Anglican Covenant still on track

There have been two flurries around the Covenant recently. One was the notion that the C of E could not sign up to any Covenant with teeth. Although this was widely reported it was a misreading of the comment (see my earlier comment and Martin Reynold's comments on Thinking Anglicans here.)

More recently the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council met to discuss the forthcoming ACC meeting in May.

Episcopallife online said,

At its 2009 meeting, the ACC is expected to review a yet-unreleased final draft
of the proposed Anglican covenant, a set of principles intended to bind the
Anglican Communion amid differing viewpoints on human sexuality and biblical

The Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general of
the Anglican Communion, addressed the committee on what he expects in the next
version of the covenant. "The first two sections will be relatively unchanged,"
said Jefferts Schori, "but he's expecting some significant changes in the third
section and an almost completely new [appendix]."

The first two sections of
the second version, known as the St. Andrew's Draft, are called "Our Inheritance
of Faith" and "The Life We Share with Others: Anglican Vocation." The third
section, "Our Unity and Common Life," contains a series of affirmations about
how Anglican provinces operate within their own boundaries and commitments about taking actions that might impact the larger communion. The appendix suggests a
procedure for churches that breach the covenant.

Anglican Communion provinces
have until the end of March 2009 to respond to the St. Andrew's Draft. The
Covenant Design Group will next meet in London in April 2009 and is expected to
issue another draft which will be reviewed by the ACC during its May meeting.
The ACC could decide to release that version to the provinces for their adoption.

The idea that changes to section 3 and the appendix are good news for those who dislike the idea of a Covenant with sanctions are premature and almost certainly misplaced. I anticipate that the criticism directed at this crucial section has been taken seriously - and the response has been to refine the procedure and tighten the legalities to make sanctions a stronger part of the Covenant and better disguised.

The comments also means that the timetable the Design Group set itself in the beginning has not wavered. A Covenant will (I predict) be remitted from the ACC to Provinces for ratification. Provinces will be expected to find ways to grant their Primate the right to sign the Covenant in order to avoid lengthy debate in each Provinces' governing body (and also the possibility of amendment).

And those who point out how little support the current draft Covenant, or any such Covenant has, are right. But they should not draw the conclusion that without such support the Covenant is dead. Not until it is nailed into its coffin.


The Role Of The Church And Its Voice In Zim Today

A woman begs in Harare, Daily Telegraph
The article spoke of the coming anarchy - August 2007

An edited version of Bishop Bakare's speech to a Human Rights Conference in Lulea, Sweden, on being awarded the Per Anger prize for Human rights.
I AM someone who was very much involved in the liberation of our country of
Zimbabwe from colonial rule.

In 1980 when we became independent, we were convinced that the process to become a democratic state had already started but we have since become known as a nation that denies basic democratic principles and human rights.

For more than 20 years, Zimbabwe’s main challenges have been economic and political, and especially the abuse of power by those in political leadership positions.

There is a school of thought which argues that such challenges are technical and all that is needed are technical experts to fix Zimbabwe’s social and political systems.
Indeed technical experts are needed and can help find solutions to salvage our
nation from this chronic mismanagement of our national resources.

But a serious observer of the situation in Zimbabwe will soon find
out that the social, economic and political challenges we have today are only
the tip of the iceberg. We have a very deep spiritual and moral crisis in
Zimbabwe which explains why our nation has become so corrupt and thrives on
political patronage. This has resulted in a society marred by all forms of
injustice without due regard for human dignity. We have:
  • A society whose political system promotes lawlessness, violence, harassment and denial of food to the hungry;
  • A nation with many displaced persons –– now around 500 000 in number;
  • A political system that has total disregard for democratic principles as became obvious in the recent elections and
  • in short: a system that has robbed its people of their human rights.

    Christians understand human rights as a God-given gift. Every person has a right
    to live a meaningful and purposeful life including the right to food, shelter,
    healthcare, employment and education –– all these rights are being violated in
    Zimbabwe. Here lies the basis of our challenge –– it is both spiritual and


The voice of the church appears to be submerged by other noises which include violence, intimidation, arrests and other forms of harassment. The voice of the church has not been loud enough to condemn such behaviour.

Some clergy who have tried to speak out against the unjust political system have been seriously warned and often silenced. The church runs 80% of the schools in the nation. But of late children have not been going to school or teachers have refused to teach them because of poor wages paid by the government, and again the church has remained silent where it had the right to speak out as a partner in education.

