At the end of May, RelZim.org replublished the NYT article on the situation in the Anglican Church in this country. Several days later a blogger tmatt posted his reading of the article on Getreligion.org with lots of thought-provoking ideas.
Eventually, he concludes that “the Times team didn’t really seem very interested in what Kunonga believes, other than that he loathes homosexuality” and that homosexuality is a recurrent topic when Times writes about African Anglican prelates.
Commenting on this post, Rev. Michael Church says:
There are many matters that the Times article might have explored. For example, I would have been interested in the church polity angles. Under what circumstances was Kunonga deposed and excommunicated? And what does it mean that the “Anglican hierarchy” chose his successor in office? In an article which intends to focus on politics, looking at the mechanisms of church politics may tell us more about what is going on than an amateur attempt to summarize doctrinal positions.
Richard A. Menees shares his valuable personal memories of six years of service in the Banket Parish of the Harare Diocese. “The reputation of Zimbabwe Anglicanism as being high church although historically accurate enough ought not to preclude the truth that Evangelical and Charismatic (Pentecostal) activity is a generous part of the Anglican reality in Zimbabwe.” And he finishes by suggesting, “It would be helpful if somewhat more of the theology of Mr. Kunonga (he has been deposed and excommunicated by the way) were generally known. He was always long winded and didactic at clergy conferences while in Zimbabwe before he left for his PhD studies in America (he said for sociology). Trouble is he never really had anything to say. One Shona priest and PhD in Mission and New Testament from Zimbabwe who worked under Mr. Kunonga basically describes him as a theological zero. Someone might prepare a bibliography of his published theological works and sermons so we could know what he believes. It might be a short list.”
Look it up for more from these and a number of other interesting comments
The running saga in the Anglican Church, Diocese of Harare has drawn international attention as seen in its coverage by such internationally recognized newspapers as the New York Times. I share in the sentiments above that the NYT and other media houses tend to emphasize the political ideological leaning of Nolbert Kunonga as well as his hatred of same-sex relationships and practices to the detriment of other fundamental issues such as Kunonga’s beliefs, theological conceptions etc.
Having written previously on the rise of Kunonga and the beginnings of his fall, the problems in the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe have been in the making for a long time. While, Kunonga has been painted as a brute lately, owing to the indiscriminate use of police force for his cause, there were tale-tale signs of this, early on in his reign. I noted in that article (Missionalia 36/2008) that Kunonga engaged in a systematic victimization of Priests in the Diocese, targeting especially those who were holders of degrees. These systematic persecutions saw a number of priests migrate to Manicaland Diocese then under Sebastian Bakare.
These persecutions were hardly reported yet some of them ended up in the law courts in Zimbabwe. This triggered a response by the then Diocesan Chancellor, Bob Stumbles who then filed about 38 charges against Kunonga. This resulted in the convening of an ecclesiastical trial, which was later aborted under unclear circumstances. There is rumour that then Archbishop Malango had protected Kunonga by aborting the trial. The same trial was highly politicized through the state media, especially The Herald, which labelled the trial a racist trial, being held in a racist golf course, just opposite the National Sports Stadium. Stumbles was attacked for being a Rhodesian racist who was persecuting Kunonga, a true son of the soil. That happening at a time when ZANU PF was short of religious leaders created a highway for Kunonga into the corridors of power in Zimbabwe. To survive there, Kunonga has had to speak the language of ZANU PF, what he has failed is to bring numbers to ZANU PF, something that Madzibaba Nzira could do. However, for his lack of numbers, Kunonga has brought verbal tirades as his asset.
Homosexuality has never been the critical subject in the dispute, power has been! Homosexuality did not receive recognition at the Synod of 2007 as Kunonga deliberately misinformed Zimbabweans on thereasons for his “withdrawal from the Province.” Maybe, we need to focus more on the ecclesiastical trial, the retirement of Archbishop Malango, the possibility of the trial being re-opened after the retirement of Malango may have pushed Kunonga to pre-empt the trial be pulling out of the Province. Because, the subject is about power, it is not surprising that there is little theological reflection in the words of Kunonga, if the quote in the NYT, a threat on the life of Gandiya is correct.
