New Anglican Province: utter nonsense

Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales

If I was a person who had heroes, and if being a Primate in the Anglican Communion didn't rule a person out ex officio, then Barry Morgan might just be my hero.

From the Living Church
The Primate of the Church in Wales will oppose any attempt to form a parallel Anglican jurisdiction when the primates of the Anglican Communion meet next week in Alexandria, Egypt. Leaders of the GAFCON movement, however, have pledged not to back down from their support of Bishop Robert Duncan and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), setting up the potential for a clash of views when the primates meet.
On Jan. 24, Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales told delegates attending the annual council meeting of the Diocese of Virginia he would oppose the creation of the ACNA with “every fiber of his body.” Another North American province was “total nonsense,” he said, according to a report by Anglican blogger Mary Ailes, but the archbishop conceded that his views were in the minority among primates.
He may well be in a minority. However by expressing himself publicly before the meeting I think he will encourage those who share his views. I suspect he is speaking out now because of a well-founded anticipation that the ACNA and GAFCON crew will try to pull a stunt in Egypt, whether or not a new North American province is formally debated by the Primates.

From The Times:

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said he would oppose a new province “with every fibre of my being.”

He warned that if the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion allow traditionalists to set up a new province to exist as a parallel jurisdiction to the US Episcopal Church, no province would be safe and the worldwide Anglican Church would splinter into many fragments.


In an interview with The Times, Dr Morgan said the concept of a new province in the US “makes no ecclesiological or theological sense.”

New provinces are usually set up for demographic or missionary reasons.

Dr Morgan said: “It makes no sense for a province to be founded on doctrinal grounds.”


Dr Morgan said: “I hope we will see the same spirit of generosity and openness that we had at the Lambeth Conference last summer. There was then an overwhelming desire to stay together, and I hope that will be the same for the Primates’ meeting.”

On my very brief contact with with him I found Barry Morgan to be gentle, thoughtful, listening and immensely able. Even if plucky little Wales isn't politically strong in the Primates' councils, let's hope the obvious logic of his position is.


Power sharing, again.

Morgan Tsvangirai, from The Times

Statement from Morgan Tsvangirai

In a curiously half-hearted way we seem to have got back to power sharing in Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai will become Prime Minister with executive power. Just 3 days ago the MDC was saying it would not accept the SADC-brokered deal. Is Obama's election and the US change of tack coincidental?
5 Feb: Zimbabwe to pass power-sharing constitutional amendment
11 Feb: PM-designate Tsvangirai and his deputies to be sworn in
13 Feb: Remaining ministers and their deputies to take office
Whether Mugabe will stay is moot. Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade said he had offered him asylum.

"If he leaves power he will not go to Europe," Wade said in a debate on Africa at the World Economic Forum in Davos, "so I told him: 'Come to Senegal'."

"My friend Mugabe does not want to make concessions, we are at a dead end, he can no longer govern the country alone," added the Senegal leader, current president of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

Wade said Mugabe had to be "advised to say clearly what path he will take to leave power" and be guaranteed that "if he leaves his country he will not be chased."

This doesn't fit exactly with the earlier statements about power sharing - who will be President if Tsvangirai is PM?

Botswana doesn't seem happy with the arrangements which will leave considerable power in ZANU hands. The critical details - who controls the security forces, whop gets the poisoned chalice of finance - have still to be announced.

And Western Aid is unlikely to appear if Mugabe still holds power - though I have no idea how far down the ZUNU-PF hierarchy this attitude would persist - so, if anyone, South Africa will have to pick up the initial tab. With cholera ignoring national boundaries, and Zimbabwean refugees generating internal unhappiness, it would be in their self-interest to do so.

Once again I find myself hoping all will be well, but without much confidence.




From Leadership Nigeria, via All Africa News

A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Suleiman Abdurahman Kawu, has posited that the two holy books of the major religions, the Muslims' Qu'ran and Christians' Bible should take precedence over the country's constitution.

Kawu, a deputy minority leader in the House, in a presentation titled "Constitution Amendment. Let the Holy Qu'ran and Bible prevail over the constitution," noted that the section of the constitution which stated that the constitution is supreme be amended, since no law is greater than the creator.


Hon. Kawu, a member of the present constitution amendment committee, in a chat with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND stressed the view: "I personally, am of the opinion that we Nigerians should not respect the constitution more than how we respect the Holy Qua'ran or the Holy Bible because these two books are stronger than the constitution itself.


Well, the proposal has a certain intellectual consistency.

Apart from that I can't think of anything in its favour. How would it work in practice? In effect it would presumably put the law of Nigeria in relation to both scriptures much as historic British law is in relation to Human Rights principles: should there be a clash then the law must change.


The cholera graph

More detail in Sokwanele, based on data circulated by the World Health Organisation.


No women need apply

ex-bishop Robinson Cavalcanti

From George Congar

The synod of the Diocese of Recife has voted to leave the shelter of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and affiliate with the third province movement in North America.

At its Dec 4-6 meeting in Jaboatão dos Guararapes the ex-Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) diocese voted to join with the ex-Episcopal Church dioceses of Pittsburgh, Quincy, Fort Worth and San Joaquin, along with a number of continuing American and Canadian Anglican and African-led jurisdictions, to form the new province.

The move from the Southern Cone to the third province will take place in June at the Anglican Church in North America’s founding convocation in Fort Worth.
Recife also agreed to amend its canons to bring it in line with the new province passing an ordinance forbidding the consecration of women priests to the episcopate, and also created an archdeaconry based in Rio de Janiero to oversee Anglican churches in Southeast Brazil that have seceded from the IEAB.

Although Recife ordains women to the diaconate and priesthood, the decision to conform its canons to the new province and forbid the consecration of women priests to the episcopate passed overwhelmingly. A spokesman noted the vote was taken the same day as Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti ordained the Rev. Pamela Schmaling to the priesthood.


A considerable kick in the teeth for Rev Schmaling, I'd have thought.

More generally it reiterates the patriarchal nature of religious conservatism and shows that negative attitudes to sexuality remain central to the conservative tune.

I should think so too!

Religious leaders praise Obama torture ban

Compiled by the Boston Globe.

It's always seemed to me that this was one matter Christians, and members of other faiths, could agree on whole heartedly.

Why then has there not been a much more high profile religious campaign against torture? Could it be that Christians, and members of other faiths, also agree on deferring to the policy of their nation states, even when they disagree with it?


Some criticisms of Covenant

The Papers for the forthcoming Church of England General Synod are available online - conveniently displayed by Thinking Anglicans.

They include GS 1716 Anglican Covenant. On first reading the Annex is a surprisingly critical document - and more critical the closer it gets to the heart of the Covenant where it calls for clearer definition of key terms [paras. 38, 40].

