Posted by: Titus Presler | December 16, 2012

Zimbabwean Anglican anguish finally coming to closure as dioceses celebrate reclamation of sanctuaries

Today, 16 December 2012, is a day of great celebration in the Diocese of Harare and, I hope, the Diocese of Manicaland in Zimbabwe, for the Christians of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa have, as a result of favorable Supreme Court rulings, finally regained possession of their places of worship from the renegade bishops who seized them several years ago in a long-running struggle that began five years ago. Today has been reclamation day, and there is news of rejoicing from a celebratory Eucharist in the Cathedral of St. Mary and All Saints in Harare, where I have worshiped and preached in the past.

We all hope that this begins to bring closure to what has been the most intense regional conflict in the Anglican Communion, conflict that has frequently involved legitimate congregations being beaten away from their sanctuaries by police and paramilitary personnel, scuffles between members of the competing groups, and the legitimate congregations having to worship outside or in other facilities.  Church members and leaders have often received credible threats on their lives, and some were severely injured.  For much of the conflict it appeared that  Robert Mugabe and his government were siding with the renegade bishops, Nolbert Kunonga and Elson Jakazi, and there have been many periods of discouragement, even despair.  The two dioceses took their struggles to the court system, where it was frequently unclear whether justice would be done, but ultimately the Supreme Court stood with the rule of law.

We congratulate Harare Bishop Chad Gandiya and Manicaland Bishop Julius Makoni for the courage, wisdom and perseverance they have demonstrated in the struggle and for their consistent care, despite many difficulties, for the many thousands of faithful Christians in their care.  We salute the many faithful church leaders, both lay and ordained, who stood with them.  People in those dioceses are grateful for the prayers of Anglicans around the world.  A lay leader in Manicaland recently told me that the visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to Zimbabwe, during which he appealed to President Mugabe to allow the rule of law to support the claim of the legitimate church, was helpful in turning what had hitherto been a hostile governmental tide against the dioceses of CPCA.  It was also helpful that the Primates of the Anglican Communion earlier issued a formal statement notifying the world who the legitimate bishops of the dioceses in question were – and which ones were not.

Readers used to associating intense Anglican conflict with the sexuality crisis may wonder whether that had any role.  It did, but a largely spurious role, that is to say invented or trumped up.  Back at the beginning Kunonga charged that he was taking the Diocese of Harare out of CPCA because the CPCA synod had not come out strongly enough against another bishop of the province who in meeting in London was reported to be more flexible on the sexuality issue than Kunonga thought proper.  However, this was widely and correctly seen as thin theological cover taken by a man whose desire for power was driving hm to adopt any means to achieve dominance.  In Manicaland in the east, where my wife Jane and I served much earlier as Episcopal missionaries, Jakazi adopted a similar stance, abruptly withdrawing the diocese on the grounds of the sexuality controversy, but for similar spurious reasons.  So in the wider Anglican fight-scape, the Zimbabwean struggle is an instance where the sexuality controversy was cited as a reason for struggle, but it was not an authentic factor.

Another element Kunonga exploited was the Zimbabwean Anglican desire for ecclesial autonomy in the Anglican Communion.  For years dioceses in the individual four nations that constitute CPCA – Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Malawi – have been uncomfortable in the province, which was formed in the 1950s alongside the pre-Independence federation of the the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, but no particular national grouping has yet achieved enough viability to apply to become an autonomous Anglican province.  Hoping to capitalize on such nationalist ecclesial sentiment, Kunonga struck out on his own, with Jakazi functioning as an acolyte in Manicaland, in hopes of then corralling enough sentiment in other dioceses to bring them along.  Such a stirring of secessionism did not occur, and instead there has been the drawn-out legal and physical battles involving the two dioceses concerned.

Those interested in further details of the struggle can simply click on the category “Zimbabwe” below for a number of reports posted at various stages of the conflict.

Meanwhile – Thanks be to God!

Tese tiri kupemberera pamusana penyasha yaMwari muupenyu hwechechi dzeHarare neManicaland.  Kutenda kunamaBishopi edu navatungamiriri vese ivo vakabatsirana kumirira vakakunda.  Aiwa, gamba gamba, iva gamba . . . utarise mhandu . . . iva segamba, utarse mhandu!     

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Responses

  1. Thanks Fr Titus. A true friend of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. Keep up the good work! Remember the direct victims of Kunonga who were forced to leave the country! Pray for them and their families too. God is great!


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