27/02/2009

Divisions harden in Upper Shire


From Anglican Information

In our last release we reported that the Court of Confirmation for the new bishop of Upper Shire, The Rev’d Brighton Malasa would be held on 3rd March. In fact it will be held on Sunday 1st March in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. This is as far away from the Diocese of Upper Shire as the provincial bishops can manage, in order to avoid protests at their unpopular choice of candidate who is seen as an imposed choice.

A correspondent writes from Upper Shire:
‘The bishops issue is still in tense situation here. Confirmation in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe! - on 1st March 2009, but the question is why are they confirming a bishop when people in the diocese have raised issues concerning the imposed bishop’s morals?

These parishes have written against the proposed bishop: Malindi, Chinamwali, Nkope, Monkey Bay, Liwonde, Zomba (St. George’s), Mangochi Boma and his own cathedral parish. All these parishes make the same claims against him regarding drunkenness, sexual immorality and misuse of church funds.’

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that these are very serious allegations, from a large number of the parishes in Upper Shire, against Malasa who will become the world’s youngest bishop if the consecration goes ahead.


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Whatever happens this cannot be good. What happens when the shepherds play dice with one another and ignore the sheep? What is the purpose of bishops separated from the people?

But, of course, if you were once Archbishop Malanga's chaplain, these questions will probably not weigh heavily in your prayers.

Presumably Brighton Malasa will have to be installed in his Cathedral as a symbol of unity of the church in Upper Shire and of the unity of the worshipping people with the church universal. He won't be the first bishop to be consecrated in the teeth of fierce opposition, and sometimes the local people have come to love a bishop they first opposed. But on the whole such opposition has been based on doctrinal division not accusations of personal impropriety; difficult appointments have been made where, taken by and large, the college of bishops were respected even if the individual was not. The prognosis here cannot be good.

To push through this appointment against such local opposition, not even, so far as I can see, taking opposition seriously enough to address and counter it, is a recipe for division and schism. Anglican polity is such that the only real power the laity have is to leave, to the diminishment of all concerned.



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24/02/2009

Pawns and hostages

Jestina Mukoko



Anglican Information reports:

The Diocese of Northern Malawi
The Rt Rev’d Christopher Boyle, whose resignation as bishop of Northern Malawi we reported in our last issue, is to take up a new position in the Diocese of Leicester, UK. Formerly under the patronage of USPG he will become an Assistant Bishop in Leicester with special responsibility for immigrant communities. His surprise announcement comes at a time when many internal pressures continue in the Central African Province.

The Diocese of Upper Shire
The Rev’d Brighton Malasa, the thirty year old nominee of the Provincial Bishops will be confirmed as bishop at a Court of Confirmation to be held in Zimbabwe on 3rd March. If and when consecrated Malasa will become the youngest serving bishop in the Anglican Communion. Correspondents have pointed out that there is a precedent for such a youthful appointment, albeit 61 years ago, in the person of William J Gordon Jr who in 1948 was elected as Bishop of Alaska aged 29½ when he had to wait until his 30th birthday before being consecrated. Gordon was bishop for 26 years - Brighton Malasa, it is feared by priests and people in Upper Shire, could be in office for 35.

The Diocese of Lake Malawi, continues without its elected bishop as he was declared to have been of ‘unsound faith’ at the Court of Confirmation held in November 2005. This highly suspect judgement continues to be disputed as a ‘grave injustice’ by the priests and people of the diocese and fresh court cases challenging the bishops over their action are expected.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion have called for a day of ‘Prayer and Solidarity’ with the people of Zimbabwe ‘noting with horror the appalling difficulties of the people’ and stating ‘we do not recognise the status of Nolbert Kunonga and Elson Jakazi’ the excommunicated former bishops of Harare and Manicaland. This Day of Prayer is to be observed on Ash Wednesday, 25th February.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION have been asked to circulate the following from Veritas

PEACE WATCH, Zimbabwe, which is offered as a focus for churches everywhere observing the Day of Prayer. Readers will observe that those listed are real people languishing in terrible circumstances for standing up against oppression and dictatorship. The people of Central Africa have never lacked courage against injustice – we salute them.

[23rd February 2009]

Hospitalised Abductees Put in Leg Irons and Shackles
Jestina Mukoko, Fidelis Chiramba, Gandhi Mudzingwa, Zachariah Nkomo and Chinoto Zulu are still receiving treatment in the Avenues Clinic. They are all gaining strength but will need prolonged treatment. They are in wards being strictly guarded by prison warders and police - at least some of whom are armed. It is totally unnecessary and shocking that today they were put into leg-irons and shackled to their beds. This is very alarming for the patients as they are worried that it may signal an intention to try and return them to Chikurubi.

Summary of the Situation on Abductees
Group 1. [The 9 accused of recruiting persons to undergo training for insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism, the "recruiter group"] Of this group, 2 are in hospital - Jestina Mukoko, Zimbabwe, Peace Project [ZPP] Director, and Fidelis Chiramba. The other 7 - Broderick Takawira, ZPP, Concillia Chinanzvavana, Emmanuel Chinanzvavana, Pieta Kaseke, Violet Mupfuranhehwe, Collen Mutemagau and Audrey Zimbudzana - are still in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

Group 2. [The 7 accused of sabotage, the "bomber group"]. Of this group, 3 are in hospital - Gandhi Mudzingwa, Zacharia Nkomo and Chinoto Zulu. The other 4 - Chris Dhlamini, Mapfumo Garutsa, Andrison Manyere and Regis Mujeyi, are still in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, despite an order issued by Justice Karwi and a more recent magistrates court order issued on Friday morning for their immediate transfer to the Avenues Clinic for medical treatment. The medical condition of Chris Dhlamini, in particular, was highlighted by Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights as needing hospitalisation as long ago as 6th February.

Court case are continuing for all the abductees who have not yet been admitted to hospital [all have been tortured and their lawyers and doctors insist they should all be where they can receive appropriate treatment which they cannot get in Chikurubi] and also for the State to drop charges and release them.

[See end for summary of court proceedings since last Peace Watch]

Some Abductees still Missing
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights [ZLHR] are dealing with 30 cases of reported abductees. So far only 23 abductees have been accounted for - 5 in hospital, 11 in Chikurubi, 3 released, 1 escaped to South Africa and 3 located but being held in police protective custody as State witnesses.

ZLHR lawyers are taking a habeas corpus case asking the State to produce the remaining 7 on their list, who have not yet been located. The 7 are Gwenzi Kahiya, Ephraim Mabeka, Lovemore Machokota, Graham Matehwa, Peter Munyanyi, Charles Muza and Edmore Vangirayi. [Note Mr Tsvangirai when he threatened to withdraw from negotiations last year unless all the abductees were produced, mentioned that there were more than 42, so it could be that there are others, names unknown, missing.]

Abductees being used as Political Pawns?
The circumstances of the abductees' "disappearances", their illegal detention and torture by State agents, the refusal of the State to comply with numerous court orders and the delay in getting a Supreme Court hearing on the Constitutional violations involved, point to deliberate stalling pending a political decision.

Coming up in Court
Tuesday 24th February: High Court - defence appeal against the provincial magistrate's decision refusing to release Fidelis Chiramba and others of the "recruiter group'.