Similarly the church has traditionally had a strong commitment to health but has not condemned the total collapse of the health sector with major hospitals being closed down. Should we in the church turn a blind eye to such an appalling state of affairs? Indeed many people begin to ask: What is the role of the church? Is it to support the government regardless of bad governance and economic mismanagement? Certainly not!

The church has a prophetic ministry to offer, and this is not usually popular with those in power.


All here.

Is this the end of Zanu-PF?

No Food, no medication, ZNnews

I have not blogged much about Zimbabwe recently (or about very much at all, to be honest). The news from that country has seemed unremittingly bleak: we are watching a country crumble into dust - and the poorest pay the most, their lives.

There are empty hospitals, the fire service has no money, the state utilities will no longer accept cheques in Zimbabwean Dollars.

Cholera is affecting tens of thousands - and has spread into South Africa and Botswana. Harare city council has responded by waiving fees for burials - free graves for victims.

But the one piece of bad news which I have seen recently is the growing dissent in the police and armed services. This from IRIN on ZWNews:

Uniformed Zimbabwean soldiers raided one of the capital's money-changing
haunts after becoming frustrated with queuing to withdraw cash at a Harare bank,
according to an IRIN correspondent who witnessed the event. The soldiers
descended on foreign currency dealers in "Roadport" in central Harare on 27
November, where they assaulted money dealers and robbed them, an indication of
the low morale among Zimbabwe's rank and file soldiers. A soldier, who declined
to be identified, told IRIN that there were increasing levels of despondency
among soldiers deployed by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF government to
suppress unrest and protest. "We have no food in the barracks. There is no
medication in military hospitals, while we can not access our money in the
banks. The general attitude is that even if people are to riot, there would be
no enthusiasm to stop them. After all, we are all suffering, and the irony is
that we have done our own rioting," the soldier said.

Zimbabwe's official inflation annual rate is estimated at 231 million
percent, but independent economists cite the inflation rate in the billions of
percent; hyperinflation is causing widespread cash shortages. Banks have set a
maximum daily limit of Z$500,000, creating long queues at banks each day, with
no guarantee there will be any money to withdraw. Soldiers and police officers
are paid in local Zimbabwean dollars, and although in theory they are granted
preferential treatment, in practice this is not occurring.

These are not the only forces at the state's disposal - the intelligence services and the Youth Militia are still potent - but a state that cannot enforce its will through its army and police is no state at all.

I hope that someone is waiting and planning, putting in place all the necessary means of rescue against the day that the state finally gives way - food aid, clean water, fuel, medical supplies and personnel, a financial rescue package, new military and police command, and political structures which can command such loyalty as to wholly marginalise the remaining Zanu-PF loyalists. There will be no time to start planning when the state implodes - and those who have suffered turn violently on those they see as its cause.


A response to dissident priests in Botswana

Bishop Mwamba of Botswana

A long letter in Mmegi

I am writing this letter to refute some misinformation that appeared in the letter entitled "Who shall save the Anglicans?" which appeared in Mmegi of the 20th November 2008.

The long and short of what I can say is that this particular clergy was an embarrassment to all of us. We were actually relieved when the Bishop transferred him to Tonota. It should be understood by all and sundry that real Anglicans who are aware of how the Anglican Church is administered and its relations with the Anglican Communion, have never suffered under all the previous Bishops who were non-locals and are not suffering at all under Bishop Trevor Mwamba who is also not a local.

The unanimous vote for him to become Bishop a few years ago is a clear sign that he is loved by most people in this diocese and that he is of the calibre that people want. This new onslaught on his person is a deliberate attempt by a few disgruntled clergy especially the so called "concerned clergy" who thought that Bishop Trevor Mwamba would play to their tune.

More so to suggest that "there is no transparency in the diocese of Botswana, more especially with the use of our money. "We pour hordes of money to the diosces [sic] and we never get feedback" can only be said by someone who does not understand how the Anglican Church functions.

The Diocese as, we know it, has a Treasurer who makes public the financial situation of the diocese every time the Diocesan Standing Committee meets. In fact what we hear from the Standing committee is that many parishes are lagging behind in their assessments including the parish where the writer worships - Tonota.

That in itself makes one wonder where the "hordes of money" are coming from. No wonder there is this rumour that Trevor has stolen P8.8 million. This is a piece of untruth which no sane person should ever take seriously.
I also need to reiterate what have been said before, that it is false to suggest that the Bishop is "always flying overseas [sic], but he does not visit local parishes". Please note that I speak for our parish here in Francistown.

