Anglican-Information reports on another New Year in the troubled Central African Province which is still without a bishop even though the Bishops who originally blocked the election of the Rev. Nicholas Henderson in November, 2005, have either died, retired or have been ex-communicated.
In the Diocese of Lake Malawi the people have now been without their elected bishop for over three years due to the continued inability of the Provincial bishops to correct their spectacular faux pas at the subsequent Court of Confirmation. In November 2005 the ‘Court’ declared (without any evidence but under pressure from North American schismatic factions) that the bishop – elect was of ‘demonstrable unsound faith’.
Amongst those bishops who adamantly made the declaration, two are now excommunicated and waging a war of attrition against the Church in Zimbabwe, one has entered a discredited retirement abandoned by his American friends, and one is deceased. ‘Demonstrable unsound faith’ seems to be a relative concept.
Current provincial policy towards the Diocese of Lake Malawi has been to place the priests and people under an undeclared interdict, enacted as a policy of calculated neglect. The bishops have therefore conducted a programme of minimal episcopal duties, hoping to crush any opposition, sap any will and through sheer frustration create a complaisant laity. This policy does not have the wholehearted support of all the bishops some of whom (sensibly) think it is counter-productive and disingenuous.
A typical recent communication from a layperson reads:
‘Since the disgraceful rejection of our dear man of God, the Rev Fr Nick, the Diocese of Lake Malawi has been going through a tough time from the bishops. As of now there are reports saying that the diocese is under punishment for a period known only to the provincial bishops and they say that they will decide on when to have a bishop.’
Remarkably, the people of the diocese remain in good spirits and vigilant. Far from suppressing or dividing them the bishops have succeeded in producing a renewed determination to see justice done. This essentially means convening the previously agreed independent provincial court to examine the failings of the original Court of Confirmation. However, this would be the very last thing that some of the original bishops would want for the obvious reason that it might (from their point of view) embarrassingly go the wrong way.