Preparations for the ordination of the Rev. Dr. Julius Makoni as the new Bishop of Manicaland in Zimbabwe on Sunday, Nov. 22, are well underway, according to informal reports. Makoni will be consecrated in a liturgy beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Mutare Showgrounds, Mutare being the see city of the diocese located along the nation’s eastern border with Mozambique. The preacher will be the retired Bishop of Botswana and Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), the Rt. Rev. Khotso Makhulu, who also preached at the July 26 ordination of Chad Gandiya as Bishop of Harare.
Enthronement is planned for about 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon in St. John’s Cathedral, pending favorable resolution of the diocese’s legal application to Zimbabwe’s High Court in Harare for use of the cathedral, which continues to be under the control of breakaway Bp. Elson Jakazi. As in the Diocese of Harare, where the Bp. Gandiya’s consecration signaled CPCA’s resolve to prevail in the struggle with breakaway Bp. Nolbert Kunonga, the Nov. 22 consecration in Mutare will end an interim period overseen by an interim bishop and signal CPCA’s resolve to prevail in Manicaland as well.
The Harare situation has garnered international attention because it involves the capital city and because Bp. Kunonga has close ties with President Robert Mugabe, reportedly even receiving one of the commercial farms taken over by government-sponsored invaders.
The Manicaland situation is an even more difficult church struggle. The province was slower in appointing a caretaker bishop in Manicaland, which gave Bp. Jakazi more time to solidify his hold on the mechanisms of diocesan control as the conflict intensified. While in Harare there is a court order that divides Sundays between time for the CPCA congregations and the breakaway congregations, there is no such arrangement in Manicaland. Thus CPCA congregations in church districts controlled by clergy loyal to Jakazi continue to have to worship in alternative locations. In both dioceses, the CPCA diocesan offices are located in alternative facilities, in the case of Manicaland in a converted residence in the high-density suburb of Sakubva. In addition, although both dioceses are financially hard pressed by the crisis, Manicaland is the poorer of the two, with fewer resources for pursuing the legal cases, supporting diocesan operations, and paying clergy stipends. While early in the split a majority of Manicaland clergy sided with Jakazi, there has been a significant shift toward CPCA. Some observers report that a majority now affiliate with CPCA, but reports are difficult to confirm in what continues to be a fluid and contested situation.
Julius Makoni will be the fourth bishop of Manicaland since the formation of the diocese out of the former Diocese of Mashonaland, now Harare, in October 1981, after the end of Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle that brought majority rule in 1980. The first bishop was the Rt. Rev. Elijah Masuko, who served from 1981 to 1998 and is now retired near Chivhu. He was followed by the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare, former Senior Chaplain to the University of Zimbabwe, who served 1998-2006 and is now retired in Mutare, from where he continues to lecture at Africa University, the United Methodist institution near Old Mutare Mission. Jakazi succeeded Bakare, but his episcopate ended in 2007.
The current turmoil in the two dioceses erupted in the last third of 2007, when Kunonga and Jakazi each informed CPCA that they intended to withdraw their dioceses from the province because, they alleged, CPCA was condoning homosexuality in the church. The province responded by declaring their dioceses vacant and appointing caretaker bishops, both of them retired, Bp. Bakare for Harare and the Rt. Rev. Peter Hatendi, retired of Harare, for Manicaland. Zimbabwe has three other dioceses: Matabeleland, Central Zimbabwe, and Masvingo.