Most critically [paras 42-46] it raises constitutional questions.

[42] While it is not the task of the Covenant Design Group to write a constitution for the Anglican Communion, the lack of any articulated understanding of, and reflection on, the inter-relationship of the Instruments is a very serious lacuna and will effect both confidence in and the effectiveness of an Anglican Covenant.

This is based on the premise that the constitution of the Communion needs to be addressed and sorted out separate from the Covenant. I had seen the Covenanteers as effectively writing a new constitution, and had criticised them on that count, but this report sees the constitutional process as separate and that I would be inclined to welcome.

The report makes criticism of the penal processes proposed in the St Andrew's draft but this adds little to criticisms made elsewhere and the Covenant Design Group will be producing an alternative.

Please don't get too excited. The criticisms in this report are not sufficient to sink the idea of a Covenant and the whole report is based on the premise that not only is the Covenant a Good Thing but that the CofE has already committed itself to support this course of action.

The debate at Synod is specificially about the St Andrew's draft. The latest draft of the Covenant will probably have arrived a week or two earlier. I wouldn't be at all suprised if someone weighty in the councils of the church stands up to say how welcome it is that the latest version (on which animadversions will not be allowed) has met many of the criticisms voiced in GS1716.

The report almost says that ratification will include submission to Dioceses. This will be cumbersome, take up to a year, but is ulikely to produce anything other than a bigger endorsement of the Covenant.

More detailed comments will follow with time - and I've not yet read all of GSmisc 910, Colin Podmore's paper on the Governance of the CofE and the Anglican Communion. This deals explicitly with constitutional aspects of the church.



Lay or episcopal power in Lake Malawi?

Canoeing on Lake Malawi

From Anglican Information

The Diocese of Lake Malawi:

Readers will recall that in July 2005 the electoral body of the Diocese of Lake Malawi and Central African Province voted by overwhelming majority to elect the Rev’d Nicholas Henderson of London, England as Bishop of Lake Malawi. Henderson has had a long and creditable history of involvement in the Diocese and his integrity or faith have never been questioned.

However, due to outside interference the then Archbishop of the Province, Bernard Malango, contrived to ensure that the subsequent but delayed Court of Confirmation was finally held in November 2005. This Court, which is now understood to have been uncanonically conducted, declared that the bishop-elect was of ‘demonstrable unsound faith’, without any evidence, any opportunity of redress or defence, or any indication of what actually constituted ‘unsound faith’. It is salutary to note that, apart from the now discredited Malango, two of those accusing Henderson of ‘unsound faith’ are now excommunicated and fighting a violent battle against the province in Zimbabwe.

Since this shameful episode priests and people have courageously stood up to the provincial bishops and insisted that justice be done and the whole case revisited. A three-year-long struggle between authoritarian bishops (reluctant to admit their fault and angry with what they see as a usurping by the laity) and the people has ensued.

At one point a resolution of this problem was almost achieved by the Rt Rev’d Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, as Dean of the Province, before he was summarily sacked by the then outgoing Archbishop Bernard Malango. Mwamba had agreed with the people to an independent Provincial Court. Bernard Malango replaced Trevor Mwamba with the current acting Dean Albert Chama of Northern Zambia who, as a Malango appointee, is resolutely opposed to dialogue or a Provincial Court. In these circumstances and as a last resort the people have charged the bishops with civil action in the judicial Court of Malawi. The whole saga is catalogued in full on our website.

We have been asked to issue the resolutions of the latest meeting of the House of Laity which are reproduced below:

Extract from the Minutes of a Meeting of the House of Laity,
Diocese of Lake Malawi Diocese held in St Peter’s Anglican Hall, Lilongwe, on Saturday 17th January 2009.

The purpose of the meeting was to update each other of what is going on in the diocese and to consider a way forward with the case which is still in court.


The Meeting agreed to wait for the court judgment on Thursday, 22nd January 2009 at 8.30 am. In this case the House of Laity is asking the Leadership of the Church for an inter-party hearing.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that this is a perfectly reasonable request and it is ridiculous that the bishops have resisted it and allowed a case to go to court.

The House of Laity welcomes the news of confirmation of the children who have been waiting for the rite for along time. On condition that is done by the Bishop Biggers or any other bishop who is in good standing with the Laity.

The Laity feel this could be the beginning of civilized dialogue between leadership and Laity. This is a better way of handling spiritual issues.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION has previously reported that the bishops had placed the diocese under an undeclared interdict, with a deliberate policy of deprivation of sacramental services. Bishop Jackson Biggers is formerly of Northern Malawi, now in retirement in Malawi. It should be noted that not all the serving provincial bishops are mistrusted by the people.

On issue of keys laity is willing to surrender the keys if the Vicar General and the Dean engage with them in dialogue.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION has previously reported the confiscation of keys for the diocesan vehicle, which was being misused, and the willingness of the people to engage in discussion about their return.

The Laity also question why the leadership does not send communication regarding the outcome of the meetings held at provincial level which affect Lake Malawi diocese in good time. Instead we hear only these issues from the grapevine. The Laity believe that the Vicar-General is accountable to them, therefore he is under an obligation to inform the Laity of what is going on in the diocese. The Church lacks transparency in its dealing.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION notes that the Diocese of Lake Malawi is emerging as a significant case (now being observed with interest in the wider Anglican Communion) where an old style authoritarian episcopal leadership is slowly being forced into the modern world. The bishops will have, at some point, to give way to a more authentic Anglican episcopal oversight of the ‘Bishop in Synod’ leading by consensus, not diktat.

If the last three remarkable years prove anything it is that no longer can the people be kept in the dark, no longer can bishops simply impose their will. Modern communications provide information and with information comes power and responsibility. In the long-run, once the bishops have grasped this fact, the much-troubled Central African Province will emerge the better.

Jean Msosa
House of Laity Lake Malawi Diocese


Malawi Christians face up to the government

Rev Lazarus Chakwela

The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), an umbrella body of all Christian Churches in the country has reaffirmed their commitment to guide and monitor the true observance of democracy and human rights.

The organization's General Secretary, Rev. Canaan Phiri told President Bingu Wa Mutharika and his cabinet ministers during the DPP National Convention in Blantyre that it would be a “huge mistake” for Churches in the country to keep silent, during situations, where democratic tenets, were not followed and respected.

“We have a God-given responsibility to guide this country for the good of the common man and women and future of democracy.
“We will praise, where praise is due and at the same time, we will criticize when something has gone wrong. We have a prophetic role to fulfill and we will maintain that at all cost to serve Malawi from doom,” said Rev Phiri. “It is our responsibility to correct any wrongs and tell the truth and we will not compromise this task,” said the cleric bluntly, while looking at Mutharika in the face.

