Getting curiouser in Central Africa

Updated: Greg Jones’ casts a skeptical eye on Bishop Kuonga.

The province is in disarray after its latest synod, but it is hard to know whether this has more to do with differences over homosexuality, or simple personality conflicts, or a power grab by the Zimbabwean Church, which had enthusiastically backed the government of Robert Mugabe.

Last week, the Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwaba, was removed as dean of the province in part because he publicly opposed Archbishop Bernard Malango who has insisted that the Episcopal Church be disciplined for ordaining a gay bishop, and in part because he challenged Malango (who retired as Primate last week) over the archbishop’s protection of Bishop Norbert Kuonga of the diocese of Harare.

Copious background on Kuonga, an ardent supporter of Mugabe, can be found here. He once faced an ecclesiastical trial on charges that Stephen Bates of The Guardian summarized in the Church of England Newspaper as follows:

The list of 38 charges against the good bishop, who is a crony of Robert Mugabe, brought against him by his own black parishioners, include little matters such as incitement to murder, intimidation, ignoring church law, mishandling funds and proselytising for Zanu PF from the pulpit. He has also occupied a farm and evicted 40 families from a local village. A couple of months ago he even licensed the acting vice-president of Zimbabwe Joseph Msika, a man on record as saying that whites are not human beings, to act as a deacon of the church.”

Now comes news that Kuonga and several other bishops seem to have decided that ousting Mwaba was not enough, and that they are going to break away from the rest of the province anyway.

As Andrew Gerns noted in an earlier posting on The Lead:

There is a report that the The Church of the Province of Central Africa has voted to dissolve. The Province contains the nations of Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A report in the Harrare Herald, a paper controlled by the government of Zimbabwe, said that at the meeting of the Provincial Synod in Malawi, three of the five dioceses in Zimbabwe voted to disassociate from the other dioceses, with whom they disagreed in the current Anglican controversies over sexuality and the nature of the Anglican Communion.

The report names Harrare and Manicaland plus one other unnamed diocese as the three who have pulled out. According the paper, the constituting document of the province states that if one diocese breaks with the Province, the entire province is dissolved and must reorganize.

Earlier news reports said that there were fears that the Central Africa province would break into three national provinces of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, leaving Botswana, which does not qualify to be a province because it has only one diocese instead of the required four on its own.

These news reports cannot be taken at face value, and not simply because the Herald is a pro-Mugabe paper. Provinces do not have the authority to define their own terms of membership in the Anglican Communion. So this business of three national provinces is speculative, at least until the Anglican Consultative Council considers the matter, and it has yet to indicate that it will do so.

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