Friday 27th February: Magistrates court - further remand proceedings for Concillia et al [the "recruiter group"].

Friday 6th March: Magistrates court - further remand hearing for Dhlamini et al [the "bomber group"]. The prosecutor has been ordered to name a trial date at this hearing.

Date not fixed for Supreme Court - Constitutional Test Cases In these cases lawyers for Jestina Mukoko, Broderick Takawira and Audrey Zimbudzana will argue that the infringements of constitutional rights involved in their abduction and unlawful detention [including allegations of torture] mean that the State cannot prosecute them.

Abductees Court Proceedings since 16th February
[for full details see ZLHR reports available from kumbi@zlhr.org.zw]

Wednesday 18th February: Members of the Dhlamini et al group were due back in court, and the much-delayed police report on their allegations of torture at the hands of State Security personnel was expected to be filed. However, once again the report was not available and the magistrate postponed the proceedings to 20th February, ordering the prosecutor to provide the defence with a copy of the report by 19th February.

Thursday 19th February: Justice Omerjee granted bail to four members of the Dhlamini et al group: Chinoto Zulu, Zachariah Nkomo, Mapfumo Garutsa and Regis Mujeyi. They have not, however, been released, because the State immediately notified the court of its intention to appeal, resulting in the suspension of the judge's order granting bail. [Justice Omerjee turned down applications for bail from the other members of the group - Chris Dhlamini, Gandhi Mudzingwa and Andrison Manyere.]

Friday 20th February: Four members of the Dhlamini group appeared in the magistrates court. The magistrate directed the prosecutor to set a trial date and ordered that the four be taken immediately to the Avenues Clinic for examination and treatment [an order not yet complied with].


22/02/2009

No role model will do

Out of 100 American teens, only three are likely to say they see members of the clergy as role models, according to a survey on teens and ethical decision making.

Well, that's a relief.

Though I've never believed in 'role models'. The idea that you could influence people's behaviour for the better, let alone teenager's behaviour, by asking them to copy the achievements of other people that moralistic adults think they should follow is, at best, wishful thinking and, at worst, deliberate self-deception.

If there is anything at all in a 'role model' I think it's much more likely to work the other way round. Youngsters will (if it occurs to them to bother - or, perhaps, to satisfy the questions of adult enquirers) choose people who they think do the things they want to do - whether it's armed robbery or olympic achievement, billionaires or drop-outs.

On the other hand this report says,

“There is a troubling incongruence between the degree to which teens feel ethically prepared to enter the workforce, and the unethical behaviors in which they engage,” commented David W. Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative and professor of business ethics at Princeton University, according to JA Worldwide.

“The survey results do prompt concerns about teens’ future workplace behavior and forecast serious challenges to businesses around how they will need to prepare and train these future leaders,” he added.


But even so, I'm not that worried. The gap between teenage anticipation of the working environment and reality is vast. What is most likely is that they will slip naturally into the ethical behaviour of their workplace as they grow into it. Therefore it's not the teenagers we should worry about so much as the existing ethical standards in places of employment - i.e. those of the present adults.

So perhaps that's another reason why teenagers shouldn't emulate clergy. Who'd want to be in a business marked by systemic dishonesty and self-censorship?

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Cholera

WHO: 80,250 cholera cases have been recorded to date, and 3,759 Zimbabweans have died from the disease.

21/02/2009

Homosexual clergy: a little local matter



Twin sets of Lutherans waiting for the reccommendation in 2007

Lutherans weigh making gay clergy a local decision


Associated Press



A task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recommended that course Thursday in a long-awaited report on ministry standards. The panel, however, said the church needs to clarify a number of questions before overhauling its gay clergy policy.

The report, issued at the same time as a broader church social statement on human sexuality, seeks balance on an issue dividing many Protestant churches. Both documents will be considered in August in Minneapolis at the biannual convention of the 4.7-million member denomination.

"At this point, there is no consensus in the church," said the Rev. Peter Strommen of Prior Lake, Minn., chairman of the 15-member task force on sexuality. "The question ends up being, 'How are we going to live together in that absence of consensus?'

"This ought not to be church-dividing, even if there are strong differences."

Church members on both sides of the issue, however, were dissatisfied with the proposal. Conservatives called it a rejection of Scripture and an advocate for gay clergy said some of the elements take "a step backward."

Gays and lesbians can now serve as clergy in the ELCA if they remain celibate, although some congregations have challenged the system and hired pastors in gay relationships. Heterosexual clergy and professional lay workers are to abstain from sex outside marriage.
Between August 2006 and July 2007 Pastor Bradley Schmeling of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta was tried before the church's disciplinary processes for his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. The congregation of the church stood in solidarity with Pastor Schmeling and full details of the events of the trial are still on the church's website. Bradley Schmeling was eventually "removed from the ELCA roster". Nonetheless he remains in post and the bishop at the time, and his successor, have not pursued him further.

It is expected, hoped, that he will be the last to face such discipline.

In November 2007 the local option was the route chosen by Norway's state Lutheran Church. Here.

There's little comfort in knowing it's not just Anglicans torn apart in the culture wars. I hope they make a better fist of it than we've managed to date. If they want a covenant we've got a spare they can have.



A sermon in Washington

Mma Ramotswe

A sermon preached at the annual convention of the Diocese of Washington
By Trevor Mwamba

Botswana is in the southern part of Africa and is renowned for its working democracy and economic prosperity. But I think that for many of you Botswana is famous for Mma Ramotswe, the heroine of the bestselling series of books: The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith.

Mma Ramotswe, you will be delighted to hear is a very devout Episcopalian! In the book, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, in which I appear, Mma Ramotswe comes to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana when I am preaching. But, Mma Ramotswe is not concentrating on the sermon as her mind is wandering on how to solve a case involving a pumpkin. She stops herself and thinks, “This is not the way to listen to Trevor Mwamba!”


Always worth listening to.

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16/02/2009

How important is your religion?

From Gallup




This is the map of how important religion is to the residents of the couyntries polled.

The range in the US states was also wide.

Gallup says:

a population's religiosity level is strongly related to its average standard of living. Gallup's World Poll, for example, indicates that 8 of the 11 countries in which almost all residents (at least 98%) say religion is important in their daily lives are poorer nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 10 least religious countries studied include several with the world's highest living standards, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong, and Japan. (Several other countries on this list are former Soviet republics, places where the state suppressed religious expression for decades.)

I guess it all depends on where you start from as to what the religious world looks like.

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15/02/2009

Fallen from Grace


Dis Grace, First Shopper, Grasping Grace

From the Sunday Times

ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace have secretly bought a £4m bolt-hole in the Far East while his country struggles with hyper-inflation, mass unemployment and a cholera epidemic.

The Mugabes’ house, in an exclusive residential complex in Hong Kong, was purchased on their behalf by a middleman through a shadowy company whose registered office is in a run-down tenement block. When a reporter and a photographer called at the house last week, they were attacked by the Zimbabwean occupants. The assailants were questioned by the police.

