Posted by: Titus Presler | December 20, 2011

Manicaland bishop reports on highs and lows of continuing church conflict in eastern Zimbabwe

The latest pastoral letter from Bishop Julius Makoni of Manicaland, the eastern Zimbabwean diocese of the Church of the Province of Central Africa makes it clear that discord with the renegade bishop who has refused to relinquish diocesan property continues even as the diocese makes progress in building community and preparing future leaders.  As with Harare, the other Anglican diocese under siege, it is lamentable that a renegade bishop receives support from the Mugabe regime in hanging onto illegitimate power.

It is good to hear how heartening the visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury was in October.  Bp. Makoni confirms news accounts at the time that Rowan Williams was firm and clear with President Mugabe about the oppression that Anglicans have been experiencing from the renegade groups and law enforcement agencies.  It has always been clear that Mugabe’s professions of ignorance about what has been going on were sheer prevarication, and the archbishop’s visit was effective in removing the excuse that Anglicans’ suffering was previously unknown news.

Bp. Makoni’s letter follows:

ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF MANICALAND CPCA

Pastoral Letter                                       November 2011

To our Brothers and Sisters in the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland and to our friends further afield.

I write to you with great concern over the prevailing challenges and suffering the church is still going through in our diocese. I also write with great joy and hope when I consider the success stories in the diocese despite the challenges we continue to face daily.

We still do not have access to about 50% of our diocesan schools, clinics and hospitals and churches. This has hindered progress and development as opportunities have been lost and many lives badly affected. Despite the challenges we face, including our inability to pay stipends, legal bills and rentals, our congregations continue to grow in numbers outstripping the challenges. Yes we are concerned, “but we are not anxious but continue to present our plight before the Lord in prayers.” (Philippians 4:4-8).

In August, the diocese hosted a Zimbabwe Anglican Youth Association (ZAYA) annual conference. Youths from all the five Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe converged at Hartzell High School, a Methodist institution, from the 5th to the 8th of August 2011 for a vibrant and powerful conference. Regrettably, this conference could have been held at St Augustine’s Mission where the Anglican Church started in Zimbabwe but the youth were denied access to this conducive and historical venue. They were however, not deterred by the high costs of hiring the Hartzell High School facilities. About five hundred youths from all over Zimbabwe attended. This was a great success and they were highly inspired and strengthened. We value youth ministry in the diocese and should keep on supporting them in our churches.

From the 11th to the 14th of August 2011 the diocese registered another big success by successfully hosting the Anglican Mothers’ Union of Zimbabwe (AMUZ) annual conference at Mutare Teachers’ College. This was a well organized, spirit -filled and well attended conference. About five thousand ladies from all corners of Zimbabwe enjoyed the joyous and powerful fellowship. All the five Anglican Bishops in Zimbabwe attended the main mass on the 13th of August 2011. The bishops gave powerful messages of solidarity with Anglicans in Zimbabwe. Indeed this event was a clear demonstration of the strength of the true Anglican Church. It was an eye-opener too for those who have decided to follow Mr. Jakazi and Mr. Kunonga. Some of the misguided members attended the conference under cover of darkness to see whether it would be a success. They must have been shocked to realize that they are very much in the minority since almost ninety percent or more of Anglicans in Zimbabwe have remained faithful to the true CPCA. It is pleasing to note that despite the financial challenges in the diocese and the perpetual harassment by Mr.  Jakazi and Mr. Kunonga’s supporters, sometimes with help from the police, true Anglicans have not despaired.

The diocese was highly privileged to receive the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, on the 10th of October 2011. He was accompanied by the Archbishops of Central Africa, Tanzania and Southern Africa, and bishops of Botswana, Harare, Manicaland, and Southwark. The Archbishop and his party visited the displaced congregation of St Matthew’s Parish, Rusape, where he worshiped with and encouraged the gathered faithful. It was touching to witness His Grace and other bishops join in worship with the displaced congregation in a town hall with poor ventilation. Their church stood locked and remained dark, only a few hundred yards away.

The next stop was St Paul’s, Christmas Pass, where displaced worshippers were gathered and are thinking of building a large church and conference centre. His Grace blessed the site. Next stop was the Mutare Showgrounds, where I was consecrated two years ago- how time flies! A gathering of about three thousand worshippers gave the Archbishop and the accompanying Archbishops and bishops a rousing welcome. Dr Williams gave a moving homily and encouraged all gathered to remain steadfast in the faith. He assured us of his and the support and prayers of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

From the Showgrounds, the visiting party made a brief stop at St John’s Cathedral. We were denied access but I managed to knock at the Western door with my Crosier and was joined in prayer by all the bishops present.

