Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe and Anglican Bishop are Birds of an Evil Feather

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Mon Jan 5 21:00:12 EST 2009


Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe and Anglican Bishop are Birds of an Evil Feather
Anglican Province of Zimbabwe is a Fiction

News Analysis

By Mary Ann  Mueller
VirtueOnline Special Correspondent 
12/30/2008


Zimbabweans are engaged in a civil war. Two civil wars actually. One --  political -- is being wheedled by President Robert Mugabe. The other – religious – is being jointly ram-rodded  through by the president’s religious henchman, former Anglican Bp. Nolbert Kunonga. 

These two infamous leaders are so closely united that it is almost impossible to discern any difference between them as they work in concert.  They are two sides of the same evil coin.

This situation first came to VOL’s attention when an innocuous news article bubbled up on the Internet stating that “33 bishops and deacons were ordained by ‘Archbishop’ Kunonga of the ‘Anglican Province of Zimbabwe’”.

Anglican Province of Zimbabwe?  Is there such a thing? Not according to the official list of Anglicanism’s 38 provinces. Officially, Zimbabwe is a part of the Anglican Province of Central Africa. 

According to the circulating news report the new Anglican Province of Zimbabwe was being raised up “following disagreements over homosexuality.”

Sounds familiar. With the new North American Anglican Province being raised up in the United States, in part over the same issue, it seems only reasonable that a similar set of circumstances could have developed in Africa. 

 Is there a new Anglican province being birthed and flying under the radar screen in Africa that no one is aware of because the Anglican world is so focused on what is going on in the United States and Canada? 

VOL sought answers from Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. The Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory K. Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council in London; The Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad with the Media Project of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life based in Mobile, Norway; and an orthodox hermit bishop in South Africa.

VOL found that a thin veneer of respectability covers a cesspool of corruption, deceit, fraud, theft, violence, atrocities, abuse, coercion, and mayhem stretching between Kunonga and his bloody bosom buddy Mugabe. 

Self-styled “archbishop” Kunonga is using past and recent ordinations of his deacons, priests and new bishops as a cover to “legitimize” his blood thirsty organization of ruffians, thugs, and bullies, including members of Mugabe’s Secret Police, who are unleashing a reign of terror over the people of Zimbabwe with the enthusiastic blessings of both Kunonga and Mugabe. 

Kunonga’s background is shrouded in mystery. He was born on New Years Eve, 1950, in Southern Rhodesia and educated at Cambridge and the Northwestern University, where he earned a Ph.D.  He is married. He once forced Harare Anglicans to attend a lavish 33rd anniversary bash for him and his wife. He has closed down churches and forbidden even the recitation of Matins or Evensong in lieu of Mass when his parishioners  wanted spiritual sustenance that Sunday.  On that day, the bishop “requested” that each church congregation contribute to his personal coffers Z$500,000 and that each congregant  kick in another Z$5,000. This is in a land where the average income in 2003 was less than Z$10,000 or $400 US dollars. Now the economy is in a freefall with incalculable inflation which changes by the hour. 

Honest media reports from Zimbabwe, state that Kunonga’s newly ordained clergy are not qualified to be deacons, priests or bishops because they lack the proper theological training. They merely serve as the muscle behind Kunonga’s grab for land and unbridled political power. 

In May, The Right Rev. Albert Chama, dean of the Church of the Province of Central Africa excommunicated Kunonga and his clergy and leaders from the Anglican Communion for their unorthodox ways. The Province of Central Africa is one of 38 Anglican Communion provinces and is made up of 15 dioceses, including the Anglican Diocese of Harare. 

As a result of Bishop Chama’s official excommunication of Kunonga, which stripped him of the ability to function as an Anglican cleric,  the disgraced bishop and his cohorts’ ordinations were deemed irregular and not in accordance with the standards of the wider Anglican Communion. 