The property came to light during a Sunday Times investigation into the Mugabes’ financial interests in Asia, where a web of associates has helped them to spend lavishly on luxuries and stash away millions in bank accounts. In Zimbabwe, meanwhile, inflation has reached 231m%, unemployment stands at 94% and 3,467 people have died in recent months from cholera.

...

All here

News from Zimbabwe

Roy Bennett, victim of power play in Zimbabwe



ANGLICAN-INFORMATION comments that following the recent ‘swearing in’ of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe hopes have been been high for a new era of power sharing in Zimbabwe. However, already with the arrest of Roy Bennett MDC treasurer and deputy agricultural minister at Harare airport, and procrastination on the part of the Mugabe regime, most fear that it will be business as usual. From the Anglican Church’s point of view and the Diocese of Harare, this is no time to be replacing Bishop Sebastian Bakare.

Some conservative factions in the press have dismissed our concerns that dissident bishop Nolbert Kunonga could influence the recently announced elections to replace Bakare. However, we remain concerned that the Central African Province is taking a great risk, for reasons best known to its episcopal leadership, in calling for elections for a new bishop at this time.

The Rt Rev’d Christopher Boyle, Diocese of Northern Malawi - news that the last remaining white bishop in the Central African Province has announced his retirement this summer has come as a surprise. Bishop Boyle, aged 58, has been bishop of Northern Malawi since 2001 and is not due for retirement. It has been widely rumoured that he is unhappy with the direction that the Province is currently taking. We hope to carry more of this news in a subsequent release.

Meanwhile what does it feel like in Zimbabwe? Here is a first hand account:

‘Many of us had hoped that with the ray of light in the political situation there would be some change for the better in the Harare Diocese (CPCA). But so far rather the opposite. Guess who took charge of the prayers at the swearing in of our new Prime Minister?

Quoted in the Zimbabwe Independent:

“Controversial Archbishop Norbert Kunonga opened the event by reading the biblical story of dry bones before closing in prayer”.

The country's battered economy and the humanitarian crisis across the country, Kunonga said, ‘was allegorical to the state of affairs in ancient Iraq referred to in the Bible, trusting in divine intervention for the immediate turnaround of fortunes following the formation of the inclusive government'.

Kunonga's other activity leaves a bad taste in the mouth. He has sent out e-mails from his e-mail address (Diocese of Harare) to at least four possible doners over the apparent signature of Bishop Sebastian Bakare. The e-mails contain a long fabrication about the bishop’s wife Ruth Bakare having fallen seriously ill, and appealing for thousands of US dollars to enable her to be treated. The address to send money was Union Avenue Box 7, which is the Cathedral Box number. Fortunately, this e-mail has been checked back with Bishop Sebastian, and hopefully no money has been sent to Kunonga.

One wonders what would befall anyone who did this so blatantly in any country where there is the rule of law’.

And received by us a warning e-mail as follows:
There is an e-mail circulating purporting to be sent by the Bishop of Harare and signed by Bishop Sebastian Bakare stating that his wife is seriously ill with renal failure requiring dialysis and requesting funding. This e-mail does not emanate from the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) and Mrs Bakare is well. Bishop Bakare and his wife have not travelled to Uganda recently and certainly are not seeking for funds for medical attention. If you receive an e-mail of this nature kindly disregard it and we trust that no funds have been deposited in any account.


14/02/2009

Pray for Zimbabwe


From ACNS

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon writes:

‘I want to bring to your attention the request of the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion, at their recent meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, that Anglican Churches world-wide observe 25th February, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.

‘The primates and Moderators also requested that parishes throughout the Anglican Communion give aid to enable food and other material aid for Zimbabwe for distribution through the dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.’

Financial aid should be channelled through your own church’s relief and development agency, or alternatively donations (in any currency) can be sent to:

The Anglican Communion Office, 16 Tavistock Crescent, London W11 1AP England.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Southern Africa and the Rt. Rev. Albert Chama, dean of the Anglican Province of Central Africa, had addressed the primates about Zimbabwe and in a press briefing the following day they spoke to the media.

Archbishop Makgoba. "We explained the urgency of the situation - the total collapse of the economy and socio-political infrastructure - and appealed to the primates to assist in whatever humanitarian needs they could provide to Zimbabwe."

Prayer for the People of Zimbabwe

We pray for the suffering people of Zimbabwe,
Forced to live amid deterioration, disease and despair.
We raise our voices on their behalf,
As truth-tellers we want to proclaim 'This is not good',
It is not how God desires our world to be.
Loving Father, look after the people of that sad but beautiful land,
Care for the little ones,
Comfort the dying ones,
And into this hour of darkness may the light of your new dawn begin to shine.
Amen

Canutism


Further reflection on power

As everyone knows King Canute went down to the beach with his courtiers and there he commanded the tide to cease. Foolish King.

Or, as every sophisticated person knows, King Canute went down to the beach with his sycophantic courtiers in order to teach them a lesson: not even the King can command the waves.

So why on earth is the British government so trapped in the myth of Canutism? In the hope that it will be re-elected it has set itself to give the voting population confidence that it is in control. Of everything.

Therefore, as soon as things don't go right, the government gets the blame. It could not command the financial bubble. It can't control teenage pregnancies or truanting. It can't control knife crime. It can't control the weather.

Crime is a clear equivalent of Canute's tide. By definition crime is what happens beyond governmental controls. Hence the emphasis on punishment - knowing that it cannot control crime the government emphasises its reaction. But punishment (as a political tool, not the reality) is smoke and mirrors - designed to obscure the fact that crime cannot be controlled. (Though it may be possible to manage it.)

Blair and a strong economy meant that the impression of control was sustainable. Brown and a collapsing economy mean the impression that everything is out of control. In fact nothing has changed in the government's capacity to control the people. (Lots of controls and constraints have been put in place and their legacy will last decades, but it still cannot control the uncontrollable.)

And the Church has swum in the same stream. Faced with people not doing what the leaders want of them there is an instinctive turn to demand more powers - to control the words and behaviour of the people. It won't work, can't work. But it can do a lot of damage on the way.

We need to lose the Canute myth and rediscover a more sophisticated Canutism.

The authorised version:

Canute began by being a Bad King on the advice of his Courtiers, who informed him (owing to a misunderstanding of the Rule Britannia) that the King of England was entitled to sit on the sea without getting wet. But finding that they were wrong he gave up this policy and decided to take his own advice in future - thus originating the memorable proverb, 'Paddle your own Canute' - and became a Good King and C. of E., and ceased to be memorable.

1066 And All That, W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1930.


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12/02/2009

Dedication Service fpr Morgan Tsvangirai

Via Anglican Information

Pictures taken on Wednesday 11 February 2009 at The Dedication Service for The New Zimbabwean Prime Minister at Mabelreign Methodist Church In Zimbabwe.

























Tsvangirai has Kunonga's blessing


Jubilant MDC supporters after Morgan Tsvangiri's inauguration


Watching the Channel 4 News last night I realised I'd left cholera off the list of problems Tsvangirai faces. And the facts that health care, education, electricity and water supply have all effectively broken down.

And, perhaps most worring for future reconciliation, that the generals stayed away from the inauguration having vowed that they would never salute him.

