Posted by: Titus Presler | November 10, 2009

Bp. Gandiya finds encouragement and challenge in Harare Diocese

Three months into his episcopate, Bp. Chad Gandiya of the Diocese of Harare in Zimbabwe, reports both exciting developments and hard challenges in the ministry of the diocese.

“As I travel around, people are coming to church in large numbers,” he said in a telephone conversation on Nov. 9.  “In quite a number of churches half the congregation is outside, there are so many people.  Even those who suffered during the troubles have not been deterred from coming to church.”

Gandiya was referring to the period around the March 2009 presidential election, when many Anglicans were driven from their church buildings, often with severe beatings.  The intra-church conflict between former Harare Bp. Nolbert Kunonga, an ally of Pres. Robert Mugabe, and the designated Harare diocesan authorities, at the time led by Bp. Sebastian Bakare on a caretaker basis, prompted government forces to see loyal Anglicans as supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and its candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, later widely seen as having won the March 29 ballot.

“People have been encouraged by the assurance of protection by the police now,” Gandiya said. “The authorities have seen that although we are many [those of the diocese associated with the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa], we have not resorted to using force. There could have been serious beatings, but that has not happened at all.  In the towns, people can go to church freely.”

Under a court order in force since mid- year, church members loyal to Bp. Kunonga have Sunday use of church buildings in the Diocese of Harare until 11 a.m., after which the CPCA congregations may worship, although the vast majority of Anglicans, now including many former Kunonga supporters, are with the CPCA.  “The only difficulty now,” said Gandiya, “is that this being the hot season, it becomes uncomfortable in the churches because our services must be after 11 a.m.  So the people want us to go back to the courts to have the Kunonga people meet in the afternoon.”

Noting that many people were maimed in the pre- and post-election violence, the bishop said one priest has reported that numerous people in his district are unable to work their fields because they are missing limbs.  Funds from the Archbishop’s Appeal in the Church of England are being used to buy food for the amputees, but, said Gandiya, “We need to come up with long-term strategies so that they can be equipped to look after themselves.”  Similarly, a number of children were orphaned by election violence.  “At a diocesan meeting of church wardens, I told them, ‘These are our orphans, they are diocesan orphans, and we must look after them.'”

A major financial challenge facing the diocese is the ongoing court cases – “a big, big headache,” Gandiya said – through which the diocese is seeking to recover complete control of diocesan properties and funds from breakaway Bp. Kunonga, whom the Anglican Primates have officially stated is not bishop of the diocese.  Anglican resources within the diocese cannot handle this expense, and Bp. Gandiya is appealing for assistance from around the Anglican Communion.  [Readers of this blog are encouraged to contact Titus Presler, Commissary for the Diocese of Harare in the USA, about resources that can be tapped and potential donors who can be contacted: tituspresler@earthlink.net.]

Bp. Gandiya is devoting major attention to building up the common life of the leadership of the diocese, beginning with a gathering of clergy and spouses in December. “There is a lot of suspicion among the clergy because of what happened before,” he said, “so we need to build trust among the clergy and between the clergy and the bishop.”

In January 2010 the diocese will offer a clergy retreat led by Bp. Michael Doe, General Secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Anglicanism’s oldest missionary society and long a supporter of the church in Zimbabwe.  In late February, a workshop on reconciliation and healing will be led by the Rev. Michael Lapsley, S.S.M., Director of the Institute for the Healing of Memories in South Africa.  Funds must be raised to support these offerings.

Strategic planning is a priority of the diocese, Gandiya said, and a diocesan group is catalyzing that process, beginning with the congregations and then working up through the commissions to the standing committee of the diocese.  Gandiya has been asked by the other four bishops in Zimbabwe to begin development of a plan for the upgrading of Gaul Theological College, of which Gandiya was formerly principal.

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