Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) awarded honorary degrees to three distinguished individuals at the Episcopal Church-affiliated seminary's 115th commencement and Eucharist May 22.
Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe Bishop Sebastian Bakare received the degree of Doctor of Divinity and Ruth Bakare, his wife, received the Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Nigel Renton, for his ministries among the CDSP community and the larger Episcopal Church, also received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
The Bakares joined the CDSP and the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) communities in the early 1980s. From 1999 through 2006, the Bakares served in the Diocese of Manicaland in Zimbabwe. Ruth Bakare served as president of the Mothers' Union while Sebastian was the diocesan bishop. Together they worked for advances in health, education and ecumenism and for the eradication of hunger, AIDS and political oppression. They have continued their work and service to the church in the Diocese of Harare. The politics of church and state set the Bakares against police forces aligned with President Mugabe and Bakare's predecessor.
A more extensive article Zimbabwe diocese breaks chains of dictatorship is here.
The chains, now broken, once locked the doors to the Harare cathedral preventing Anglicans from worshipping in their church. Bakare led worship in the cathedral on Easter Sunday for the first time since coming to the diocese in December 2007. It was, he told Episcopal News Service, "our resurrection Sunday." ....
"People were fed up with his methods," Bakare said of Kunonga. "He was a dictator. He didn't give lay people a chance to express themselves."
"It's untraditional to argue with a bishop and so you say, 'yes, my lord,' but underneath it's 'no, my lord'," the bishop said, explaining that his culture's inclination to respect people in certain positions "makes it possible even for dictators to thrive when they exploit that kind of traditional understanding of authority and power."
Ruth Bakare, who sees her call as working with the women of the diocese, said that "they were ready to take charge, but they weren't used to it" because they had "quite a bit of experience of dictatorship as well from the previous bishop's wife" who ran the Mothers' Union in Zimbabwe. .....
Bishop Bakare said women have been arrested more often than men in the disputes with the riot police. He recalled seeing women pointing their fingers in the faces of the armed riot police or actually taking the officers' guns away from them. Bakare also knows of a woman who returned to church three weeks after she was chased from her church and beaten so severely by police that she lost the child she was carrying.
"To me that was too much to expect," the bishop said.
"It helped my faith, these women. They really deepened my faith; they gave me courage," he said. "If they can do that, why shouldn't I?
Women have been a source of inspiration in what I have been going through." ....
The Bakares said that the diocese has grown remarkably as Anglicans have returned to their parishes, but that numerical growth is not as important as the depth of spiritual growth that the members have achieved.
The struggles have suggested to the bishop that "maybe the church needs to be persecuted in order to understand what it means to be Christian, to know what the cross means."