We have had the Bishop's visitation more than three times this year, and in those visits he has also had time to visit outstations such as Moroka village and Makaleng village. In any case when the Bishop flies out of the Diocese we understand that he will be fulfilling his international responsibilities as a Bishop not only of the Diocese of Botswana but of the Church worldwide.
As a Motswana, I am not ashamed to inform the nation that the foreign clergy work hard and seem to understand what ministry constitutes as opposed to our own clergy who seem to think that they will suddenly turn to be good clergy when they pull the nationalistic card.

Most of these local clergy are not wanted at all in the places where they are serving because of the despicable things that they have done there. So to cry about the foreign clergy as if Bishop Trevor is the first Bishop to hire foreign clergy is a high sounding nothing to me.

In my view, none of these local clergy qualifies for the high offices which they are clamouring for since most of these are barely three years in ministry, the others have vacillated between the Anglican Church and other churches which makes them armateurs in the Anglican ethos.

More so the others have received no theological training at all, which makes us wonder in this day and age when every Motswana child is going to school and the Government is awarding scholarships to many Batswana to be educated. How will such clergy minister to these children of ours when they return, let alone being their Bishops? To cap it all, people must never be fooled that these clergy told any truth. In fact no matter how we lie, the truth will always come out, even those like the writer of the letter in Mmegi of the 20th November 2008, will realise that s/he has been fooled by these people.

Let me end by saying that Bishop Mwamba is an astute Bishop, who is articulate, honest and hardworking. He is not doing any harm to the Diocese of Botswana. He has never gone to the press to spread lies, he has never gone to the civil court to solve Church matters.
Faithful Motswana Parishioner

All Here


It is good that Mmegi has published something other than the account of the dissidents. It still seems to me a shame that there has been no official response.


Botswana: We will comply, but...

From Mmegi
Bame Piet (19/11/08)

The leadership of the Anglican Diocese of Botswana has failed to make a commitment to comply with the 16 October High Court judgment ordering that it reinstate the seven priests who had their licenses revoked by Bishop Mwamba last year.

At a press briefing yesterday, Bishop Theophelus Naledi, Father Andrew
Mudereri, Maleho Mothibatsela, and Pako Keokilwe said the Anglican Diocese of
Botswana is complying with the judgment but it can't do so without following
church rules and procedures. "We are complying, but we can't do that in
isolation from our structures, rules and procedures," Bishop Naledi said.
The four said that they had no intention of appealing the court ruling and
they are in the process of complying with it. They also said they knew nothing
about allegations of misappropriation of funds insisting that "there are
structures in the church" which should be followed.

The four also downplayed
a recent petition from some church members calling on Bishop Mwamba to step
down. The petitioners called on Minister of Labour and Home affairs, Peter Siele
to intervene.

"We have structures that should be followed. This is not an
industrial action," the four said in response to questions on the petition.
Asked whether Bishop Mwamba is agreeable to permitting homosexuals into the
priesthood, Father Mudereri responded: "As far as I know, Bishop Mwamba has
never announced that he is pro-homosexual. But, homosexuals are there. We must
accept them as children of God. We must help them".

Meanwhile, some of the
suspended priests say they have not been paid. Mothibatsela said "we are working
on that problem and they will be paid".

The seven priests who successfully challenged their suspension are Aubrey Molatlhwe, Botshabelo Beleme, Moreri Leteemane, Mooketsi Mokgatlhe, Paul Beleme, Essau Mosima (deceased), and Patrick Ncaagae for the congregations of Lobatse, Molepolole, Mahalapye, Broadhurst, Mogoditshane, Selibe-Phikwe and Tonota. They argued that their suspension was to give way for expatriate priests.

Mudereri said yesterday that the church needs more priests.

DRC: Silent Genocide

Angola to send troops into the Congo

Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal
Amnesty International Action

The Catholic Bishops of the Congo have published a statement on the conflict:

2. We are living through a genuine human tragedy that, as a silent genocide, is being carried out under everyone's eyes. The large-scale massacres of the civil population, the selective extermination of young people, the systematic violations carried out as a weapon of war, have again been unleashed with
unthinkable cruelty and virulence against the local population that has never
asked for more than a tranquil and dignified life in their lands. Who is
interested in such a tragedy?

4. It is obvious that the natural resources of the D.R. of Congo fuel the greed
of certain powers that are not foreign to the violence imposed on the
population. Indeed, all the conflicts take place on the economic routes and
around mineral deposits.


