March on Mwamba, who was out.
From Mmegi (Gabarone)
Last Friday afternoon, the Anglican Cathedral in Gaborone was turned into hostile territory as disgruntled faithful demanded the resignation of Bishop Trevor Mwamba.
The congregation's planned march from the South Ring Mall to the cathedral did not materialise as they failed to secure the required police escort.
However, the determined placard-waving group assembled in the church premises and chanted anti-Mwamba slogans. After about 20 minutes of song and dance, they handed a petition to churchwardens, Lorato Manthe and John Melamu because Mwamba was not available.
In the petition, the group talks about 'dirty dealings' with church finances. They say how the handling of money in the church is a closely guarded secret as the last audit report was done for the 2005 financial year.
They demanded answers for P8.8 million which the church failed to account for when the qualified audit report was held at the last diocesan Synod in 2006. The group alleges that the bishop has not shared information on the sale of a church residence for around P1 million and the subsequent purchase of another in excess of P3 million. "The sales of church property seems to be on the rise and we are concerned at the rationale and authority for these transactions which are suspect," the petition said.
The faithful accuse the bishop of failing to honour a court ruling that said he must re-instate the priests he suspended. They said Mwamba is deliberately frustrating the court order as he has denied one priest the right to preach at the Lobatse Parish and the police had to intervene.
They accused the bishop of looking down on local priests. They said Mwamba has allowed the recently appointed Dean and Vicar General, who is not a local to commence work though he does not have a work permit. The group said the bishop is violating the laws of the Diocese of Botswana. Under the Act of the Diocese, they say the Synod is supposed to meet at least once a year or after consultation with the Standing Committee but this has not happened.
The group has demanded that for the good of the Anglican Church in Botswana, Mwamba should immediately resign as bishop. They have expressed no confidence in him.
Sad though this situation is, the protestors seem to offer an excellent model of future church protest: "After about 20 minutes of song and dance, they handed a petition to churchwardens, Lorato Manthe and John Melamu because Mwamba was not available."
On the other hand, and this point is by no means confined to Botswana and may be especially pertinent to the C of E with its appointed bishops: how, and to what extent, is a bishop accountable to the people of the church?
A repeated refrain in discussion of episcopal authority is, 'the church is not a democracy'. This thought is seldom followed by a positive description of the character of the church. In England, I'd say, the church is a collection of principalities or, slightly more accurately, of constitutional monarchies - with all the weight on the latter. That is to say, the bishops owe nothing to church members though they, on the other hand, owe him fealty and deference.
So then, how should a bishop account to church members?