Anglican Canon Law calls  for professional ethics in public ministry, including but not limited to the  fact that clergy should (a) recognize, affirm and protect the uniqueness and dignity of those to whom they minister, irrespective of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, ability, economic status, lifestyle, culture, religious or political beliefs, or any other personal factor; and (b)  respect the autonomy of those to whom they minister including heir freedom to act contrary to their beliefs, practice and opinions of the minister. 

Also, clergy must ensure that no action or omission on their part or within their sphere of responsibility is detrimental to the well-being of another, and must not use their positions to further their own private interests and benefit. Clergy must also give accurate and truthful information at all times, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. They must not knowingly mislead church authority, any member of the faithful or any member of the public.

If a bishop wants to be a practicing Bishop in the Anglican Church, he must obey Anglican Canon Law, as well as publicly acknowledging his belief in and loyalty to the lawful doctrines of the church.  Kunonga has failed to follow Canon Law with his strong-armed tactics. 

“Greater Excommunication is the strongest action possible, and declares that the excommunicated one is under pain of damnation,” explained The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, assisting bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ft. Worth and a canon lawyer.  “Nonetheless, the person is still ordained, and capable of functioning, albeit illegally.”

The Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory K. Cameron, the Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council in London told VOL, “Bishop Kunonga remains a bishop and can therefore confer Holy Orders.” 

“Although Kunonga’s sacadotal ordination is eternal, the Sacraments he celebrates under excommunication are only irregular, as I understand it,” said Cameron. “I’m not an expert on excommunication. Anglican Canon Law is less precise on the matter than Roman Catholic Law.” 

“As to other sacramental acts done under Greater Excommunication, such acts are a mortal sin for those committing them, but not invalid,” Wantland added. “While I might or might not recognize the Zimbabwe consecrations, I am forbidden, as an Anglican Bishop, from recognizing these clerics as Anglicans.” 

The state run newspaper, “The Harare Herald”, is sympathetic to both Mugabe and Kunonga. However, some non-government controlled journalists write, underground from Zimbabwe without a byline or use assumed names, for fear of violent retaliation, in an attempt to get the truth about the terror to the wider world. 

History

Kunonga was elevated to Bishop of Harare in 2001 amid cries of foul. It was alleged at the time that Kunonga used his influence with Mugabe in a racially charged campaign where the diocese’s white Vicar General Canon Tim Neill had the inside track.  The Oxford-trained Canon Neill fell out of favor with Mugabe because he advocated civil rights and denounced the government for human rights abuses.

At the time of the 2001 Secret Police-manipulated episcopal election, Dr. Kunonga was a professor of Liberation Theology at the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, NY.  This so called “interreligious peace-building” seminar was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and teaches a Gnostic mix of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other world religions. 

Following  Kunonga’s enthronement as the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Harare, his list of “sins” started to grow. He has been accused of a laundry list of crimes and behavior unbecoming a bishop  including deliberately falsifying the minutes of a meeting of the diocesan board of trustees; attempting to dismiss the diocesan chancellor and other diocesan officers, refusing to recognize their authorities and positions; instituting civil proceedings against the cathedral’s wardens and chancellors; arranging for the Secret Police to question cathedral wardens and church members about the “plot to assassinate the bishop”; repeatedly disobeying direct orders by the Archbishop of the Province of Central Africa; forcing the resignation of priests who opposed him and running all the white Anglo priests out of the Diocese of Harare; violating canon laws; refusing to perform legitimate episcopal Sacraments for those he disliked; using secular harassment and strong-armed tactics and threatening violence or even death to get his way.

Homosexuality

In 2007, Kunonga declared himself the “Archbishop of the Province of Harare” railing against rampant homosexuality in the African Anglican church.

A September 2007 Christian Today story states, “The Zimbabwe church body will ‘dissociate and sever relationship with any individual, group of people, organization, institution, diocese , province or people who indulge in or sympathize or compromises with  homosexuality.’” 

Kunonga is quoted as saying, “We have taken a position as a diocese and the position has been necessitated by the issue of homosexuality.  We totally reject homosexuality; it is an abomination, it is totally against the law of God, and it diminishes the dignity of the human being.” 