Rev Phiri noted that for the past few years, political developments which have unfolded in the country have been very disturbing.

“Lately, we have witnessed some disturbing developments in the country, which have been embarrassing to mother Malawi. We would make sure that this trend does not continue,” said Phiri, amid a deafening silence.

The courageous cleric then told Mutharika that church leaders would be boycotting political rallies, if politicians would continue with “politics of insults”.

“It has been very disturbing to note that when we are asked to pray during political rallies, what follows next are insults. When we start boycotting some of these rallies, don't be surprised,” he said.

The cleric then asked all political leaders in the country to cultivate a good working relationship with the Church in order to “build a tolerant nation.”


All credit to The Malawi Council of Churches, but this does sound ominous.

Covenant: not dead yet

Members of the Joint Standing Committee planning for the 2009 ACC meeting.

Penwatch said (in a comment on an earlier post) that
The Covenant is in the long grass where it has been kicked. Now that the North American schism is more or less complete it (the Covenant) is less and less necessary.
She may be right. I hope he is right. But I am not so sanguine.

The way of Primates’ Meetings means that it is highly improbable that its communiqué, or equivalent, will simply state, ‘We tried the Covenant and it didn’t work, so we’re not going any further with it.’

Which leaves the question of just how we will know whether the Covenant has been fatally holed beneath the water line even though the ship appears to continue sailing forwards.

1) Timetable
My guess is that the most obvious clue will be if the timetable slips.

So far the Covenant process under Drexel Gomez has stayed tightly within the time table set out in Towards an Anglican Covenant (March 2006) abbreviated in the Report of the Covenant Design Group (January 2007). (This in itself is a notable achievement. It has been possible by resolutely refusing to engage with any group other than tiny coteries who speak for each Province – see my paper Bouncing change through the Anglican Communion (June 2007) available here.)

The timetable requires Provinces to respond to the draft Covenant by March 2009. The Design Group is due to meet in London in April to agree a final draft which in turn should be agreed by the ACC meeting in Kingston, Jamaica (Gomez’ backyard) in May. The ACC is expected to remit the final draft to Provinces who will be asked to sign up by 2010.

It is possible that Provinces will object to this deadline if they wish to respond to the draft coming out of February’s Primates’ Meeting. Equally, as only section 3 of the St Andrews draft is likely to change substantially, this timetable may be acceptable to most.

It is possible that the ACC will reject the draft Covenant, but highly improbable.

The fact that Jefferts Schori has said she would "strongly discourage" any effort to endorse the Covenant at TEC’s General Convention in July will not hold up this timetable. TEC could simply sign up later if they so decided.

2) Budget
One huge hole in the Covenant process has been the absence of any public assessment of the costs of the proposal.

Signing up will cost nothing, financially. But the lodging of a complaint under the St Andrew’s draft would clearly entail some considerable cost in time, travel and office space. I very much doubt the ACO would simply absorb the work and, if it did, it wouldn’t be at nil cost.

To pre-empt formal complaints a permanent Covenant office would probably be necessary. Its job would, presumably, be to monitor the implementation of the Covenant, to act as mediator in minor matters – i.e. heading off formal complaints, and to maintain a list of globally approved ecclesiastical lawyers who could respond (presumably for a globally approved fee) when a formal complaint was laid. It would need staff, an office, and a generous travel budget.

I wonder if those still paying for Lambeth 08 will welcome this additional cost?

The continued absence of a budget and identified funding will also put a question mark against the Covenant, though not yet a fatal one.

3) Last chance?
The St Andrew's draft was most severely criticised for its complex means of adjudicating international disputes between Covenanting members. The Communion’s official ‘Responses’ page still shows none of the Provinces' responses to the St Andrew's draft.

If the Design Group can come up with a scheme acceptable to most Provinces then the Covenant will, I predict, be signed. If it's next proposal is also unwelcome then I think the whole project will be sunk.

In which case a magnum of virtual champagne goes to Penwatch and to each of my correspondents who have told me for so long that the Covenant has as much life as a Norwegian Blue parrot.



Out of school in Zimbabwe

Photo: Jeffrey Barbee / For LA Times
See the 2008 article tracing the collapse of the school system back to 2005.

From Anglican Information

Education in Zimbabwe, an ‘on the ground’ report:

Jan 17th 2009

The start of the new term has been delayed for a fortnight by the government, and the rumour is it will be delayed again. The reason given is that the 2008 end of year exams have not yet been marked. (End of Primary Grade 7, Local O and A levels). This may or may not be true.

But without doubt there is an enormous shortage of teachers, who have left the country in droves. Last term ended in a strike as salaries were no longer adequate to pay any needed bus fares. By the end of last term most government schools were closed or running almost as a playground. Science and Maths teachers were non existent.

Private schools were running normally, and from the middle of the term some schools in middle class areas re-opened. This was due to the parents getting together and raising funds to pay the teachers some sort of salary. At the school where I teach in Mabelreign, some of the parents did not, or could not, pay the extra 'top-up', but their kids came back to school with the rest. The parents also resuscitated the bore hole so that the school had water, which it had only had very intermittently. At other schools the parents worked class by class providing the essentials for the teacher of their children as well as her salary. Some new private schools opened up.

The situation this term is different because in the meantime there has been a de facto 'US dollarisation' in many if not most fields in the country. Inflation is now said to be in the billions so the Zim$ is virtually useless. The heads are therefore asking permission to charge school fees in US dollars, only apparently US$2 - 4 per TERM. So far the government has not responded. What can they do? If they allow school fees in US dollars they must offer the teachers, whom they pay directly a US $ salary too. But they have no money, and though they can print ever higher denominations of Zim $, they can not print US$.

Interestingly because the government could not open its schools they ordered the private schools not to open either, threatening to arrest the heads if they disobeyed. I heard this morning that the academically prestigious St George's College opened on time regardless. The headmaster, a Jesuit priest, is so far still in his office. I do not know what is happening in other private schools. Even Zanu.PF 'chiefs' want their children educated, so one wonders if this may not be a break point for the government.

The human cost of all this is above calculation. Yesterday I took some books, which I had been given by a friend leaving the country, to a Township secondary school near me. The head, a lovely grey haired man, was in his office. I sat down for a chat. The school probably has 1000 pupils, and should perhaps have 30 teachers. I asked how many teachers he expected to be short next term. 'I think about 20' he said sadly. 'The problem is that until the school is allowed to open I cannot plan'. I asked where he lived. He came from Glen Norah, so must need two bus fares to pay morning and evening. The cholera is bad there, and people are dying in big numbers. They often can not boil the water as there is no electricity. I promised I would take him round some water sterilising tablets I have been sent.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION comments that this is a report from relatively ‘well-off’ areas. The situation in the countryside is dire. Sadly, for the moment Zimbabwe seems to have been forgotten – but not by us.