We had a welcome break at our rented diocesan office. There was much singing and dancing and photo opportunities – when the Archbishops were not swaying to the Manicaland Gospel rhythms!

St Augustine’s Penhalonga was our final stop in Manicaland. Rather than argue at the locked gates, we took a side entrance and walked up the hill to the church, then the CZR Convent where we spent time in prayer and reflection led by the Archbishop. This was indeed a poignant and memorable time.

From Manicaland we sped back to Harare where we met with President Mugabe. The meeting was cordial. The Archbishops and all the bishops were received well. The Archbishop presented the President with a dossier of abuses against Anglicans in Zimbabwe. The President professed ignorant of these abuses and promised to look into the matter. Throughout, the Archbishop was polite but firm and focused. We had a brief meeting with the Prime Minister in the evening.

Full marks for the Archbishop who dare enter the lion’s den to speak, firmly and without fear especially after his powerful sermon at a service attended by an estimated twenty thousand people in Harare the day before. Apart from highlighting our plight, the Archbishop’s visit showed unequivocally that Messrs Kunonga and Jakazi are not Anglicans, despite their claims to the contrary. A lot of their followers have since seen the light and left them. Secondly our plight is now out in the open and the authorities cannot profess ignorance anymore. The rest we leave to our law courts. The Archbishop played his part fully.

It is my encouragement to all of you to seek wisdom, knowledge and understanding as well as God’s guidance in all that we do in life.  Choose to be an instrument of righteousness and not an instrument of wickedness.

Soon after the Archbishop’s visit the diocese hosted two visitors from, Southwark Diocese, Woolwich Episcopal Area. Fr Steve Cook and Fr Anthony Buckley were in the diocese from the 15th to the 21st of October 2011. There is a mutual link relationship between our diocese and the Woolwich Episcopal Area. Steve and Anthony were impressed   by what they saw. They said that they learnt a lot from their visits to schools, churches and even families in Manicaland. “Our interaction with Anglicans in Manicaland at different levels or in different circumstances be it at a school, in church, or over a meal had a lot say about your faith, determination and hope in doing the work of the Lord.” said Anthony. We thank the Woolwich Episcopal Area for their prayers and support.

The diocese sent six ordinands to Bishop Gaul College in Harare and one Ordinand to Westcott House, Cambridge.  We thank the Community of the Resurrection (CR Fathers) who helped the diocese to raise US$8400 for the college fees and Canon Martin Seeley who helped to fund the Westcott House Ordinand. This is a big step in an effort to increase the number of trained priests in the diocese. It is only the beginning. More ordinands should be sent for theological training because we are still very far from meeting the required number of priests in the diocese. This critical need calls for greater commitment and sacrificial giving to support the training of priests.

Whilst many churches  have been unlawfully taken over by Mr. Jakazi we have had moments of great joy and celebration after lawfully taking back some of our churches. Tears of grief soaked the elderly ladies from All Saints Zimunya church when their church was unlawfully taken over by Jakazi’s priests with the help of the police.  When the matter was taken to the High Court, justice prevailed unlike in many other cases where we have been denied justice. We got back All Saints Zimunya church on the 11th of October 2011 and this time tears of joy streamed down on the same faces where tears of grief had flowed. All our assets that had been unlawfully grabbed are being recovered lawfully. The process is slow. I know you have suffered, you have cried but our faith and hope is that soon we shall be rejoicing. Let us not forget that first and foremost, we are the church and that the risen Lord will break all the locked doors and open doors no one can shut. It is not the buildings, but us who make a true church anchored on the spiritual foundation on which our lives are built. God will restore all our property back as well as the peace and joy that we have lost.

St Peters Nyamandwe Church in Pafiwa area has suffered a series of violent attacks from Mr. Jakazi’s supporters. Like All Saints Zimunya, this church was unlawfully grabbed and CPCA members have been tormented.  The worst incident happened on the 23rd of October 2011 when five of our members were viciously attacked by thugs who had been hired by Jakazi’s supporters. Some sustained serious injuries. Even when you go through such suffering, never give up. Just remember 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 and be strengthened. As we move closer to Christmastide let us be motivated by the fact that just as God gave His only son Jesus Christ as the savior of the world He will in the same way come to our rescue. A perfect solution is in His hands.

+ Julius Manicaland

Date:  7 November 2011

 

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