Dr. M. R. Gunda is Lecturer of Old Testament Studies and Biblical Hebrew at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a practising Anglican. He can be contacted on [email protected].
I respect Gunda as an academic but for him to claim that homosexuality was not part of the Anglican Diocese of Harare synod of 2007 when he was not part of the delegates is shameful. Please get your facts right before you “lie” It IS CLEAR FROM YOUR line of thought that you hate the person of Kunonga for his political convictions.
There are many degreed priests working with Kunonga, some of whom are studying towards their Doctorates, how do you respond to this?
I want to agree with Munetsi that I was not part of the Synod of 2007, yet it is factual that the Synod’s statement on homosexuality was a re-affirmation of the 1969 resolution which clearly condemned homosexuality in the Anglican communion. With that resolution, how did Kunonga arrive at the position which he issued which suggested the Synod had changed the position of CPCA on homosexuality. I stand to be corrected by Munetsi and others, if this is not what transpired in 2007. On priests working towards their PhDs, I do not think I have any doubts about that as I am actually working with one of them as a potential supervisor. I have nothing against Bishop Kunonga personally, and I actually agree with him on some of his views about relations between and among the races, but that does not mean I cannot criticize him. I think Munetsi must also do some research before attacking my person. You can also read a published article which I wrote in 2005/6 but was published in 2008 Missionalia journal on some of the things the Bishop did which led to this unfortunate development. If you belong to the Church Province of Zimbabwe, that is fine and I am not ashamed to admit that I have remained in the CPCA.
“The intended visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury to Zimbabwe” – Putting the Anglican Diocese of Harare Saga into perspective.
The media in and outside of Zimbabwe has been reporting about the intended visit by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury to Zimbabwe presumably to deal with the “Kunonga mess.” However, the official website of the said Archbishop says he is coming for a pastoral visit to show solidarity with Anglicans being “persecuted in Zimbabwe.”
Whatever the reason of the intended visit may be, it is important that we clear certain misconceptions or perceptions that have been built around the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and also events in the Diocese of Harare since August 4 2007.
It is critical to note that since King Henry V111 broke with Rome (the Roman Catholic Church) the Archbishops of Canterbury have been selected by the English (British, since the Act of Union in 1707) Monarch. Today the choice is made in the name of the Monarch by the British Prime Minister from a shortlist of two candidates selected by an ad-hoc committee called the Crown Nominations Commission. The Prime Minister then commends the names to the Queen and thereafter makes a public appointment.
The Church of England is therefore a state church. It is headed by the Monarch of England since King Henry’s Act of Supremacy in1534. It is therefore critical to note that neither the Monarch of England nor their appointee (Archbishop of Canterbury) has legal jurisdiction over the Anglican Communion outside of England. Authority in the Anglican Church is not centralized; the Archbishop of Canterbury is recognized by convention as “primus inter pares” (first among equals). He leads through persuasion and example. His predecessor George Carey managed to hold the Anglican Communion together through persuasion and example. He managed well the homosexuality row because he took an unequivocal stance from the onset.
In the context of the Diocese of Harare Saga, and other Anglican Provinces and Diocese in the same predicament, Rowan Williams has sown seeds of chaos, confusion and division by trying to show his academic prowess on matters of faith and conscience. His “academic views” and consequently convictions have divided the Anglican Communion into two groups; liberals and conservatives (orthodox). Rowan Williams’ leadership has painfully torn apart the Anglican Communion for example most African and American bishops (about 200) boycotted the 2003 Lambeth conference in protest of the presence of pro gay bishops including some of those involved in the consecration of Gene Robinson.
