On Zimbabwe and Malawi

Ekklesia has a round-up of episcopal comment on Zimbabwe under the title Churches maintain pressure on Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

And George Conger has more information on the appointment of Rev. Brighton Malasa as Bishop of Upper Shire, Malawi here.

Concerned Anglican left a comment on a previous post suggesting that the underlying issue was "black/white racial". There is clearly some truth in this but it is not the whole truth. I guess the underlying issue is power, not least because bishops are powerful people in the church.

So, before the question of the right individual is addressed, there are some a priori presumptions that white people should not have power in African church (whether because of the colonial legacy, or because they cannot understand issues they way a local person would, or anxieties over their reception in the local and central governments of the countries concerned, or because they bring with them cultural assumptions which are not indigenous, or because they are tainted with Western social attitudes).

But it's not straightforward:

Former provincial secretary Fr. Eston Pembamoyo told The Church of England
Newspaper the “house was divided between those who said no to the mzungu [white
man] and those who said no to the black man.” Under Central African canon law
the diocese’s twelve electors and the Province’s nine electors must elect a
candidate by a two-thirds majority.

“Those who said no to the black man said so because they thought he was being imposed on the people because he is from another diocese, and those who said no to the mzungu said so because they thought it was not time now to look to the West for the Gospel,” he told CEN.

It is also about power within the electorate: how do powerful bishops retain their wider power but by ensuring they can dominate other bishops? A white man may not bend with the wind, but nor may a black candidate.

And in the case of Malawi it is also a case of the need (seen from the episcopal perspective) to reassert collective episcopal power over against the uppity laity and clergy who have even been prepared to use the courts against the bishops. Now, where would episcopal power be if clergy and laity didn't properly defer to it? Such independence could be infectious and must be stopped - or, from another perspective, celebrated.

The choice of the 'right' person has so many considerations, almost all of them political. Let us pray that Rev. Brighton Malasa is a good man, an intelligent man, and his own man.

Though George Congar's last sentence may reveal otherwise:
A former chaplain to Archbishop Malango, Bishop-elect Malasa has served as
vicar-general of the diocese since the archbishop’s retirement.


1 comment:

  1. This looks like a good analysis of a complicated situation.