Earn your own money

Soldiers on the streets of Harare

From Sokwanele

The police in Zimbabwe are not being paid well, if they are being paid at all. A couple of weeks ago I was told by a colleague that the police hadn’t been paid since September 2008 - he’d heard this from two different policemen. His comment to me was “Zimbabwean policeman have all become beggars”.

It was put to me differently a couple of days ago when another friend said she had been told by someone in the police that they had been told to “earn their own money”. What on earth does this mean? Are they being told to go out and find second jobs, or are they being told to “do what you need to do to survive”? Zimbabweans would probably assume that latter.

From the Zimbabwe Independent

The cash-strapped government this week failed to pay soldiers their January salaries on time amid reports that it has also ruled out paying them in foreign currency in the near future - a move that has resulted in morale in the army hitting rock bottom.

Reliable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that soldiers were due to be paid yesterday, but were advised by officers at army barracks throughout the country that government was unable to pay them this week. The sources said a senior army officer, Colonel Mbonisi Gatsheni, former defence forces spokesperson, on Wednesday told soldiers at KGVI barracks that they would not receive their salaries on time, but did not disclose the reasons for the delay. "We were initially supposed to get our salaries on Tuesday, but the payday was moved to Thursday. During the course of this week we were informed that the salaries were not deposited in our accounts," a source said. "Gatsheni told us that our salaries will be in local currency and this incensed us."


Both are recipes for disaster. They are an invitation to those capable of setting up gangs to do so. Soldiers who are not paid are worth something if they take their weapons with them into the 'private' sector. Police who are accustomed to setting up roadblocks to fleece travellers quickly become small groups capable of taking whatever they want. Those with access to forex will be able to buy whoever they want.

It won't take many either. As soon as some gangs start to appear other people will want to protect themselves from their depradations - which will mean more, bigger, better armed gangs. Who else will they turn to for protection? The police?

The civil and military structures in Zimbabwe have always seemed strong to me but there is only so much strain that they can bear. At some point the long, slow decline into anarchy becomes a collapse: metal fatigue may be invisible till the whole structure collapses.



Less gay sex in seminary

From Pantagraph.com

A Vatican office that evaluated U.S. Roman Catholic
seminaries says the schools have made improvements in halting what they call
"homosexual behavior" among students.

The Vatican also says seminaries are doing well in teaching about
celibacy and are generally effective in screening candidates for the

The Vatican ordered the seminary review in response to the clergy sex abuse
crisis to see whether the schools had contributed to the problem.

The Vatican also directed evaluators to look for "evidence of
homosexuality" in the schools.


So how do they know? How did they establish a baseline of homosexual activity in order to make the comparison? For that matter, how do they define homosexual activity in the first place? Do they keep stats by differing categories?

I just ask.


The coming Covenant III

Rev Dr Ephraim Radner

The first harbinger bird of the next draft of the Covenant has been sighted.

Ephraim Radner has published an open letter to his colleagues on the Covenant Design Group. This is somewhat intriguing. It's hearing one statement, from one speaker, with no idea of the rest of the conversation, nor the speakers, that give it context.

Radner is an honourable man whose comments are always carefully considered and are worth taking seriously.

So, of course, we speculate.

Radner is one of the most prominent conservatives who remains committed to TEC. He cites the ordination of Mary Volland by Bishop Robert O'Neill in Colorado (here). Till now O'Neill had refused to conduct such ordinations. What's changed, Radner asks, giving the answer: nothing, except the departure of the most vocal conservatives in the Diocese. That being so, the balance of opinion amongst those who remain tipped towards accepting gay people as priests without requiring celibacy of them. Thus, he deduces, politics, not principles determine ecclesial action.

He reiterates Lambeth 1.10, 1998 and its subsequent repeated endorsement by the leaders of the Communion, concluding

None of this represents “law”. But the “moral authority” of these consistent claims is undeniable, not least because it has continued to elicit response and adjustments by TEC. Furthermore, not all of us on the CDG share the same views about the Christian imperatives with regard to sexual behavior; I am aware of that. But we have nonetheless come to a common understanding of the needs of the Communion with respect to the imperatives of common life in Christ.

'Imperatives' is an interesting term in this context. It conveys the imperious tone of the Covenant which I find wholly unacceptable. It looks to the containment and control of the church and is antipathetic to the diversity of spiritual experience, interpretation of scripture and ecclesial expression.

He addresses one paragraph directly to the members of the Covenant Design Group:

And who should offer a different testimony, if not you and us together, at least
serving groups ostensibly committed to and charged with forging a better way for
our Communion? We cannot control events and the decisions of others. But we can
certainly engage honestly and squarely what is at stake and avoid equivocating
(yes, we do too much of that); we can speak clearly and not secretly or in code;
we can offer concrete and effective proposals, and not diplomatic blurs; and we
can prosecute them with all the energy God has granted us rather than being
sidelined by the doubtless real but nonetheless surmountable bureaucratic
obstacles with which common life across the globe presents us.

From this I guess that the Covenant holds precisely what Radner would deny: equivocation, obscure and coded speech, diplomatic ambiguity. I guess it lacks the capacity to 'prosecute' effectively and that 'bureaucratic obstacles' (or, maybe, legal obstacles) mean that whatever sanctions it now contains are so watery as to be wholly toothless.

We shall find out soon. I expect the next draft of the Covenant to be published just before or just after the Primates' Meeting (at which, it is said, almost every Primate worthy of the mitre will be present) February 1 - 5.

Indeed, the timing of Radnor's open letter suggests his primary audience is the Primates, or their advisors, perhaps in the optimistic hope that they will not accept the Covenant.

I shall continue to oppose the Covenant. I think it's unnecessary and unAnglican and more liable to be marked by the language of 'imperatives' and 'prosecution' than by the language of mutual respect and celebration. I think there are alternatives and the focus on the Covenant (for and against) has blocked different, more creative possibilities. I think the Communion has huge problems hanging together but I am convinced such a treaty is not the way to go.

But I continue to predict some sort of Covenat will be agreed.


Kunonga has not gone away yet

ex-bishop Nolbert Kunonga

From the Zimbabwe Times

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) still provides fallen former
Anglican clergyman and ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe, Nolbert
Kunonga, with tactical support long after he was ousted following a split in the
church early last year.

A member of the Anglican Church in Harare told The Zimbabwe Times this week
that police officers were still harassing worshippers who chose to remain loyal
to the larger Bakare group.