And today I see one more Obama moment:

The invocation was delivered by Nolbert Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare, who is known as “Mr Mugabe's bishop” and who was defrocked by the Anglican Church.
The report continues,

Though subdued at the inauguration, Mr Tsvangirai came alive at the subsequent rally and made promises that startled Western observers. In an attempt to win over the disgruntled security forces he pledged that all soldiers and policemen, as well as teachers and health workers, would be paid in foreign currency from the end of this month. In return he asked that all striking public sector workers return to their desks and all schools reopen on Monday. Western diplomats said that they had no idea where the bankrupt Treasury would find the funds.

“We are opening a new chapter for our country,” Mr Tsvangirai said, as he appealed for national healing and identified his three priorities as democratisation, ending the humanitarian crisis and stabilising the economy.


(from The Times)

11/02/2009

Zimbabwe: under slightly different management

The Inauguration of Morgan Tsvangirai as Priminister of Zimbabwe





Morgan Tsvangirai's speech:

Today is an historic day for our country. As we form this transitional government, we look back with reflection on the difficult journey that has brought us to this day, and look forward with determination to the road that lies ahead.

To my fellow African leaders, there can be no turning back on the political agreement which each party has signed, knowing it is not a perfect agreement but still a workable one. An agreement that if implemented with good faith, will deliver a peaceful way forward toward a stable economy, a new constitution and free and fair elections. Brothers and sisters in SADC and the AU, we are counting on you to be our partners and to ensure that this agreement is upheld as we face the challenges of rebuilding our country in the days ahead.

Though today’s ceremony marks a very significant milestone on our democratic journey, it is only the beginning. On this day 19 years ago Nelson Mandela walked free from Victor Verster prison, an historic step on South Africa’s long road to freedom.

Tsvangirai called for an end to politicial polarization, to the 'culture of entitlement and impunity', and to people's need to flee the country for economic reasons.
People of Zimbabwe, I have a vision for our country that will guide me as Prime Minister. I will work to create a society where our values are stronger than the threat of violence, where our children’s future and happiness is more important than present political goals and where a person is free to express an opinion, loudly, openly and publicly without fear of reprisal or repression. A country where jobs are available for those who wish to work, food is available for those that are hungry and where we are united by our respect for the rights and dignity of our fellow citizens. This is the Zimbabwe that I am working towards.
To this end he intends:
1) to implement the democratization agenda
2) to tackle the humanitarian crisis
3) to stabilize the economy

All here.

But there are still the small problems of Zanu-PF, of entrenched violence, unbelievable inflation (I understand that some western institutions have been buying up samples of Zimbabwe dollar notes as collectors' items), political prisoners, systematic use of torture, hardly any economic activity, an empty Treasury, and extensive international scepticism.

Would you buy a used country from this man, even if the banner outside read 'Under New Management, in part'?


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The Fate and Freedom of Civilians Caught up in War






The Fate and Freedom of Civilians Caught up in War

The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
CEYLON 090211-1February 11, 2009

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon]

Two recent incidents of violence unleashed against innocent and defenceless Tamil civilians by the LTTE must be condemned unreservedly by peace loving Sri Lankans of all communities.

The suicide bomb attack at a check point at Surantanpuran killed ten civilians and twenty soldiers engaged in receiving Tamil civilians who had crossed over, and injured many more. The deliberate firing at civilians crossing over from uncleared areas killed nineteen and injured sixty-nine. Many of those affected in both incidents were helpless children and many of the injured are said to be in a very critical condition.

These utterly senseless acts are clearly meant to intimidate the very people the LTTE claim it wants to liberate, and are a brazen violation of the civilians right to movement and life. The LTTE must immediately stop this ruthless suppression of Tamil civilians.

I offer the deepest sympathies of our Church to the relatives of the deceased and the assurance of our prayers to those who mourn and are injured. You are a people that have suffered untold deprivation and oppression over the years, and it is our prayer that there will soon be an end to your misery. May the God of compassion give you strength to face these terrible tragedies and keep you steadfast in mercy and hope.

As this war intensifies and the LTTE becomes even more desperate, the chances of civilian casualties will keep increasing. This correspondingly leads to a growing sense of helplessness amongst all who long for an end to war and human suffering. In these circumstances there are four realities that all Sri Lankans should strive to ensure.

These are:
a) a demonstration of sorrow that war requires the daily killing and death of Sri Lankan combatants, who are none other than sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

b) equally intensified and sustained policies and strategies as a sacred duty that protects civilians.

c) the democratic space for persons of religious and ideological conviction, committed to non-violent methods of dealing with conflict, to be heard with respect.

d) a prompt and professional programme of reconstruction accompanied by a return to civil administration that offers freedom and dignity to all.

I earnestly invite all communities of our beloved Sri Lanka to work and pray to keep these realities alive during these very difficult and daunting days.

With Peace and blessings to all
The Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera,
Bishop of Colombo

11th February 2009








Continued violence in Sri Lanka

LTTE soldiers




The military success of the Sri Lankan army is marked by continuing violence:

A group of Sri Lankan bishops spoke out against the escalating violence between the government and a rebel group in the north that recently killed 52 civilians within a day.

“[There is] a real danger that the rate of civilian casualties could increase even more,” warned the joint statement signed by the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, and other Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, according to U.K.-based Church Times.

The killing of civilians is a “cause for serious regret, and cannot be justified in any war, especially in a war amongst the people of the same country,” they said in a statement released last week.

“We also appeal to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that the presence of trapped civilians should not be used to gain military advantage,” the five faith leaders stated. “There should be no restriction of the civilians’ right to life and movement.”


All here.

10/02/2009

Covenant paper

I've put on the MCU website a briefing paper on the Covenant for tomorrow's General Synod debate.

It assumes readers have GS 1716, the official briefing paper, available here via Thainking Anglicans.

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Whoops

I've revamped the formatting of 'Centralise power and enforce the rules' to remove the footnote links and also to make it more readable. And A quick primer on power and the Church of England.

As Dave points out I'd made the same error as entertained me when I found it in Archbishop Akionla's sermon. The perils of relying on cut and paste without checking!

Apologies to all, and thanks to Dave.

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Primates' Meeting: the view from Scotland


The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has also posted his comments here.
They don't say a lot. But he does indicate the influence of the Windsor Continuation Group in setting the agenda for the development of the Communion:

The Primates supported the recommendations made to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Windsor Continuation Group to take action to bring the Communion to a clearer understanding of how it might, as a whole, focus more on mission in the world as we live in it today.

And this is the gloss on the command and centralisation ecclesiology:

The Communion is moving towards a new appreciation of how our bonds create opportunity for deep sharing and support and which sometimes also call us to order our life with ‘generous restraint’ in order to sustain Communion.

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Akinola on the Primates' Meeting


Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, The Primate of Nigeria

Archbishop Akinola has posted a sermon (I think that's the most accurate term) on the recent Primates' Meeting on the Church of Nigeria website.

It doesn't say much directly but it's tone is of warning, threat and challenge from the certainty of his knowledge of the will of God. He selects biblical motifs and passages which cast him in the role of Old Testament prophet (the only NT passage is from Revalation).

His enemies are syncretism, capitulation to a 'sick and spiritually bankrupt world', the ease of living 'lives with no transforming power', becoming 'withering grass that is simply blown out by the devastating wind of the age.'