Our brothers and sisters chose to follow Rowan Williams because they agree with his teachings, they cannot work for the development of their churches and country and therefore are after donations and hand outs from England. They do not believe that Africans can effectively and efficiently lead themselves in religious, political, social and economic spheres. They have made a choice to follow what God abhors.
It is a pity that most of our local people shun the truth and allow themselves to be used by people with ulterior motives. “The Kunonga must go campaign” started soon after his enthronement speech delivered in the Cathedral of Saint Mary and All Saints, Harare on the 5th of May 2001 because of the pan African views expressed in the charge. The British Crown viewed Dr. Kunonga’s support of the land reform, his refusal to embrace and propagate the regime change agenda as a direct challenge to his “employer.” They then started campaigning for his demise.
Zimbabweans have to bear in mind that the Bishopric of Harare is very strategic. This is why on the 7th of March 2007, Rowan Williams summoned Bishop Kunonga to a meeting in Sandton, South Africa and challenged him to protect his flock who were being “forced” out of their land by the Zimbabwean government. The Bishop was further challenged to denounce, the government of Zimbabwe and President R. G. Mugabe. Bishop Kunonga was accused of supporting President Mugabe. In essence, he was seen as a stumbling block to the British Imperialist agenda. This explains why he is the only clergyman on the illegal European sanctions list.
The Context of the Diocese of Harare saga
The Homosexuality debate has been raging on in the Anglican Church since 1988. The Anglican Church’s crisis erupted in 2003 following the consecration of Gene Robinson; the church’s first openly gay bishop, the subsequent ordination of gay priests and the blessing of same sex unions.
In response to these activities, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams wrote a letter to Anglican churches worldwide condemning comments by bishops outside the western world. He criticized them for “inciting violence against gay men and women.” Following heated debates over the issue of homosexuality and the absence of an unambiguous theological will from Canterbury divisions began to manifest between the conservative and liberal bishops and or provinces.Many orthodox African bishops firmly resisted the lobby to accept homosexuality arguing that “homosexuality could only be adopted by the church if it wanted to commit evangelical suicide.”
However, the “homosexuality lobby group” did not tire. They started campaigning in African Provinces and dioceses led by the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) and USPG. These organizations took the advantage of poverty and lack of resources in African churches to impose their new doctrine and culture. The US dollar and British pounds were used to subvert the “African orthodox bishops” including the Church of the Province of Central Africa’s Episcopal bench.
Thousands of dollars were and are still being given to these “poor” African dioceses in the name of “Relief Funds” when in actual fact they are homosexual perks. Most of the bishops have accepted this “bribe” because of poverty and or greed. It is in light of these sad developments that the Diocese of Harare had to take an official stand on this doctrinal challenge.
1) The Diocese of Harare Synod of August 4 2007
The 61st synod of the Diocese of Harare had a pastoral motion on the issue of homosexuality. After a lengthy debate the synod unanimously drafted and adapted an Act barring all church members from consorting with homosexuals. The Act reads: “… with effect from the 4th of August 2007, the Diocese of Harare disassociates itself and severs relationship with any individual, group of people, organization, institution, diocese, Province or otherwise, which indulges, sympathizes or compromises with homosexuality.” The Diocese of Harare delegates to the Provincial Synod which was to take place in Boadzula Malawi from the 7th to the 10th of September 2007 were instructed to engage in the debates of the Provincial Synod with the Diocesan Act as their point of departure.
2) The Provincial Synod of the Church of the Province of Central (C.P.C.A.) 7th – 10th September 2007
The C.P.C.A. is made up of dioceses from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana. The issue of homosexuality dominated the debates. It is critical to not that the ECUSA and USPG sent representatives to tone down the anti homosexual debate and lobby for a liberal African Province. USPG was represented by Rev. Chad Gandiya and Bishop Michael Doe while ECUSA sent Rev. Seruwada. The men of the cloth were “dishing out” money to Bishops without any Project proposal submitted. They promised to establish partnerships in “humanitarian and relief” programmes and gave solidarity messages from their respective organizations. The US dollar indeed did wonders in subverting the African Orthodox Bishops of C.P.C.A. Most of the Bishops with the exception of Bishop Kunonga of Harare and Bishop Elson Jakazi of Manicaland refused the “dirty money” and the so called “partnership.” On the Provincial Synod agenda was the issue of dissolution of the Province because of the emerging liberal voices in the C.P.C.A. Episcopal bench. The motion was moved by Bishop Jakazi and seconded by Venerable Rinashe the then Vicar General of Harare.
