Parsing the Zimbabwe letter

The bishops of Central Africa released a letter last week on the crisis in Zimbabwe. It has widely been interpretted as supportive of President Robert Mugabe, in part because a key Zimbabwean bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, and the Central African primate, Bernard Malango, have been supportive of Mugabe in the past. But Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, who gave a much admired lecture recently in Liverpool, says the letter is being misinterpreted.

The Church Times has an overview, that includes quotes from Mwamba:

“As you can imagine, in Zimbabwe there are divisions within the Church itself, and so there was a need to wean certain hearts and minds to be able to put forward a statement all the bishops could subscribe to.

In that sense, yes, it does not appear as sharp as the pastoral letter from the Catholic bishops. It took a middle-of-the-road pastoral approach. Nevertheless, the sting is there in calling for drastic change, for the government to be called upon to create a conducive environment for that, and for the Church to stand forward and speak sharply in the context of its calling and prophetic ministry.” The Bishop described it as “the beginning of a long journey of bishops moving together — very gently, for need of carrying certain of our friends along.”

But a columnist in the Zimbabwean Independent isn’t buying it:

” Anglicans of Zimbabwe: hang your heads in shame.

The disgraceful performance of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa in dishonestly pretending that the country’s problems stem from sanctions and not Mugabe’s misrule will go down as one of the greatest betrayals of the struggle for democracy.”

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