  They need the companionship of the world church.

Third, I plan to solicit funds from individuals, congregations and dioceses, beginning with those who historically have been associated with Anglicanism in Zimbabwe.  The circle of interested people can doubtless be widened, given that the political and ecclesial situation in Zimbabwe is so much in the general news.  If you have suggestions of possible resources and donors, please contact me at

Through correspondence and phone calls I will keep company with people in the Diocese of Harare and elsewhere in Zimbabwe, where I have hundreds of friends from our family’s years in Zimbabwe during the 1980s and from many visits since then.

“Commissary” can be a mystifying title, part antique, part ambiguous.  Most USAmericans are familiar with the term from military bases, as in the first dictionary definition: “a store that sells food and supplies to the personnel or workers in a military post, mining camp, lumber camp, or the like.”

A definition further down is the one we want: “a person to whom some responsibility or role is delegated by a superior power; a deputy.”  Its root is in the Latin verb committere, meaning “to commit.”  So Bp. Gandiya has committed this charge to me, to promote the life, interests and needs of the Diocese of Harare in the USA.

The word has at least one venerable association in Anglican mission history.  In the 1690s, English vicar Thomas Bray was appointed by the Bishop of London to be his commissary in the colonies that later became the USA.  Bray was disturbed by the disarray of Anglican work on these shores and he founded two mission societies to help: the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in 1698 to provide copies of the Bible, The Book of Common Prayer and other books; and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1701 to provide missionary pastors to the congregations.  These two societies grew, flourished and are at work to this day.  Many of the oldest Episcopal congregations in the eastern USA today were founded by the SPG.


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