The homosexual lobby tried to stifle debate but Harare delegates made it clear that the pro-homosexual views that were descending would surely jeopardize Harare’s sacramental fellowship with C.P.C.A. The failure by the Episcopal bench to censure bishops such as Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, the late Sitshebo of Matabeleland and the reluctance to resolve the Lake Malawi impasse (where an openly gay London based priest Nickie Henderson had been chosen bishop elect) proved that the cancer had spread in the province. The C.P.C.A. Episcopal bench openly told Harare and Manicaland to withdraw if they wished.
3) The Formal withdrawal of the Diocese of Harare from C.P.C.A. 21 September 2007
After the return from the Provincial Synod, the Bishop of Harare and the delegates engaged the Standing Committee (Synod in action) and the Board of Trustees and a consensus to withdraw from the Province was reached. The Standing committee was tasked to draft a letter of withdrawal and send it to the then Archbishop Bernard Malango.
The letter expressed discontentment over the way the issue of homosexuality was handled at the Synod. The involvement of ECUSA represented by Rev. Seruwada, USPG represented by Michael Doe and Rev. Chad Gandiya and their attempt to implore the Synod to drop the issue of homosexuality from the agenda did not go well with the Diocese of Harare and Diocese of Manicaland delegates. Furthermore, the proposal by ECUSA to establish partnerships within the Province was an area of concern especially considering that other African and Asian Provinces had declared an impaired communion with ECUSA because of its pro homosexual stance.
The withdrawal letter in part read, “The above refers, from the Bishop of Harare, Diocesan Synod, Standing Committee, Diocesan Trustees and the whole body of the Church in the Diocese ….
“Consistent therefore with our 61st Session Diocesan Synod on the 4th of August 2007, in accordance with the Scriptures and the will of God, we were mandated by our Synod to dissociate and sever ties with any individual, group of people, organization, institution, diocese of province which sympathizes or compromises with homosexuality.
“We the Diocese of Harare would like to put it on record that with effect from the 4th of August and as confirmed by the Provincial Synod, we are withdrawing from the C.P.C.A.”
4) Special Synod of October 20, 2007
Following the Official withdrawal letter, the Bishop of Harare called for a special synod for a brief of the situation and to seek the way forward. The pro homosexuality lobby group made a law suit 48 hours before the synod at the High Court seeking to stop the Synod. The application was dismissed. The Special Synod was done and delegates endorsed the withdrawal. However the pro homosexuality lobby group in Harare in cahoots with Chama started the plot and campaign to oust the Bishop of Harare with sheer determination.
5) The Expulsion of Kunonga
In response to the withdrawal letter, the then Dean of the Province, A. Chama, said, “… it is constitutionally and canonically impossible to withdraw the Diocese of Harare from the C.P.C.A. … Any act that purports to withdraw a diocese is unconstitutional and uncanonical … Consequently, the heading of your letter stating the “formal withdrawal” of the Diocese of Harare from C.P.C.A. is unacceptable and misleading. We however, as Dean of C.P.C.A. accept and acknowledge that you and some of your supporters have by notice of your letter severed relationship with the C.P.C.A. Therefore I declare the See of Harare vacant … and direct that all properties and assets belonging to C.P.C.A. be surrendered immediately …”
However (Bishop Kunonga) I continued exercising my (his) Episcopal duties arguing that Chama should have fired the whole Diocese and not one person because no one withdrew in his or her own capacity. It was a collective decision by the Diocese which emanated from an Act passed on the 4th of August 2007. This marked the beginning of a protracted struggle between C.P.C.A. and the Diocese of Harare. The C.P.C.A. lawyers wrote a letter urging the Bishop of Harare to relinquish control of diocesan assets by October 23, 2007 or face a civil lawsuit.
