'A voice for the voiceless in the Anglican Central African Province'
A forced episcopal election for Lake Malawi? The new Bishop of Upper Shire, Malawi, the first twenty-one days
- and more on that ‘poisoning’.
Diocese of Lake Malawi
The four archdeacons of the Diocese of Lake Malawi were summoned today, Tuesday 30th June, to hear from the Vicar General The Rev’d Canon Michael Mkoko that the diocese is to have an election to replace the current bishop-elect. This election has been ordered by the Provincial bishops who under acting Dean Albert Chama of Northern Zambia now feel confident enough to risk forcing an election which they have declared is to take place at short notice (just within canonical requirements if the requisite notices go out) on the same day, Saturday 1st August, as the elections for Northern Malawi.
Resistance in the diocese is likely as the original election held in July 2005, which returned the Rev’d Dr Nicholas Henderson of London, England, near unanimously is still considered by a majority in the diocese to remain valid. There are divisions of opinion in a diocese where many long for an end to the stalemate but any attempt to supplant an already legitimately elected bishop by attempting to hold another election without canonical resolution of the first is certain to produce conflict.
People in the diocese are in no mood to let the bishops ignore the agreed independent investigation by a Provincial Court (see our article on our website dated 21st August 2007) into what happened at the Court of Confirmation. Meetings are planned for the near future to consider a response to Bishop Chama’s ultimatum.
ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that had the Central African bishops honoured their original agreement to a Provincial Court there would have been a settlement of the Lake Malawi situation long ago. There are however two problems from their point of view: First, that a genuinely independent Provincial Court would almost certainly find embarrassingly against the way in which the Court of Confirmation was conducted. Secondly, submission to the will of the people would represent a ‘loss of face’ which is a serious matter for African (and any other for that matter) church leaders. From the bishops’ point of view it is better to ‘bluff it out’. With this tactic they were ultimately successful in Upper Shire diocese, although Lake Malawi has presented a much tougher prospect with the people having held out against what they see as deep injustice for three years.
After his election as Bishop of Lake Malawi Dr Henderson was declared to have been of ‘unsound faith’ and therefore ‘not confirmed’ by a ‘majority’ decision at an episcopal ‘Court of Confirmation’ held in November 2005. This decision is thought to have been contrived illegally under uncanonical proceedings presided over by the then Archbishop of the Province Bernard Malango.
The ‘verdict’ of ‘unsound faith’ was declared because Dr Henderson had been the one-time General Secretary of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union (M.C.U.), the Anglican Communion’s oldest theological society. Henderson a priest for over 30 years of impeccable Anglican background and orthodoxy is widely thought to have been a victim of Bernard Malango’s then propensity to acquiesce to North American schismatic tendencies. North American conservatives it should be noted do not like anyone who might be considered an academic liberal and habitually engage in attempted character assassination of those who dare to disagree with them.
These include of the Central African bishops at the time of the controversial Court of Confirmation, The Rt Rev’d Dr James Tengatenga, now chair of the influential Anglican Consultative Council, who was (and still is) one of the international editors of Modern Believing the much-respected MCU quarterly journal. Also Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana who was a principal speaker at the MCU pre-Lambeth Conference in Hertfordshire, England in 2008.
Significantly, of those who voted against Henderson, Nolbert Kunonga, self-styled Archbishop of Zimbabwe and Elson Jakazi of Manicaland have both been excommunicated but continue to promote violence against Anglicans in Zimbabwe.
Former Archbishop Bernard Malango, a great friend and promoter of Kunonga, also around the time of the Court of Confirmation was touring the Anglican Communion (funded by American separatists) promoting schism and speaking against the Archbishop of Canterbury. This has now borne fruit in that the current sole candidate for the vacancy in North Malawi is the Rev’d Scott Wilson who is an active member of the new breakaway ‘Anglican Church in North America’ (A.C.N.A.). This loose and somewhat disparate federation of dissident former Episcopalians has split acrimoniously from the official Episcopal Church and most of the Anglican Communion. It is not clear consequently whether Wilson is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that is mandatory in the Central African Provincial Canons. Ironically, the only body that can declare the A.C.N.A. to be in communion with Canterbury is the Anglican Consultative Council. Chaired by James Tengatenga, it is unlikely to do so.
Definitions of what might be ‘unsound faith’ seem therefore to be fluid. The accusation is applied arbitrarily. For further example, the newly elected Bishop of Harare, the Rev’d Dr Chad Gandiya, also of impeccable Anglican background, was accused, in a letter dated 22nd September 2007, written by the then Bishop of Manicaland Elson Jakazi, and sent to the Provincial bishops, of ‘inviting gay priests’ from South Africa to speak at Bishop Gaul Theological College, Harare where Gandiya was principal. ‘Some priests walked out in protest’ the letter goes on. This letter was a resurrection of a previously successful attempt to smear Gandiya made by Archbishop Bernard Malango at the earlier election for Bishop of Harare in 2001 when Gandiya was a candidate who was forced out of the race by Malango. The infamous Nolbert Kunonga ‘won’ with the support of dictator Robert Mugabe in strange circumstances not having been on the candidate’s list at all.
This complicated history shows the damaging effects that North American ecclesiastical battles can have directly and indirectly in far-off Central Africa. Certainly Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana is right in pointing out that Africans actually have other priorities than the endless North American gay debate. Naturally, he in turn has been pilloried for daring to say this by conservative American websites.
Diocese of Upper Shire, Malawi, the new bishop shows his mettle:
The world’s youngest bishop the Rt Rev’d Brighton Malasa, a onetime chaplain to former Archbishop Bernard Malango, was publicly (broadcast live on Malawi radio and television), by the President of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika, given 2,000,000 Malawi Kwacha (£8,500 or $14,000) specifically for the Diocese of Upper Shire by way of a helpful start-up grant. Unfortunately, only 1,500,000 Malawi Kwacha have found their way into the diocesan accounts with the remaining 500,000 being kept by Malasa for personal use. In a similar fashion the diocesan car has not been registered in the name of the Diocese of Upper Shire as it should be but rather in Brighton Malasa’s own name.
It is clear that the new bishop is going to have difficulty in attracting future sponsorship and outside aid for his impoverished diocese. Objectors to his election had cited a history financial mismanagement as a reason why the House of Bishops should not have chosen him.
Alleged ‘poisoning’ of the late Canon Rodney Hunter in Nkhota-kota, Diocese of Lake Malawi
At the Court hearing reported by us in our last issue Leonard Mondoma the late Canon Hunter’s loyal but hapless cook arrived at court to face his twice-suspended Forward in Faith supported priest accuser, the Rev’d Denis Kayamba. Kayamba had arrived with a gang of ‘friends’ presumably in order to intimidate what he thought would be the lone Mondoma.
However, it was Kayamba who was reported to have looked astonished when two lawyers from Amnesty International lawyer, Charles Kasambara’s Lilongwe based firm arrived to support Mondoma. Kasambara’s speciality is the defence of those who have been wrongfully accused - he is frequently in Zimbabwe. He had been alerted at the last minute to give support to Mondoma who has already had to endure 18 months of life-threatening conditions in Nkhota-kota prison, solely on the accusation of Denis Kayamba. The ‘evidence’ of ‘poisoning’ has still not been produced and the judge rightly adjourned the hearing to a later date ordering Kayamba to ‘go and get a lawyer’.