What Do We Request?
6. We ask for the immediate cessation of
hostilities and that conditions of security be guaranteed for the return of all
the displaced to their lands.

7. We appeal with greatest urgency for national and international
solidarity, so that humanitarian aid is increased in favor of the thousands of
men, women and children crowding the camps.

8. We invite the whole Cong olese population to a national awakening to
live as brothers and sisters, in solidarity and national cohesion, so that the
D.R. of Congo will not be carried away by violence and divisions.

9. We exhort the Congolese government to make all the necessary efforts to
re-establish peace throughout the national territory. It is the sacred duty of
our political leaders to exercise their functions of government to protect the
people and guarantee the security of the borders. No one ignores the fact that
the lack of a republican army is harmful to peace in the country.

10. We appeal to the international community to be sincerely committed to
respect for international law. We consider it an imperative need to send a force
of pacification and stabilization to re-establish rights in our country. The
whole world will gain more with a Congo in peace than a Congo at war.

All here.


Wanted: Compassion and Justice

Irony is not a strong suit in the Home Office

Ekklesia reports that

Three of Britain's leading Free Church denominations have called for
justice and compassion for asylum seekers, following a statement from immigration Minister Phil Woolas criticising human rights groups and lawyers for assisting the vulnerable.

Speaking on behalf of The Baptist Church, The Methodist Church and The
URC, the Rev Dr Rosemary Kidd said: “Genuine asylum seekers are frequently
escaping from persecution and torture. They often arrive in the UK, speaking no
English and with no identifying documents.

They are vulnerable, deeply traumatised people, seeking sanctuary and human

“There are inevitably some ‘false’ claimants who should, of
course, be efficiently identified through proper legal processes, and then
deported to their country of origin. The view of the Joint Public Issues Team,
however, is twofold – and quite the reverse of the concerns of Mr Woolas.

“Firstly, the asylum appeals system places these already abused people
under further intense suspicion, and the onus is on the individual to explain
his or her circumstances under repeated investigation. Secondly, the recent
introduction of the Immigration Points System is likely to make it increasingly
hard for genuine asylum seekers to enter the UK legally, and thus to claim
sanctuary within these shores at all.

“The Joint Public Issues Team calls on the minister to ensure that all
claimants are treated with dignity at every stage of the asylum process, and to
ensure that people who have already suffered greatly in their country of origin
are not further damaged by unsympathetic treatment or rejection by the

Yesterday Ekklesia also reported reactions to Woolas' comments here. Comments included:

Vaughan Jones, director of the agency Praxis, which works with displaced people
across London, who is also a United Reformed Church minister, described the
statement from the new Immigration Minister as "a disturbing

"Asylum seekers and migrants are human beings with rights and
it is quite proper and legitimate for the law to defend those rights and for
people of good will to advocate for and support people in need, vulnerable to
exploitation and potential victims of miscarriages of justice," said Mr

He continued: "Attacking the defenders of human rights is not the most
edifying of stands, although it is regrettably not without precedent.


The Law Society, the governing body for solicitors, has accused the
minister of running "against the rule of law" and making "unacceptable"

Paul Marsh, President of the Law Society, said: "The issue of
immigration is one for the politicians to debate, but central to that debate
must be the fact that those seeking asylum can do so in a legal system that
operates under the rule of law.

He continued: "There is no reason why anyone should be denied access to justice on the basis that they are from another country and seeking asylum, which is what the minister seems to suggest."



Purporting to split hairs

I really must read Thinking Anglicans more carefully. I would have missed this but for Mark Harris.

In questions from members of the C of E's General Synod to Church bodies:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of
England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship
between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as
Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between
her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the
proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft
Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to
delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore
means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the
primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of
action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in
relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a
matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external
power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal
Prerogative could not in practice arise.

Of course, and I think Norman Doe has pre-empted this, if the Communion body concerned doesn't make a direction but issues a Request (the wording of the St Andrew's Draft) then the Church of England might be able to sign without giving up any of its powers and privileges.

But then the question moves to what you mean by 'purport'. I would argue that a Request backed by sanctions is a direction by any other name. Others may say that a church was not being directed in the least, it would merely be voluntarily resigning from a voluntarily chosen covenanted partnership should it choose, of its own free will, not to follow the terms of the Request.

In fact I suspect a lot more legal and political work has gone on since the SAD covenant was written in part to cut this distinction even finer. On it rests the whole question of autonomy and intercommunion. If this legal question survives the politics at all my guess is that it will have to be so finely balanced that it will be doubtful whether it could carry the weight of relationship between the Provinces.