We are in danger:


in danger of forgetting what we have received and heard and replacing it with the seemingly attractive gods and goddesses of our age. We are in danger of becoming the ‘living dead’ by giving the outward appearance of life but in reality we are no more than empty and ineffective vessels. In parts of our Communion some have merged the historical gospel message of Jesus the Christ with seductive ancient heresies and revisionist agendas, which have resulted in an adulterated and dangerous distortion of the gospel. The call to obedience and repentance is one that we must declare but we refuse and instead we replace it with a polite invitation to empty tolerance and endless conversation. Sometimes we think that we can replace the need for repentance with activities, programmes, endless meetings, conventions and communiqu├ęs --- we are wrong!
His answer:

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent!”

'Obedience' and 'obey' were used 6 times in this faily short passage. Obedience to God, of course - but who shall mediate God's word to us?



I found it symbolic that when I clicked a footnote link, expecting to find the bible reference, I was asked to login - username and password required.





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09/02/2009

The perils of legalism

Bishop Johnson meets the people at Runnymede


It seems that the Diocese of Toronto has



agreed to allow pastoral services of prayer and blessing for same-sex couples, but will not authorize sacramental rites for the blessing of same-sex unions or gay marriages.

George Conger has the story here (see my earlier post). Ephraim Radner, who lives in Toronto, is not pleased.


“It is hard to escape the fact that the process you have now set in motion — one that involves public proposals, discussions, synodical actions, and all dealing with a way of ordering a particular ‘pastoral response’ that involves episcopal oversight and particular permissions, following directives that involve the nature of prayers – cannot avoid being seen as one of ecclesial ‘authorization’ of liturgical matters surrounding same-sex unions,” he said.

Dr Radner, one of the leaders of the Anglican Communion Institute, and a member of Anglican Covenant Design Group, said the new policy ran contrary to the wider mind of the Communion. While the bishops may have believed they were only giving a structure to a an arrangement for “private prayers”, the “very process you are following” calls for “formal, episcopal, diocesan, public, liturgical prayers of blessing.”

It would not be “very difficult indeed to make the case and persuade others” that what Toronto had now done violated the Lambeth Conference moratorium and [had] was in opposition to the “concerns of many Anglicans around the world.”


(The last paragraph is gobbledegook in the original, of course. Presumed corrections in red.)


If you - or the Covenant, or the common canon law project - take a legalistic approach to matters of conflict and division then hair splitting is precisely what you will get. There are no rules that cannot be sliced up or that need no further interpretation.



If the rule says you may not authorize Rites of Blessing for Same Sex unions you can expect someone to challenge the defintion of each term: this is a political game, not a juridical one. It will eventually work its way out according to majority opinion and not through legal judgements. Thus Bishop Johnson's 'year-long consultation' is not merely cover for his actions but an alternative process to that of the father-knows-best conservatives.

And that immediately hits another core area of dispute: can the church move with the general opinion of its people? Or must the church conform to the specific opinions of its leaders? It is, of course, a false choice. Both leadership and the assent of the led are necessary in the faithful management of change and continuity.








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Bakare to be forced out?

From Anglican Information

The Central African Provincial Synod undertakes Nolbert Kunonga’s work for him?

The synod of the Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe has petitioned that Bishop Sebastian Bakare be allowed to stay in his caretaker role for a further year. This is to continue his courageous work in standing up to self-proclaimed ‘Archbishop’ Nolbert Kunonga and his Mugabe-backed violent regime.

However, the Provincial Synod has vetoed the request and insisted on new elections for a bishop for Harare in June this year.

This veto has emerged under the oversight of acting Dean of the Province, Albert Chama of Northern Zambia. There is a history stretching back to the now retired former Archbishop Bernard Malango (who was very close to Nolbert Kunonga) of pressure on Bakare due to complicated internal differences associated with the struggles in the wider Anglican Communion. In short it looks like Sebastian Bakare is being pushed out.

Given the nature of the nominating process in Harare there is a now distinct danger that Nolbert Kunonga could promote a candidate of his choice. His own election (overseen by Bernard Malango) was shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Thanks to the Provincial Synod decision, Nolbert Kunonga may yet achieve his avowed ambition to oust his old enemy Sebastian Bakare and replace him with a ‘more suitable’ candidate.

Such a tangled web of interconnected ecclesiastical and political machination is unfortunately characteristic of the Central African Province still under the oversight of Bishop Albert Chama.

Interpersonal episcopal power struggles, that are a mystery to outside observers, continue to defy logic in this troubled Province.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION reports that in Upper Shire Diocese in Malawi, petitions (including one signed by 24 parishioners from his own church) have been lodged against thirty-year-old Brighton Malasa for ‘drunkenness, embezzlement and adultery’.

At the end of last year Malasa was the surprise choice of the Provincial bishops as new bishop of Upper Shire, despite stiff resistance from priests and people and the fact that he is exceptionally young and inexperienced. The recent Anglican Primates Statement covered by us and many other webcasts, which was critical of Kunonga and the Mugabe regime, is already looking a little jaded and pointless.

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08/02/2009

Centralise power and enforce the rules

[Formatting Revised 10/2/09]

The agenda for the Anglican Communion: centralise power and enforce the rules.


The Windsor Continuation Group, with the assent of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates, is writing the future of the Anglican Covenant.


If the teeth have, possibly, been drawn from the Covenant then it is merely so that they can be fitted in elsewhere.


Goal:

To give decisions and recommendations of the central agencies of the Communion authority and force.

Principles:

1) Change the relationships between Provinces. Instead of a network of autonomous Provinces choosing to share ecclesial life together there will be central decision making bodies, of which the Provinces will be part.

'The need for a shift of focus in the life of the communion from autonomy of provinces with communion added on, to communion as the primary reality with autonomy and accountability understood within that framework.' [The Archbishop of Canterbury, final press briefing after the Primates’ meeting, 5/2/09.]


2) Create a constitution for all the international organs of the Anglican Communion.

A set or [of] recommendations about the instruments of communion and how they should work. All four; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meeting, The Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference need some looking at as to whether their present structures of working are adequate to the situation. [The Archbishop of Canterbury, final press briefing after the Primates’ meeting, 5/2/09.]

3) Concentrate decision making in international bodies.

Subsidiarity (in the Windsor report but missing from the Nassau and St Andrews’ drafts) will need to be revisited. [The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, §50.]

4) Resolve ambiguity about the nature and expression of episcopacy [The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, §§60, 61.]


Mechanism:

Provinces will be asked to make voluntary submission to the Covenant and thence to constitutional revision.

No Province will be instructed or directed to take any step at all. Therefore there will be few legal problems in any jurisdiction. Each Province will have voluntarily entered into a revised relationship with other Provinces, determined in accordance with their own internal decision making structures.

Each Province will be invited to internalise global jurisdiction over it by progressively adopting common canon law and appointing compliance officers.

These proposals were key aspects of the draft Covenant in the Windsor Report. [The Windsor Report, §113 and Appendix 2 Article 25].


Interim steps:

The Windsor Continuation Group maintains an overview of all developments and, in close liaison with the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the key co-ordinating body

Pastoral arrangements and structures for mediation are needed now to address areas of particular tensions within the Anglican Communion. [The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, §81-91.]

