The arrival of 2012 is witness to another sad institutional situation in world Anglicanism that deserves our attention and our on-going prayers. Sadly, Anglicans in Zimbabwe are caught up in a situation which is resulting in bitter dispute and continuing legal wrangling.
A breakaway Anglican group led by a bishop loyal to the Mugabe regime is tearing the church apart. Bishop Norbert Kunonga, excommunicated by the main Anglican Province of Central Africa in 2007, is waging a campaign of terror against the established Anglican church that threatens to become more devastating in 2012.
Most recently, Kunonga’s interference resulted in police stopping a retreat of 80 clergy over claims that their prayer gathering was not given police clearance under Zimbabwe’s sweeping security laws. The mainstream Diocese of Harare said that police ordered them to disperse this past Monday from the Peterhouse private school, but they refused. They denied any wrong doing. “We deplore this action and call upon higher authorities to intervene. So much for freedom of religion,” the head of the ‘mainstream Anglicans’, Bishop Chad Gandiya stated after the incident.
Bishop Gandiya added that the police action marked the beginning of “another year of persecution at the hands of a hostile police force” and was a clear indication of the allegiance of police to dissident Bishop Kunonga.
The excommunicated Kunonga claims to lead Zimbabwe’s Anglicans and refuses to hand back the Harare cathedral, offices, buildings, church bank accounts and vehicles he seized with the protection of police loyal to the Mugabe regime. In the meantime, hundreds if not thousands of mainstream Anglicans are left without places of worship and experience on-going intimidation and threats of violence.
Thankfully the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is doing his best to clarify the situation to the Mugabe government. Visiting Zimbabwe in October, he met with Mugabe and handed over a report detailing incidents of intimidation and violence that included death threats to Anglican bishops and police raids on churches and mission schools to drive out worshippers, clergy and staff loyal to Bishop Gandiya.
Mugabe informed Archbishop Rowan that he was unfamiliar with the scale of intimidation the mainstream Anglicans in Zimbabwe were facing, but the trouble continues. Kunonga even won a Supreme Court ruling allowing him to retain control of Anglican properties until an appeal by the the mainstream Anglican church is resolved. That ruling was made by a Chief Justice who like Kunonga and is an open supporter of the Mugabe regime.
Kunonga’s excuse for breaking away from mainstream Anglicanism? There’s no surprise here. It’s the familiar power ploy of standing ‘biblically’ against the discussion and action of the Church around rights for same sex partners and the roles of GLBT people in the world wide Anglican community. We’ve heard that one before. Inevitably and almost always beneath it is is play at power and politics. We can be thankful that such divisions in our own midst have not taken the unfortunate direction that is leading to widespread persecution of Anglicans in Zimbabwe.
We need to pray for our sister and brother Anglicans in Zimbabwe – and in places like Nigeria where larger anti-Christian forces are also becoming more vocal and active. Anglicans in Canada and in our diocese need to reach out – at least in prayer – and in other was to which God may call us, to those who seek to peacefully and effectively live out the Gospel of Christ.
As we begin 2012 let us stand with our sisters and brothers everywhere who suffer for the sake of the Gospel and their commitment to Jesus Christ.
-News Source: The Huffington Post, January 3 2012
Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blog master at New Westminster Anglican Blog. Your comments and contributions are always welcome.