Game playing: everyone loses

I don't remember church notices being received quite like this in any church I've been in.

Though I note a slight difference in terminology between the speakers: the Anglican Church or a new Anglican church?

I'm sure they'll all be on message soon enough.

I think several games are being played at once:
  1. Bids continue to be made for the Anglican brand. Yet it is clear that the TEC official structures will remain the Anglican Church in the USA - irrespective or 'traditional' or 'continuing' or 'Jerusalem' or any other version. Just like baked beans really.
  2. The numbers game: 100,000 disaffected Anglicans? Certainly not - Mark Harris is a much better guide to the real numbers, and to the whole affair.
  3. The legitimacy game. Will the new Province be recognised by the rest of the Anglican Communion? Not unless the deal has already been struck and no-one's leaked it. So that's a 'No'.
  4. The legitimacy game II. But it doesn't matter whether they are recognised by the Communion - they are the future anyway. They are the new reformation (and the only way to reform the church is to say you want to move backwards, so that bit at least they've got right).
  5. The property game. It is, after all, important when you know you are (a) going to be recognised as legitimate anyway, or (b) the future, or (c) following God's will (delete as applicable) to take as much real and movable property with you as you can. Shame about Fort Worth but as I understand it the law varies State by State so some place will do better than others. (As in, Q: what do you call homelessness in Florida? A: the sign of a bad divorce lawyer.)
  6. The game to bend the Anglican Communion to the conservative will. They lost. Or there would be no need for a new province.
Who loses? Pretty well everyone not on a power trip (note the nodding heads in the video clip). But, and I'm genuinely sad to say this, I think now that the rest of us will be better off without the conservatives.

There's a story I heard long ago about a hapless member of the Archbishop's staff during the last interregnum laughing on the phone to someone that Michael Nazir-Ali was so certain the job of ABC was his that he was already measuring up for curtains and carpets when, just as the man was speaking, the Bishop himself appeared through the door.

Then imagine if (perhaps with a different Prime Minister) Rochester had got the job.


Another year, no progress

Forwards and backwards to nowhere in the Anglican Central African Province - an early ‘end of year’ report.

As we come towards the end of another year it is difficult to ascertain any improvement or progress in the Central African Province, over all things are worse.

In Malawi - priests and people remain without their bishop in the Diocese of Lake Malawi as the Bishops refuse to follow proper constitutional and canonical procedures to resolve the long-running impasse over the farcical ‘Court of Confirmation’ after the election of the new bishop in 2005.

In the Diocese of Upper Shire the bishops are still intending to force their preferred candidate on an unwilling diocese at their pre-Christmas meeting in Lusaka, Zambia to be held on 16th December (incorrectly reported by us previously as 21st December). The proposed imposition will take place there well away from the people of Malawi but will probably conflict with legal action being taken against the bishops. Reports are reaching us of sorely neglected diocese and there is still no resolution of the case of theft and sale of engineering machinery perpetrated by Archdeacon Thom Mpinga of Mangochi East.

In both dioceses the bishops have suggested that the plaintiffs remove their Court injunctions and ‘trust them’ – which proposal has been understandably greeted with derision by priests and people who have no confidence whatsoever that trickery, fast dealing and general duplicity will not be the result. Rarely in the Anglican Communion has there been such a wide-scale pastoral breakdown of trust and oversight between bishops and their clergy and people. Acting Dean Albert Chama of Northern Zambia must bear the responsibility and his current policy of force majeure will not work.

In Zimbabwe matters are worsening again and dangerously so with an effective failure of the political power sharing agreement. The only bright spot has been a well-deserved international award presented to Bishop Sebastian Bakare caretaker Bishop of Harare in the front line against the notorious ‘Archbishop’ Nolbert Kunonga. On 10th November in Stockholm Sweden, Bishop Bakare received the highly respected ‘Per Anger’ human rights award. ‘I am humbled by the award’, said Bakare ‘It amply demonstrates that good will always reign over evil.’

This is true but in Zimbabwe the finality of the sentiment still seems some way off as our reporter says in a message received today:

We have had a slight move on the question of who owns the churches in the Diocese of Harare, but whether it is forwards or backwards who can say.

A week or two ago there was a move to return to using the church buildings.This in three or four places resulted in violence and arrests by the police. The riot squad were brought out in at least one church. So the Diocesan Registrar went to the police to point out that the judgement had been, in the interim (Justice Rita Makarau) judgement that church buildings should be shared (between Kunonga’s few supporters and the real diocese under Bishop Bakare).