“The Anglican church members are always harassed by the police who prevent us from using church premises, despite a High Court order allowing us equal access to church facilities until the matter is finalised,” said Elizabeth Chimwe of the Greendale Parish.

“Our group has the support of three quarters of people who were part of
the united Anglican Church but now we have to leave a church with a seating
capacity of about 200 to a group of 38 people just because we have no political

The High Court ruled last year that both the mainstream Bakare group
and the much smaller rebel Kunonga faction should both have access to the church
facilities. For example it was agreed that the Kunonga faction would use the
church facilities for its services from 8 am to 10 am. The Bakare group would
then use the same facilities between 11 am and 1 pm.

Instead, the police have intervened at the time of the change-over and
prevented the Bakare group from using the facilities, it is alleged.

The Bakare group is said to have written to Police Commissioner
Augustine Chihuri to appeal to him to intervene but without success.

There is speculation now that the group is being victimised because
Bakare is profiled by Kunonga as a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)

Other sources within the Anglican Church said at one time Bakare was
invited to officiate at St Michaels Anglican Church in Mbare. A truck-load of
riot policemen arrived to disrupt the service. It is alleged the police had been
informed that Bakare was hosting an MDC rally at the church.

Because of the presence of the police at Anglican Church facilities,
the Bakare group is now forced to rent houses or buildings close to church
buildings to hold Sunday service.

The Central Anglican Cathedral in the Harare city centre has become a
no-go area for the Bakare group. Worshippers now congregate in the Les Brown
Swimming Pool complex in the Harare Gardens, behind Crown Plaza Monomatapa
Hotel, for their services.

When Bakare was installed as the new Bishop of Harare the ceremony was
staged at the City Sports Centre because access to the cathedral was blocked.
The police have constantly refused to act on a High Court order granting Bakare
access to the church.

“The same method used to invade the farms is the method used by Kunonga
to invade our cathedral,” said Bakare on the occasion.

“It’s very much politically driven. Political involvement is clear in the way that Kunonga promised to deliver the diocese to Zanu-PF,” said a worshipper aligned to Bakare. “His protection from arrest is telling, even though he is defying High Court orders left and right.” Even a High Court’s deputy sheriff was harassed when he tried to open the doors to the church armed with a High Court order.

High Court judge, Rita Makarau, had ordered Kunonga to give Bakare and
the majority of Anglicans who support him access to all churches in Harare.

In her ruling she said, “The legal fight gives the impression that the
church has lost its focus, and instead of fighting the good fight and seeking
the Kingdom of God first, church members are fighting each other and are seeking
earthly power and control of church assets.”

But Harare’s chief police officer, Fortune Zengeni, sent a letter at
the time to Anglican churches ordering that only priests aligned with Kunonga be
permitted to hold services.

The Anglican Church arguably the second biggest religious denomination
in Zimbabwe after the Roman Catholic Church was split in January last year after
the Bishop of Harare, Kunonga, declared the diocese independent.

Previously the church was part of the Church of the Province of Central
Africa which dismissed Kunonga as bishop following his cessation. But after his
sensational sacking Kunonga refused to relinquish power and control of the
Anglican Church in Zimbabwe before setting up his own structures even though the
majority of the members of the church were against him.

Kunonga was appointed Bishop of Harare in 2001. He went on to use his new position to sing the praises of President Robert Mugabe and purge the church of more than half its trained priests. Kunonga made history when be became one of, if not the only, Anglican priest ever to be hauled before a special ecclesiastical court to answer to charges of inciting violence against Mugabe’s opponents, intimidating critics and misusing church funds.

For his loyalty to Zanu-PF Kunonga was rewarded with a sprawling
commercial farm near Harare which was seized from a white farmer. Kunonga
promptly evicted 40 workers and their families from the property.

Kunonga is a close friend of Didymus Mutasa, the Minister of State for
National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement. Mutasa also serves as
the Secretary for Administration of Zanu-PF. Also an Anglican, Mutasa was the
rebel clergyman’s classmate in primary school at Faiths Mission outside Rusape.
It was one of the earliest Anglican missions established in Southern Rhodesia.

Mutasa (74) remains the only member of Mugabe’s original inner-circle
still active both in Zanu-PF politics and in government. Observers believe he is
the power behind the fallen Kunonga.

All here.


Support for the court against Mwamba

The court was right on Mwamba case

letter in Mmegi here. This is a very belated reply to a letter last November. While it's clear the matter has not gone away it would seem the steam has gone out of it.

In response to an article written to your widely read paper Mmegi of Wednesday November 26, 2008, by Monthe from Francistown who claims to be member of the Anglican Church entitled "God saved Anglican with Bishop Mwamba".

My understanding of that article is that the writer wants the Anglicans at large including myself and general public to believe that the ordeal, which Anglican Church Botswana diocese led by Bishop Trevor Mwamba emanated from the behaviour of the seven priests who were suspended by then. To me Mr Editor, Ms/Mr Monthe displayed serious problems with the factual if there are any and legal aspects of the matter.

Monthe made his or her judgement against the seven priests on the basis of the behaviour of one priest whom he or she claimed that he served in their parish who was an embarrassment to them. This judgement to me is malicious and defamatory to the other six(6) priests.

I fail to understand how the majority of Anglicans have actually suffered humiliation brought to their church by these few clergy when this scenario was prompted by their suspension by Bishop Mwamba without consulting their respective parishes. Bishop Mwamba and his advisors plus his protégés did not seek any audience from the concerned priests to answer their charges prior to their suspension.

Mr Editor I belief that even now all the parishes do not know the grounds on which the suspension was effected in exception of Francistown where Monthe worships.

Personally I attended the first session of the matter between the parties raised in the article where the respondent's lawyers (bishop's) surprised the honourable court that the suspension is not embracing the Anglican Church internationally, but effected within the Diocese of Botswana only. One wondered how the bishop would handle a case of recommending someone to serve in any Diocese when he has served him with suspension this is hypocrisy of the highest magnitude.

Mr Editor concerning the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church, which I regard as noble documents because they are the basis of church management for over four decades since it was established in Botswana this maladministration of the church affairs has never happened under the incumbent bishop's predecessors. The learned judge who ruled the matter in favour of the seven aggrieved priests was not biased against the bishop and his advisors, but his judgement was based on the merits of the matter on these documents and the employment laws of Botswana were violated.

Reverend Jacob P L Zachariah
Church member

The Reader

Go see The Reader.

I thought it was brilliant. Beautiful and sexy certainly, and also a history of post-war Germany's silence, secrets, knowing and not speaking.

In some ways it was an old-fashioned court room drama with the key challenges focused in the trial. No excuses, no justification nor trivialisation of what was done in the war but still the question of ordinary people caught up in the machinery of evil: what would you have done?