Advisory commissions can continue the constitutional work [The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, §80]. In particular

  • A hermeneutics project – The Bible in the Church.

  • IASCUFO (The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order) is asked to prepare an urgent statement on the Instruments of Communion for consultation, if possible in time for incorporation into subsequent drafts of the Covenant. [The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, §76.]
  • The Principles of Canon Law Project to further the creation of a common canon law across the Communion.

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06/02/2009

A quick primer on power and the Church of England

Sculptor Kevin Stone's image of power and authority. It's for sale.

Power is a complex term, the Church is a slippery organization, and very few people address the combination directly except, perhaps, to complain.

[Note 1 In the literature on the Church of England there is one book I can bring to mind and a couple of articles which overtly address power – and a vast literature on authority. This is not an accident].

This is prologue to the questions: what is, should be, could be the proper relationships between bishops, clergy and laity in the Church of England? How should the Church of England be constituted?

My working definitions:
· Power – the capacity to effect or prevent change
· Authority – the right to take decisions.

Neither power nor authority are objects or object-like (notwithstanding all the language which treats them as such) [ Note 2: That is, there is a body of literature which conceptualises power in this way. I reject it: it serves those who hold power]
. Power and authority are relational (i.e. exercised between people) and, though either may be latent, both exist only insofar as they are exercised.

Both are essential: power is what makes anything happen and stops anything else [Note 3: This is a distributed model of power in which, bar complete extremes, everyone has some power and some people have a lot]
. Authority says what’s right. Together they form the organizational foundation which sustains society.

Furthermore:
· Power is always limited
· Authority is always contested

Both power and its limits are visible whenever power is exercised.

Authority is created in the process of overcoming those who would contest it.

Neither can stand still. Each has its own internal logic which is inherently imperial – power, to be recognised, has to be exercised over others; authority, to be sustained, has to defeat those who would contest it. The greater the concentration of power or higher the claim to authority the more the needs for enemies.

Power and authority are inherently unstable: like a pile of sand they must continually be built up or tide and time will simply wash them away.

Power and authority
Power and authority are thus clearly separable. They are also intimately connected. In particular:
· Those who use power crave legitimacy. Thus authority serves those with power.
· The claim to authority is not authority. It is, however, also a claim to the right to power. Thus power is bent to the service of those with authority.
· The claim to authority is also a claim for deference. To fail to defer is to challenge the illusion of authority and to expose its lack of power.
· The claim of moral authority is a demand for deference in the explicit acknowledgement of the lack of power.
· On the other hand, there is no point claiming power you don’t have – threats that are exposed as empty merely render you ridiculous.
· The grounds of the claim to authority, and thus to the legitimacy of action, are never [Note 4: So far as I can conceive today]
coterminous with action. There is always discontinuity between authority and power, intention and action, legitimation and result.

Therefore there is always the possibility, and maybe always the probability, that any action will contradict the stated reasons (whether in the manner of those actions or the results) and new post hoc legitimation will always be needed.

Curiously these inbuilt disconnections are also the grounds of hope: power is limited and authority contested and nothing lasts forever. This is politics: what made and maintains one configuration of authority and power can always unmake it and create another.

Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction [Note 5: Etymologically, ‘law-speaking’]
, in the normal course of events, is the codification of authority and power in harness.

A jurisdiction is a declaration of who has authority to make certain decisions within defined bounds. The bounds would frequently include: subject matter, geographic territory, persons subject to the jurisdiction, and due process. It generally (though not inevitably) also specifies the terms on which coercive power may be used to implement decisions properly made within the jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction is generally a nested hierarchy. Lower levels may be constrained along any of the bounds which constrain that jurisdiction (e.g. Magistrates Courts can only hear cases related to their geographic area and can’t hear more serious cases; when they deal with civil matters, e.g. licensing, they do so under different rules). Lower levels are controlled by higher levels which can generally review and, if thought necessary, reverse lower level decisions.

Bishops have jurisdiction (their function as ‘ordinary’) over their diocese, its clergy and lay people, in matters relating to doctrine, worship and the discipline of clergy. They do so in accordance with legislation and in consultation with other bishops. However there is no higher level of hierarchy: there is no body which can review or reverse their decisions (though in some areas it may be possible to challenge the exercise of their jurisdiction in secular courts and tribunals).

Bishops, power and authority
Bishops have no power over the laity (effectively lost in the C18). Their power over clergy is generally more persuasive than directive. Power over appointments is a strong lever.

(I’m not up top date on progress towards common tenure for clergy. Hitherto freehold has nominally left clergy impervious to episcopal power and those with licences wholly dependent on episcopal power, even if the reality was much more blurred.)

Such power that bishops do have is generally reactive and negative – the power to prevent change but not the power to effect change.

Bishops have little power but they claim high authority. They expect deference (some more overtly than others).

The Church is not a democracy. However few people take the next step of then saying how, in political terms, the Church of England should be designated. I suggest that the Church is a constitutional monarchy, like the British State. However in the State the emphasis is on the constitution; in the Church the emphasis is still on the monarchical. Making the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Synod the Bishops Council was a deliberate fudging of centres of power in favour of the Diocesan bishop. The bishop’s council (cf. Privy Council) is a court. Influence in a diocese (a milder but real form of power) stems from the goodwill of the bishop, and is sustained by continued access to the bishop’s ear.

(Incidentally this is organizationally dysfunctional and works counter to any possibility of a ‘learning organization’. Influence comes from telling the prince what he wants to hear. If influence depends on continuing to have the ear of the bishop then it is not in your interests to share your knowledge with anyone else. It is in your interests to exclude other sources of information in your area of knowledge – like using ‘pre-emergence’ weedkiller to keep potential competitors from ever seeing the light of day.)

Bishops, clergy, laity
The creation of synodical structures (in 1919 and 1970) were deliberate attempts to include the laity in the government of the Church. The particular structures of Synod reflect the attempt to incorporate the laity without reducing the power of the bishop.

General Synod was a trade-off with Parliament. In effect it allowed the laity the minimum voice possible which would enable church leaders to persuade Parliament to transfer to it jurisdiction over worship and doctrine (in the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974), a goal that had been sought since at least the 1840s.

A key element is ‘consultation’. Where those who are consulted must give their assent they have real power to stop change. Where they do not they are, at best, advisors. At worst they merely provide additional legitimation for actions that those with power wish to take on other grounds.

In General Synod it is possible for one House to refuse assent to proposed Measures (or other votes). Both clergy and laity thus have a veto and thus also constructive power in the shaping of Measures. Diocesan Synods were intended to parallel General Synod: the bishop cannot have his views overridden in synodical decision making and every effort is made to ensure that such a possibility is not exposed by avoiding putting bishops in the position where they would be forced to exercise their power of veto.

Since the creation of General Synod, and especially since the mid-1980s, I believe there has been a steady assertion of the authority and power of bishops at the expense of both clergy and laity.