6) Subsequent Divisions
The C.P.C.A. immediately appointed Retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare to take over the Bishopric of Harare despite that there was no vacancy to the See of Harare besides Chama’s “nightmare” declarations.
Parishioners started aligning themselves between the Diocese of Harare led by Bishop Kunonga and Bakare the imposter. This confusion brought about by Chama and his accomplices brought shame and darkness to the Church. There now appears to be a property wrangle when in actual fact the dispute is doctrinal.
In an unprecedented move, in the month end of October 2007, the C.P.C.A. led by Phillip Mutasa made an urgent chamber application to the High Court of Zimbabwe seeking to bar Bishop Kunonga from using church property and operating church bank accounts. However the matter was dismissed for lack of merit. Henceforth, the courts of Zimbabwe were flooded with cases. In most cases the C.P.C.A. being the applicants.
On January 2, 2008, Justice R. Makarau granted the famous “Makarau Judgement” which directed sharing of time in the use of church buildings between the Diocese of Harare and C.P.C.A.
The Diocese of Harare immediately appealed against “time sharing” arguing that the legitimate Bishop, Dr. Kunonga, could not share his throne with an imposter (Bakare). The appeal was noted and this suspended the Judgment. Thereafter, many applications and counter applications were made. However, at law the status quo remained. Dr. Kunonga remained the Bishop of Harare in the absence of a judgment saying otherwise.
Land Mark rulings:
1. The Hlastwayo judgement of July 24, 2009 which declared Bishop Kunonga and his Board of Trustees as the legitimate custodians of Harare Diocese properties.
– Declared Bishop Kunonga as the legitimate Bishop of Harare
– Interdicted Chad Gandiya’s consecration as Bishop of Harare
2. The Malaba Judgement of May 3, 2010 which dismissed an appeal by the C. P.C.A. against the Hlatswayo Judgement.
3. The Chidyausiku Judgement of August 4 2011 which confirmed and made operational the Hlatshwayo Judgement.
8) Implications of the Judgement
The courts declared Bishop Kunonga as legitimate bishop of Harare, and custodian of all church assets owned by the Diocese was given to him and his Board Trustees. Various individuals, be it Priests, employees (in churches and mission schools) who had involved themselves in the wrangle and in the process took sides with the C.P.C.A. were warned to recognize and acknowledge the legitimate Bishop of Harare.
However, because of hatred and other reason best known to them they refused. The Diocese of Harare Board of Trustees had no choice but to give them notices to vacate church premises, of which they refused. The Board then enlisted the services of the Deputy Sheriff who is part of the Judiciary System to execute the court orders
It is cheap propaganda that Kunonga evicted orphans. Orphans are not church employees. It is only employees who refused to recognize the authority of their legitimate employer who were evicted. They made their own choices to disregard the law; accordingly they met the wrath of the law. It is solely the Deputy Sheriff and not the so called “Kunonga thugs” or the Zimbabwe Republic Police who carried out and continues to carry out evictions.
It is a pity that some Zimbabweans are acting out of ignorance, they are being used by fellow countrymen and outsiders to “fight a war” they do not understand. A bishop, an Anglican bishop in particular, cannot simply be dismissed or ex-communicated as some sections of the media are saying. This is cheap propaganda which only makes sense to lay people who do not understand how the Anglican Church operates. Bishop Kunonga has no choice but to restore order in the Church – it is always one Diocese, one Bishop, one Throne. The current situation in Harare was ignited by over ambitious people who wanted to dethrone the Bishop through dubious means. They have misled many souls who continue to persecute themselves day and night in the name of “Kunonga persecution:” We therefore call them to repentance.
The Official Website of the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Official Website of the Anglican Communion