In the background too, buildings and building work - a visual analogue of German reconstruction.

It was a love story of sorts, but mostly the silent sort.

Lots of detail on Wikipedia.

January 25th ~ fasting and prayer

Archbishop Tutu, fasting in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe

Africa Day of Prayer and Fasting for Justice in Zimbabwe

In the strongest statement from the church yet, Africa's largest grouping of churches says the crisis in Zimbabwe is deadlocked because of the intransigence of President Robert Mugabe, and Christians should pray for an end to the "illegitimate" regime.

The 9th general assembly of the All Africa Conference
of Churches (AACC) in Maputo, Mozambique, set aside January 25, 2009 as a
special 'Africa Day of Prayer and Fasting for Justice in Zimbabwe'

Catholic Information Service for Africa

Nor is this restricted to the churches:

South African civic and church leaders, as well as former anti-apartheid activists, are set to come together to press the country's government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to find an urgent solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.

The campaign, which will be highlighted by hunger strikes by church leaders and activists, is set to get under way in the next 10 days and is hoped to impress upon the continent, especially SADC and South African leaders, the wider implications of the crisis that has left untold thousands dead in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who has been critically outspoken against the South African government's handling of the crisis, has pledged his support by committing himself to a weekly fast.

He will also be joined by Bishop Paul Verryn from Johannesburg's Central Methodist Church, which houses and cares for more than 1000 Zimbabwean refugees who have fled their homes.

SW Radio Africa


Mushrooming bishops

MadPriest asked what became of Big Pete Akinola.

No sooner asked than answered. He's been busy extending his empire:
AT least fourteen new bishops were yesterday in Ughelli, Delta State ,
consecrated by the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion with an exhortation to
be good shepherds and not a wolves to the flocks of Christ.

Making the clarion call while consecrating the bishops during the service held at the
All Saints Cathedral Church, Ughelli, the Archbishop and Primate of the Church
of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Peter Akinola told the new bishops
to abide by the discipline of Jesus Christ in the discharge of their duties as

He said their consecration into the royal priesthood of the Anglican
Communion was to advance the evangelical work of God, adding their
calling was of God.
At least? The Church of Nigerian, Anglican Communion, will soon have enough bishops that a national synod will have to be held in the University of Kent, Canterbury as the only place big enough.

All here


Pray that they may be one

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (China Daily)

Episcopal Cafe received this email from Bishop Robinson this morning:

I am writing to tell you that President-Elect Obama and the Inaugural Committee
have invited me to give the invocation at the opening event of the Inaugural
Week activities, “We are One,” to be held at the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday,
January 18, at 2:00 pm. It will be an enormous honor to offer prayers for the
country and the new president, standing on the holy ground where the “I have a
dream speech” was delivered by Dr. King, surrounded by the inspiring and
reconciling words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is also an
indication of the new president’s commitment to being the President of ALL the
people. I am humbled and overjoyed at this invitation, and it will be my great
honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New
Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender

Comment from Mike Allen at Politico:

“The president-elect has respect for the Rt. Rev. Robinson, who offered his
advice and counsel over the past couple of years,” an inaugural official said.
“It also has the benefit of further reinforcing our commitment to an open and
inclusive inaugural.”
Many of Obama’s supporters were furious at the choice of Rick Warren, the
evangelical pastor and best-selling author, to deliver the invocation at the
swearing-in ceremony.

Warren had endorsed California’s Proposition 8, which
bans same-sex marriage, with a statement saying: “There is no reason to change
the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our

The furor has been Obama’s biggest clash with his party’s left
wing since he was elected.

An Obama source said: “Robinson was in the plans
before the complaints about Rick Warren. Many skeptics will read this as a
direct reaction to the Warren criticism – but it’s just not so.”


I confess to some scepticism about Obama. My sense of American foreign policy is that the rhetoric changes much more than policy which has remained remarkably consistent for decades.

But perhaps it was Bush and the neocons who broke the mould - leaving Obama more room for manoeuvre than his Democrat predecessors. Perhaps the Empire has already been losing its grip (witness the failure to crush opposition in South America), and perhaps the financial crisis will further weaken its reach.

The mood music has already changed. It is likely to change still more - and this matters greatly to the culture wars. There has, I believe, been vicious and visceral attempts to smear Obama by association (with islam, and thence terrorism) and it's likely to get worse. But, at the moment at least, these now seem peripheral, the rantings of bitter losers. Yet they were influential against Clinton and the anti-Clinton warriors are still around.

It is the culture wars which matter for the Church. Maybe the big conservative funders will have to retrench and put their money back into the political fight which they thought had been won. Even if they don't they are now on the back foot: conservatives tried to lever TEC into the conservative camp. Only their lever broke, leaving them holding the handle and wondering what to do with it. Conservative splinter groups fostered in Bush's heyday will now find the weather much more inclement.



Partnered gay priest to be ordained

Right Reverend Robert O'Neill Bishop of Colorado

Partnered gay priest to be ordained in Colorado
From the Denver Post
Ending several years of restraint by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado in ordaining openly gay and partnered priests, Bishop Robert O'Neill will ordain Mary Catherine Volland, along with three others, to the priesthood at St. John's Cathedral on Saturday.

Volland, a longtime resident of Colorado and partnered lesbian, was a
candidate for ordination in the Diocese of Minnesota, but has been called to
serve as an assistant priest at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Denver, said
Beckett Stokes, spokeswoman for the 30,000-member Colorado Diocese.

Despite nationwide controversy that has splintered Episcopalians, the
church does ordain gay and lesbian priests. The bishop has the option of
deploying them to Colorado congregations when it makes sense, Stokes said.
Several Colorado congregations are served by gay priests.

O'Neill, who previously had suspended gay ordination out of sensitivity
for church factions strongly opposed to it, is choosing to decide these matters
on "a case-by-case basis," Stokes said.


It will, of course, be one more twig on the fire, reinforcing the anatagonism of those already opposed to gay people being treated as fully members of the church. So be it.

As the North American schism takes legal shape (and as most seem to be unable to take the church properties with them) so the tears in the communion grow wider. It'll all be done this year, according to the Church Times, but I wonder. The whole thing has been such a long, slow ripping apart that it's almost impossible to say the schism happened on this day and everything was different after it. My prediction is that, during this year, the divide will grow wider - and after that there will still be a lot more schisming to do.

The Covenant may force the issue. I anticipate the next draft will be published around the Primates' Meeting next month (and, incidentally, General Synod will get a chance to debate the version before last). As the Covenant was seen as a means of expelling TEC now it may well come to be a test of faith that could keep the GAFCONites out. That is, having lost the war the conservatives find their weapon turned against them - it is a remarkably common phenomenon of theological warfare that the aggressors find themselves looking at the wrong end of weapons they themselves chose.