I also believe that the laity are the heart of the Church. I think the centre of worship should be in the nave, not the chancel. I know that the whole superstructure rests on funds provided by the laity. I suspect that the ratio of paying laity : all clergy : senior staff and bishops has been shifting towards the clergy as a whole and towards the more expensive clergy in particular. I am convinced that a church which excludes the laity from doctrinal debate and engagement is thereby impoverished and (lacking any serious notion of reception) is ecclesiologically deformed.

And the greater the claim that bishops know best the bigger the mess will be made of things.

I suggest a thought experiment: mentally remove each class of laity, clergy, bishops, and see what remains: would there still be a church without any one of these groups?

Paul Bagshaw
6/2/09

Police continue to ignore court rulings


Avondale Shops (sorry, not easy to find more pertinent graphics)



ANGLICANS in the Diocese of Harare in the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) have become disillusioned with the Police Commissioner-General's unwritten decree that the police will not enforce court rulings in favour of the Anglican Church under Acting Bishop Sebastian Bakare.

According to police officials, Chihuri allegedly verbally instructed some senior police officers in Harare to defy any court rulings that favoured the Anglican (CPCA). The CPCA is the controlling body of the Anglican Church in Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

This hindrance to the right to worship of Anglicans under the leadership of Bishop Bakare has revived speculation within the Anglican Communion that the government of President Mugabe does not respect the freedom of worship as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The dispute in the Anglican Church in Harare started on 21 September 2007 after then Bishop of the Diocese of Harare Nolbert Kunonga wrote a letter to the then Arcbishop of the CPCA Dr Bernard Malango, advising him of his decision to withdraw from the CPCA citing alleged differences over homosexuality.

Following Kunonga's withdrawal and resignation as Bishop of Harare, the CPCA proceeded to appoint Bakare as Acting Bishop until a new bishop is elected to head the Anglican Diocese of Harare, expected sometime in September this year.

Since then, the Kunonga rebel group and the CPCA have engaged in intense legal battles over ownership of church buildings and other properties, the use of church buildings for Sunday services and the protection of parishioners against police interference in the places of worship.

Judge President, Justice Rita Makarau issued an interim order in Case Number HC 345/08 that provided for the sharing of church premises for Sunday services starting with the Kunonga group's service followed 90 minutes later by the CPCA's services. Despite several appeals by Kunonga against this order other High Court judges, Justice Karwi (Holy Communion 402/08), Justice Hungwe (HC3208/07 and Justice Guvava (HC 2259/08 upheld the Makarau judgment.

"All these orders are pointing to the effect that the Anglican Diocese of Harare (CPCA) has a legal right to access and use of Anglican properties and premises," Bishop Bakare said. "These orders do not give any right to the Police to interfere in the civil disputes in the Church affairs before the Court. "Regrettably all these court orders are being disregarded by some individuals who give 'orders from above'. The issue regarding properties is still pending, awaiting the outcome of the Courts (case Number HC 6544/07)."

This contemptuous behavior by identified police officers has allowed Kunonga's rebel group to enlist the help of known Zanu PF officials under the leadership of former Harare Provincial Chairman Amos Midzi to intimidate Anglicans and drive them out of their church premises.

Most Anglicans under Bishop Bakare now worship in open spaces in the glare of the sun and the rains. Attempts by several individual Anglican parishes in the CPCA to pursue this matter with the police have yielded blanks. There is no written documentation to support the actions of the police except a reference to Chihuri's standing order.

Every Sunday the police bar the CPCA from conducting their services at their places of worship. The police usually come in the company of the Kunonga rebels who give them instructions as to who to arrest and detain. Those subsequently arrested are illegally detained and subsequently released without being charged.

The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare has constantly demanded the non-interference of the police in religious matters as enshrined in the country's Constitution and also in regional, continental and United Nations conventions and statutes.

Bishop Bakare says: "We are one. Our mission is to preach the gospel of Christ which is about peace, justice and love. We continue to urge those who use abrasive language against us to come and join us in preaching the message of Christ."

The situation is unbearable at St Paul's in Highfield where Dorcas Manyonda, the Zanu PF losing candidate for Highfield West in the 29 March Harmonised Elections has teamed up with the rebel's priest Abraham Gwatidzo and a Major Simeon Makowe in terrorizing parishioners and disrupting church services.

At St Michael's Mbare, the rebels have the backing off. The Anglican cathedral has remained shut to the public after the disgraced Kunonga closed it at the height of the conflict in February 2008. For the record the Cathedral has over the years served Anglicans and other members of the public who wish to have their prayers. It has also acted as a sanctuary to destitute members of society.

However the police continue to shield Kunonga and his hooligans from prosecution for contempt of the Makarau ruling.


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05/02/2009

Primates on Zimbabwe: more detail

The Rt Revd Albert Chama, Bishop of Zambia Photo Credit: ACNS

From Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

The Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Alexandria, held what the Anglican Communion News Service called a "moving discussion on Zimbabwe" on Monday night, February 2, led by Bishop Albert Chama of Central Africa and Archbishop Thabo.

You can hear a recording of the news conference, addressed first by Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, media spokesman for the meeting, and then Archbishop Thabo, at the ACNS website.

You can also read reports referring to Archbishop Thabo's contributions to the meeting by the U.S. Episcopal Church's correspondent at the meeting, and a report in The Guardian, London.



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03/02/2009

Comment on the Primate's statement on Zimbabwe

Anglican Information's comment on the Primates' statement:

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that the clear statement that the Primates do not recognise the status of Bishops Nolbert Kunonga (Harare) and Elson Jakazi (Manicaland) represents a huge step forward and endorses the heroic work led by Bishop Sebastian Bakare on the part of the Province of Central Africa in attempting to reclaim the dioceses of Harare and Manicaland. We have long chronicled the terrible intimidation and violence on the part of Mugabe backed Nolbert Kunonga and pray that this statement may give heart to those who have been at the receiving end of his atrocities.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION says it is an encouraging sign that the Primates have been able to tear themselves away from arguments about sexuality, at least for a while, and find a unity of Anglican Communion purpose. It is ironic that it has taken so much suffering to achieve this.

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Primates' Statement on Zimbabwe

From the ACNS

The Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Alexandria, Egypt on 3rd February, 2009, heard first hand reports of the situation in Zimbabwe, and note with horror the appalling difficulties of the people of this nation under the current regime.

We give thanks to God for the faithful witness of the Christians of Zimbabwe during this time of pain and suffering, especially those who are being denied access to their churches. We wish to assure them of our love, support and prayers as they face gross violation of human rights, hunger and loss of life as well as the scourge of a cholera epidemic, all due directly to the deteriorating socio-political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.

It is a matter of grave concern that there is an apparent breakdown of the rule of law within the country, and that the democratic process is being undermined, as shown in the flagrant disregard of the outcome of the democratic elections of March 31st 2008, so that Mr Robert Mugabe illegitimately holds on to power. Even the recent political situation of power sharing, brokered by SADC, may not be long lasting and simply further entrench Mr Mugabe’s regime. There appears to be a total disregard for life, consistently demonstrated by Mr Mugabe through systematic kidnap, torture and the killing of Zimbabwean people. The economy of Zimbabwe has collapsed, as evidenced by the use of foreign currencies in an independent state.

We therefore call upon President Robert Mugabe to respect the outcome of the elections of 2008 and to step down. We call for the implementation of the rule of law and the restoration of democratic processes.