Zimbabweans narrowly define homosexuality and consider the simple acts of holding hands, exchanging hugs or kissing to be sexual acts. If they are done between two persons of the same gender, the acts are considered to be criminal offenses. 

Putting things in perspective, Wantland told VOL, “The Province of Central Africa was not soft on homosexuality. This is, as far as I can determine, a ruse to secede.” 

Canon Cameron also noted that to his knowledge there are no Anglican Provinces that would recognize Kunonga’s self-elevation to “archbishop” and the creation of the “Anglican Province of Zimbabwe”.

Since Kunonga’s year-old schism with the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Province of Central Africa, the renegade bishop has steadfastly refused to relinquish use of St. Mary’s Cathedral to The Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare, Kunonga’s replacement as the authentic Anglican Bishop of Harare, even though there is a civil court injection against Kunonga. 
 
Bishop Bakare, the retired bishop of Manicaland and his terrified prople are forced to celebrate the Sacraments at his cathedral under a bush arbor. The legitimate bishop set up shop at Avondale Parish, another Anglican church in the city, but Kunonga and his “priests” took over that church by force, beating and terrorizing the church staff. Bakare relocated again, this time in a non-church setting in Milton Park, to protect his Anglican parishioners from Kunonga’s terrorism.

Brutality

Kunonga has been known to unleash the Secret Police who barnstorm Anglican Masses whipping and beat communicants into submission. Bones are broken and people are hospitalized as a result of the brutality they face as they live out their Anglican faith. 

The New York Times reported in May, “The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday (May 11) when the riot police stormed the stately St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare … Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors … Over the past three Sundays, the police have interrogated Anglican priests and lay leaders, arrested and beaten parishioners and locked thousands of worshippers out of dozens of churches … the ruling party appears to have decided that only Anglicans who follow Nolbert Kunonga—renegade bishop of Harare who is a staunch ally of President Robert Mugabe – are allowed to hold services.” 

The turmoil has not gone unseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad for the Media Project for the Oxford Cetnre for Religion and Public Life told VOL that Dr. Williams met with Kunonga seeking his resignation.

“The conflict in Zimbabwe is not about homosexuality,” Dr.  Fjeldstad reiterated in an e-mail from Norway to VOL. “Back in 2006, Archbishop Rowan Williams called on Bishop Kunonga to step down. “The bishop is known as a staunch supporter of Mugabe, so more than anything the issues here – to the best of my knowledge – are about politics and power.” 

Dr. Williams and the Primate of Central Africa, Archbsihop Bernard Malango met with Kunonga.  The two Anglican archbishops issued a diplomatic joint statement about the meeting.  

“We are grateful for the chance to meet face to face and discuss the role of the church in Zimbabwe and the wider region in working towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals,” the statement reads. “We shared our deep concern with the Bishop of Harare about the situation in Zimbabwe … We encourage the development of an independent voice for the church in response to these challenges. All ministers of the Gospel must be free to serve and to speak for the needs of those most deprived and disadvantaged …” 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been ignored, as have the rest of the Anglican Communion and the greater worldwide community.

In response to VOL’s inquiry of Kunonga’s status within the Anglican Communion, Williams, through his Press Secretary Marie Papworth, said that the Archbishop does not recognize the ordinations that took place in Harare at Kunonga’s hand because “Nolbert Kunonga is no longer a Bishop in the Anglican Communion.”

To emphasize that fact, Kunonga was not invited to attend last summer’s Lambeth Conference. Nor did he attempt to hang around the fringe edges as did another uninvited Episcopal bishop – Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Twice now, the  Zimbabwean  Anglican Church  has tried to levy formal charges in court against Kunonga.  The first time Kunonga was charged in a special ecclesiastic court with incitement to murder, threatening other bishops and church officials, and misappropriating fund along with other indictments.  However, the church had to drop the charges because witnesses were too terrified to testify. In additon, the judge, a Malawian,  stepped down citing unfamiliarity with Zimbabwe’s court procedures. 