If so, it could make implementing the Covenant more likely: if some Provinces depart the communion citing the ineffectiveness of the Covenant as reason (or, more likely, as the final reason) then the momentum of the Covenant could be such that those who remain must sign.

I wonder who will attend the Primates' Meeting. If they all go it will tell the outside world nothing. If certain Primates absent themselves it will embody the division.



A slow journey

At first I thought this was a good news story:

Once whites-only S. African church has first synod with blacks

The Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika, or Reformed Churches in South Africa
(GKSA), began their annual general synod on 4 January in Potchefstroom ...
The Synod will begin by
commemorating the 150th anniversary of its institution in the then Boer republic
of Transvaal. ... it later supported theological justifications for
the apartheid ideology of racial separation after the Second World War. This led
to the expulsion of the three churches from international ecumenical bodies.
However, now

At least one district of a regional synod of the GKSA, Greater
Johannesburg, currently has a minority of white congregations. One of its
congregations has a Congolese minister who preaches in English and French, a
departure from the traditional dominance of Afrikaans.

About 20 of the 240 delegates to the general synod are black. At the
Sunday service on 4 January the Rev. Abel Modise, a black pastor who serves
congregations in the former townships of Kwa-Thema and Ratanda near
Johannesburg, which were black dormitory towns under apartheid, was elected as
one of two assistant "skribas" (scribes) of the general synod.

While the main medium at the synod remains Afrikaans, a language
derived from Dutch, translation services in English are provided. The synod
opened with the singing of psalms in Afrikaans and Tswana, two of South Africa's
11 official languages, the latter spoken by most black GKSA members.
I guess it is good news really, once you realise what a low base the church is starting from:

Some observers have speculated that the presence of delegates from black
communities renowned for more lusty singing during church gatherings, will bring
a new dimension to worship. Another controversial issue is allowing women to
preach from the pulpit.
emphasis added.

Sudan peace pact collapsing?

A Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) soldier (Reuters)

Church groups warn about 'collapse' of Sudan peace pact

From Ecumencial News International

Church agencies and analysts have warned that an agreement signed four years ago to put an end to a two-decade long civil war in Sudan is threatened with breakdown, thereby endangering the already fragile Horn of Africa region. The pact, called the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed on 9 January 2005, ended a 22-year civil war between Sudan’s central government and the Southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.

"Without swift, decisive action by the international community there is a danger that the peace agreement will collapse and violence will escalate in Sudan," Gerrit Noltensmeier, the special representative for Sudan of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) said in a statement to mark the anniversary of the signing of the pact.

More than 2 million people died in the conflict and more than 4 million were driven from their homes. The civil war pitted the largely Muslim north against southerners, many of whom are Christians and those who practice traditional religions. The peace pact stated that at the end of a six-year transition period there should be a referendum on independence for the semi-autonomous South Sudan region, after nationwide elections in 2009.

Wilfried Steen of the German Protestant Church Development Service (EED) said it was doubtful whether the 2009 elections would take place. He noted that the peace agreement had been endangered by fighting in 2008 around Abyei, at Sudan's north-south border, and which is home to rival ethnic groups living on land with rich deposits of oil.

All here.


Help the poor in Zambia

Anglican clergy urges govt to adopt pro-poor policies
Christopher Miti in Chipata
Sunday, January 04, 2009

From Maravi

ANGLICAN Diocese of Eastern Zambia Bishop William Mchombo has urged the
government to come up with pro-poor policies that can help reduce poverty levels
in the country. In his end of year message, Bishop Mchombo said the government
should put in place measures that would help raise living standards of the

“The year 2008 was a very critical year, I think poverty levels for our
people have been very grinding and if you go round the villages, you can see
that there should be a deliberate policy to help people especially in rural
areas to come out of poverty,” Bishop Mchombo said.

ZIMBABWE - It’s the women who suffer most

Campaign to free Justina Mukoko, AP Photo

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION has been asked to circulate the following report from Zimbabwe, a country whose people’s sufferings are being quietly forgotten at the moment.


[8th January 2009]

Just a few days before Christmas Eve news started filtering in about Jestina Mukoko, who had been abducted from her home in front of her son. Lawyers were then able to locate Jestina and a number of others who had been victims of "enforced disappearances" in various police stations around Harare.

Those members of the public who came forward with information are to be commended for their courage - it is this kind of bravery, in an environment where people are living in constant fear of their lives, that will overcome abuses of power by the State.

Jestina and nine others [four of whom are women and one a child aged two] were produced at the magistrates court for a remand hearing on Christmas Eve. Another nine men listed among the disappeared were produced between Christmas and New Year. All eighteen turned out to have been in the hands of state agents during the time they were missing and all have sworn affidavits describing their torture during the period they were illegally held. These have been corroborated by medical evidence. Even the two year old was beaten with his mother.

Over the last few days there have been numerous court applications that the tortured should be admitted to hospital for proper medical investigations and treatment. Only one judge, Judge Omerjee, has ordered this and the State immediately appealed against his judgment, thereby suspending it.

The victims are being held in solitary incarceration at Chikurubi maximum security prison and their remand hearings in the magistrates court are still being dragged out by numerous delays on the part of the State. Jestina and the other women will have their next hearing at the magistrates court on Wednesday 14th. These delays are a complete travesty of justice.

Women's Courage Shines in Zimbabwe

The following are extracts from an article in Womensenews paying tribute to women in Zimbabwe in their fight for peace and human rights.

To all the women in Zimbabwe: "Women have figured more prominently in the resistance over the past 10 years and have become increasingly visible. Often they face the police with the bearing and confidence of mothers, grandmothers and older women who deserve traditional respect."

To Jestina Mukoko: for her work for peace which has included documenting political violence and human rights abuses and who is now suffering for her activism and who has paid dearly for it. "In her first public appearance since the abduction, Mukoko's face and body appeared swollen and bruised. BBC video footage showed her looking stoical as she was led into police custody, showing a peace and calm in the face of those who had brutalized her." They cite the court affidavit: "Mukoko described being beaten repeatedly on the soles of her feet with a hard, rubber object. She spoke of being interrogated while being forced to kneel on gravel, blindfolded. All the while state agents beat her. They were drunk and their fists struck again and again."