We request that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, in consultation with the Church of the Province of Central Africa, commission a Representative to go to Zimbabwe to exercise a ministry of presence and to show solidarity with the Zimbabwean people. We also request the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa to facilitate a meeting with the African Union president and other African political leaders (especially those of SADC) to highlight the plight of the Zimbabwean peoples.

We call upon parishes throughout the Anglican Communion to assist the Anglican Communion Office, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Office and the Anglican Observer to the United Nations in addressing the humanitarian crisis by giving aid through such mechanisms as the Archbishop of Canterbury is able to designate, and asking that Lambeth Palace facilitate processes by which food and other material aid for Zimbabwe can be distributed through the dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

We urge the Churches of the Anglican Communion to join with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing Wednesday 25th February 2009, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people.

As representatives of the Anglican Communion, we reiterate that we do not recognise the status of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and Bishop Elson Jakazi as bishops within the Anglican Communion, and call for the full restoration of Anglican property within Zimbabwe to the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

We affirm the initiative of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist (ACSA) in collaboration with Lambeth Palace, the Anglican Communion Office and the Church of the Province of Central Africa in establishing a chaplaincy along the Zimbabwe-South Africa border for the pastoral care of the many refugees, and call upon the Anglican Communion to support this work.

=================

Archbishop Chama is representing the Province of Central Africa.


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Toronto tiptoes towards blessing gay couples

Bishop of Toronto Colin Johnson, Anglican Journal

The Canadian Anglican Journal reports that the Diocese of Toronto is proposing to take formal steps which will permit a 'limited number' of parishes to bless gay couples.

The bishops of the diocese of Toronto are proposing that “a limited number of parishes” be given episcopal permission to offer prayers and blessing “but not the nuptial blessing” to same-sex couples “in stable, long-term, committed relationships.”

The bishops, who outlined their proposal at a Jan. 29 meeting of the diocesan council, said they plan to conduct an extensive consultation process and would present the guidelines for implementing the proposal at the diocese’s synods in May and in November. A bishop’s commission will be formed to formulate the guidelines.



This seems to be as close as the Diocese can get without breaching national recommendations. In a different approach the diocesan synods in Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara and Huron have asked their bishops to allow civilly-married gay couples, where either or both are baptised, to receive a church blessing with an appropriate rite.

Like the US the Canadian church is following public opinion and, also like the US, many of the most conservative have left the Church, thus easing the brakes on change.

In 2007 the General Synod agreed that same-sex blessings were “not in conflict” with core church doctrine but denied the authority of dioceses to offer them. Remember the 1970s (1977?) vote of the English General Synod that there were no theological objections to ordaining women, though they didn't want to do anything about it. The time will come.

It may (I say tentatively) be that the schism in the US (with or without GAFCON) has also released the international contraints on action.

I begin to think, perhaps, maybe, that the Communion could have passed the high point of its recent fever and, though still weak and in need of nursing, the patient will not die, nor even lose too many limbs.


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Primates: change of tone?

Episcopal life Online has an account of the Primates' meeting which suggests a significant change in tone about the Covenant, and throws a bit more light on Radnor's letter.

The primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Aspinall, is the meeting's spokesperson:

Aspinall said there had been a "general warming" to the idea of a covenant, but acknowledged that there was "increasing realism" among the primates about what a covenant can and can't do. "We're probably pulling back from language about sanctions and teeth," he said, noting that there had been lots of discussion about a framework for "koinonia" -- a Greek word that refers to the relationships of communion.

"If there is a failure in communion, then there needs to be more of an investment" in relationships, Aspinall said. "There is a pulling back from stick-over-the-head sanctions and a move towards deeper relationships of what will make a covenant work."

The provinces have until March 9 to respond to the St. Andrew's Draft. The Covenant Design Group will meet again in April to discuss the responses and perhaps produce a third draft that will be presented to the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main policy-making body, when it meets in May.

Appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the primates of the Anglican Communion, the Covenant Design Group has been meeting since January 2007.The idea for an Anglican covenant comes from the 2004 Windsor Report (paragraphs 113-120) and has been supported by all the instruments of communion as a way for the Anglican Communion to maintain unity amid differing viewpoints, especially on human sexuality issues and biblical interpretation.

Aspinall described the covenant as a "moral obligation. We have been thinking of the covenant as each participating church giving a gift to other churches though limiting its autonomy in many ways and not proceeding on certain issues without consultation with other churches."


This from Father Kelvin who contributed it to MadPriest's brilliant series of such pictures.

02/02/2009

Zimbabwe: Anglicans' Turf War Rages On


From The Zimbabwe Standard

BISHOP of the Anglican Church’s Harare Diocese, Sebastian Bakare says rogue police officers have frustrated all efforts by his group to seek a resolution of the church’s power struggles through legal means by siding with his rival, Nolbert Kunonga.

Bakare said as a result they were now waiting for “divine intervention” as Kunonga’s well-publicised connections with the ruling Zanu PF emboldened his faction to act with impunity.

“We have exhausted all channels,” he said in a recent interview. “We will only fight through God as he knows what’s best for His church and He is the one who can correctly distinguish between good and evil.”

Bakare’s comments were in response to a recent incident where David Kunyongana, a priest from the Kunonga faction was involved in a nasty encounter with members of the new bishop’s group at St Joseph’s Dzivarasekwa parish over sharing the church building. 

After the altercation it is alleged that Kunyongana called another priest, who came and drove his vehicle straight at some youths standing at the gate of the parish apparently in an effort to disperse them.

This provoked the youths and onlookers who started throwing missiles at the car and a police intervention led to the arrest of a number of them, including church wardens. 

Members of the Kunonga faction had allegedly called the police. 

Police officers are still reportedly preventing Bakare’s group from using church property despite a High Court order granting access to both groups.

The Anglican Church split last year after Kunonga attempted to unilaterally withdraw the Harare Diocese from the church’s Province of South Africa allegedly in protest at the tolerance of homosexuality by the mainstream church.

The two groups have been engaged in unending fights since then.

Bakare said efficient justice delivery on the dispute had been compromised by Kunonga’s attempts to use his political influence and alleged links to Zanu PF to try and gain control of the church.

He said some police officers were “conniving” with Kunonga’s faction to disrupt his group from conducting church services in various parishes around Harare. 

“They are conniving with some rogue members of the police force and working in unison to violate the High Court judgement,” Bakare said, “and we are not going to fight them, prayer is the only solution.”

The police officers, according to Bakare, claim to be acting on instructions from the President’s Office in their bid to intimidate his group.

But he dismissed them “as some rogue members of society who wanted to exercise power that they do not have in the name of the president.”

According to Bakare the major problem emanated from “the politicisation of a clearly ecclesiastical issue.”

Police spokesperson, Wayne Bvudzijena denied allegations police officers were interfering in Anglican issues.

“They have got their cases at court and we do not see any reason why they should involve the police,” Bvudzijena said.

“Our position in the dispute is not an issue. “After all, we do not favour anyone.”

 Kunonga was not available for comment.

But Kunyongana said: “Those claims are not true, they do not want to follow the High Court ruling that we should revert to our previous status quo.”