The second time the church brought the renegade bishop before the Zimbabwe High Court, the court ruled in favor of the church declaring that Kunonga could not interfere with church services being conducted by Bishop Bakare at St. Mary’s Cathedral and All Saints Church, both in Harare. 

Zimbabwe High Court papers indicate that Kunonga did indeed disrupt services at the cathedral in flagrant violation of the judge’s order.  The church has also complained to the court that the police failed to enforce the High Court’s order when they were called upon to stop  Kunonga’s interference with Bishop Bakare’s Masses.

While the international community is calling for the resignation of Mugabe, the world’s religious community is calling for the departure of Kunonga. 

The 15 bishops of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa have voiced their  solidarity with the beleaguered Zimbabwean Anglicans. The bishops are praying for their persecuted brethren. 

“As bishops, we are also pained to hear that the members of the Anglican Diocese of Harare are being denied the right to pray in their church buildings,” the bishops said in a joint Pastoral Message to the faithful. “We are concerned that their right to worship, enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe as well as Article 18 of the UN Charter on Human rights, is being violated.” 

Even US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made public comments about the terrible worship conditions in Zimbabwe. 

The Episcopal News Service quotes Ms. Jefferts Schori as saying the “continued brutal attacks on Anglicans seeking to worship in peace leave little doubt that far stronger international action is needed to contain that nation’s rapidly escalating political crisis.” 

Ms. Jefferts Schori continued stating that the freedom of worship “is among the most fundamental and immutable of human rights and the Mugabe government’s open attack on that right is the latest signal that the time for change has come.” 

Last summer, as presiding bishop, she dispatched the Bishop of Massachusetts, The Rt.  Rev. Thomas Shaw, to Zimbabwe as her personal envoy to survey and report back to her on the religious and political conditions.

Bishop Shaw, an experienced world traveller, was horrified by what he saw. Conditions were completely different from when he last visited the African county in 1995.

“I don’t think I have ever been any place where the oppression has been that overt,” the bishop told the Boston Globe upon his return. 

He said that he visited almost 50 Anglican priests, each of whom recounted personal stories of life-threatening terror, untold persecutions and vicious physical assaults. 

In addition to reporting his findings to the Presiding Bishop, the Boston bishop also reached out to the  
Massachusetts congressional delegation asking them to urge the United States to speak out on human rights violations in Zimbabwe. He also urged American Episcopalians to pray for their Zimbabwean counterparts. 

Even Kunkoga’s brother bishops in Africa are calling for his removal. As early as 2007, The Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba of the Anglican Diocese of Botswana told Ecumenical New International that Kunonga’s withdrawal  of his diocese from the Anglican Province of Central Africa was “…tantamount to schism. The next logical step is for the Bishop of Harare (Kunonga) to resign.” 

Meanwhile, before Christmas, The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, also called for Mugabe’s resignation.

“President Mugabe has demonstrated, again and again, that he will not share power,” the Archbishop explained. “He is no longer fit to rule.

“I appeal to the chair of the African Union  – President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania – to step in and declare publicly that Mugabe’s rule is now illegitimate and that he must step aside,” Archbishop Makgoba continued. He also stated that the African Union has to work quickly with the United Nations in order for a transitional government in Zimbabwe to take control. 

Finally, a hidden orthodox hermit bishop in South Africa explained his point of view on the terror campaign in Zimbabwe to VOL. “This new (Anglican) province is really created by a friend of and member of dictator Mugabe's government.  It (the province’s creation) has nothing to do with them being against homosexuality or true orthodox Christians,” the Orthodox bishop said by e-mail. “They (Kunonga and his cohorts) merely use  their new church to take even more farms, businesses and money from others - kill them,  etc.  In any other country, he (Kunonga) -- like Mugabe -- would have been imprisoned for his crimes, long ago!”


---Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline




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