To Abigail Chiroto: "wife of Emmanuel Chiroto, who was the candidate for mayor of Harare, the nation's capital, last March, when elections also swept other members of his Movement for Democratic Change party to a majority in the parliament. Last June, a gang of armed state agents drove three white unmarked cars to the Chiroto home. Emmanuel was not home, but Abigail was. As the cars pulled up, everyone on the premises immediately fled, fear in their eyes. Abigail was left behind, frantically searching for her 4-year-old son. The state agents were in no mood for disappointment. They petrol-bombed the house and abducted Abigail and her son. Days later her burned, lifeless body was found at a nearby farm, still wearing a blindfold. Her son is lucky to be alive, but now lives a life without his mother's love and protection. Emmanuel went into hiding."

To the perseverance of the women of Zimbabwe: "Extraordinarily, life goes on ... Cholera is a new enemy - a preventable disease that strikes discriminately, killing poor people, who typically live in areas where sanitation systems have broken down or where there is no access to clean water or adequate health facilities ... There is nothing left except a strong need for survival."

Education and the Girl Child

The UN Children's Fund [UNICEF] recently stated that school attendance in Zimbabwe has been dropping at an alarming rate [from more than 85 percent in 2007 to just 20 percent by the third term of 2008] because of the collapse of the country's socio-economic system, affecting students and teachers alike, and that few children in Zimbabwe will be returning to class when schools re-open.

The UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Roeland Monasch, says the cholera epidemic and the collapse of basic services are adversely affecting the population. Children are staying away from school because they have to help their parents look for food or find ways to earn money to help support their families. Many schools closed about three months early last year because teachers were no longer coming to work. He says he is afraid they will not show up when school reopens in mid-January. The majority of teachers are not attending work due to low salaries and bad working conditions. School buildings are in a dire state. Many have no toilets and no running water.

The current situation is further complicated by the HIV/AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe. Nearly one in four Zimbabwean children are orphaned by the disease. The ability of support groups to provide care and treatment to those infected with HIV has decreased. The closure of schools affects many of the over 1.3 million orphans, children who have lost their mother, father or both parents and who need to have a protective and stable environment which schools can help to provide.

As always it will be the girl child that suffers most. Girls are the ones that are pulled out of school to help nurse the sick, to help collect firewood and water, to help with household chores and to cultivate and weed at this time of year.

From Anglican Information


Punishing the Diocese of Lake Malawi – an appeal to the Anglican Communion

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION reports that following our last issue ‘Diocese of Lake Malawi under interdict’ we have been asked to publish the letter below from Jean Msosa one of the senior lay members of the diocese.

Anglicans in Malawi have a strong sense of being part of the wider Anglican Communion and Jean Msosa’s letter is addressed to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion, a number of whom receive ANGLICAN-INFORMATION.

* * *

Dear Bishops of Anglican Communion,

Punishing the Lake Malawi Diocese at the Expense of Anglican Growth

I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in this New Year. My prayer is we have a good spiritual start.

I write this article to raise concern on the growth of our Church in Lake Malawi Diocese. At the moment we have not had our children confirmed for the past few years since our problems started in the Diocese.

My question is, are we serious about the growth of our Church? If we are why are we not resolving issues so that we can normalize the situation in the Diocese.

My worry is we are not helping our Church since some bishops in the leadership are punishing us the Christians who are fighting for justice. But the reality is there are many other Churches out there in Malawi which can take our children but how about the future of the Anglican Church?

As for us you know our stand. Nothing will move us from this Church regardless of what attempts are made to frustrate us. My prayer to the leadership of the Central African Church in this New Year is to make decisions which are guided by the Holy Spirit. Decisions which would not be questioned by Jesus if he came today.

Jean Msosa
Concerned Christian member of Lake Malawi Diocese

* * *

And from Canon Paul Wilson a lay canon of Birmingham Cathedral. (N.B. Birmingham Diocese, U.K. is a principal and long-standing link partner with the four Anglican Dioceses in Malawi)

The Diocesan Toyota Landcruiser

'I do not want to become embroiled in a debate about the rights and wrongs of the situation regarding the appointment of a Bishop to DLM. However - (and a quite big however) the Birmingham Diocesan Board of Finance channels very significant funds every year to all of the Malawi Dioceses in order that they may continue to function.

'We would very much like to see the keys for the Toyota Landcruiser* returned to the Vicar General so that this vehicle, which has been standing idle for so long, may be used for the purpose for which it was purchased. Because this vehicle is unavailable, I shall have to hire a car/van for my visit later this month.'

* * *
ANGLICAN-INFORMATION comments that this is a problem that the acting Dean of the Province, Albert Chama should have addressed long ago. The continued forced absence of the elected bishop of Lake Malawi means that control and oversight is lacking.

*The Diocesan Landcruiser has been kept out of use by the House of Laity for good reason. It was being used inappropriately by various clergy for their own private travel which including trading items across the diocese for personal gain.



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.



Happy New Year

My apologies for the absence of blog entries over Christmas and New Year.

Normal service will be resumed, all being well, in a week or so when I hope to have finished a large piece of work I have been involved in. It has with that has taken all my energies.

Happy New Year to all,


Diocese of Lake Malawi under interdict

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION reports on another New Year in the troubled Central African Province.

In the Diocese of Lake Malawi the people have now been without their elected bishop for over three years due to the continued inability of the Provincial bishops to correct their spectacular faux pas at the subsequent Court of Confirmation. In November 2005 the ‘Court’ declared (without any evidence but under pressure from North American schismatic factions) that the bishop – elect was of ‘demonstrable unsound faith’.

Amongst those bishops who adamantly made the declaration, two are now excommunicated and waging a war of attrition against the Church in Zimbabwe, one has entered a discredited retirement abandoned by his American friends, and one is deceased. ‘Demonstrable unsound faith’ seems to be a relative concept.

Current provincial policy towards the Diocese of Lake Malawi has been to place the priests and people under an undeclared interdict, enacted as a policy of calculated neglect.

The bishops have therefore conducted a programme of minimal episcopal duties, hoping to crush any opposition, sap any will and through sheer frustration create a complaisant laity. This policy does not have the wholehearted support of all the bishops some of whom (sensibly) think it is counter-productive and disingenuous.

A typical recent communication from a layperson reads:
‘Since the disgraceful rejection of our dear man of God, the Rev Fr Nick, the
Diocese of Lake Malawi has been going through a tough time from the
bishops. As of now there are reports saying that the diocese is under
punishment for a period known only to the provincial bishops and they say that
they will decide on when to have a bishop.’

Remarkably, the people of the diocese remain in good spirits and vigilant. Far from suppressing or dividing them the bishops have succeeded in producing a renewed determination to see justice done. This essentially means convening the previously agreed independent provincial court to examine the failings of the original Court of Confirmation. However, this would be the very last thing that some of the original bishops would want for the obvious reason that it might (from their point of view) embarrassingly go the wrong way.

Result - New Year impasse - again.