However, the Members in Charge at the various police sub stations had all had letters signed by theChief of Police, Chihuri, telling them that CPCA worshippers were not to beallowed into the churches. When Chihuri himself was approached he is reported to have said that the order had 'come from above'. So our lawyers are now taking Chihuri to court on a charge of contempt of court for which the penalty is 30 days without the option. It is hoped that the order will be withdrawn.

Meantime we accept that we will not be 'home' for Christmas.

In Botswana the subliminal tentacles of Kunonga’s influence are increasingly troubling Bishop Trevor Mwamba who is facing a group of six dissident priests out to make political and legal trouble. Press coverage from the Mmegi newspaper and the Botswana Gazette have gleefully covered ridiculous calls from the troublemaking Kunonga supporters for Bishop Mwamba’s resignation. The Diocese of Botswana has issued a strong riposte available at Google search: Mmegi online, 10th November 2008.

No news at the moment from Zambia.
ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that this ‘end of year’ article is a little early but we have issued it now as we can see no sign of any improvement in the Central African Province or change amongst the bishops. It’s all in the hands of God but at least everyone is united in praying that the rainy season, due to start soon will be a good one otherwise the big problem will be starvation.


Calling for political help in Botswana

Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba

In a further article in Mmegi dissidents in the Diocese say they will make legal and political trouble for Bishop Mwamba

Some Anglicans in Gaborone are planning to approach the Minister of Labour and Home Affair, Peter Siele, to resolve the dispute that is rocking the church.

The members want to force out the Anglican Bishop
Trevor Mwamba who has refused to quit despite a petition calling for his resignation. The faithful say Siele should probe whether the foreigners working
for the church have work permits.

A source in the church told Monitor that some foreigners are working for the diocese without the required papers. He alleged that Mwamba has appointed a South African as Dean and Vicar General even though there are qualified Batswana who can fill the position.

"The work permit for the Dean was rejected on the basis that there were Batswana who can take up the position. We want the minister to have first hand information on misfortunes that have befallen our church," the source said.

He added that the dean is a close friend of Mwamba hence his appointment was not on merit but favouritism.

All here.


It is impossible from the UK to get a sense of proportion on this dispute. No newspaper would pass up the opportunity to stir the pot. But it does feel as though relatively few people are making a lot of noise.

But a small group can still do a lot of damage. Churches, like any other group, suffer when they are divided. Attention and money that should go to building up the church gets diverted into internecine squabbling. Lawyers may get paid but even they get hurt. And the ordinary worshipper inevitably suffers from the corrosive effects of the conflict no matter how far from it they may be personally.

Woolas: blame the lawyers

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas

In The Guardian the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has laid into lawyers involved in the asylum process.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has attacked lawyers and charities working on behalf of asylum seekers, accusing them of undermining the law and "playing the
system". In an interview with the Guardian, Woolas described the legal professionals and NGO workers as "an industry", and said most asylum seekers
were not fleeing persecution but were economic migrants.

One comment is worth attention:
In one case, Woolas said, an asylum seeker had won the right to stay after going through six layers of appeal. "That person has no right to be in this country
but I'm sure that there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest."

This is a simple assertion that the politicians (and/or the Home Office) are the ones to decide, not the courts. Of course, if the Home Office is to be judge and jury then every case will undoubtedly be correctly decided.

Perhaps a central element of the problem was set out later:

Woolas told the Guardian the "primary purpose" of immigration policy was to reassure the public that the government was in control of immigration. "The
public recognise that we don't know the exact numbers. They see the asylum
backlog and what they fear is that we don't have any control over the system,"
he said.

Hence this comment in the equivalent article in the Mail Online

The number of people arriving in Britain, minus those leaving, hit 200,000 last
year. [and why 'hit'?]

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: 'These estimated figures
betray a Labour Government that is not in control of immigration policy.
Immigration can be of real benefit to the country but only if it is properly

The primary purpose is not to protect people in fear of their life or fleeing persecution. It is not to enact the requirments of the Geneva Convention and other treaties that successive govenments have signed. These are peripheral considerations, much less important than feeding people's instinctive chauvinism, even racism.

In fact it seems that asylum seekers, and economic migrants (in both cases as amorphous, threatening groups, not as people), are politically useful - they enable politicians to attack one another on a playing ground they understand and simultaneously to ignore the desperate plight of some applicants.

There may also be a wider political benefits to all politicians and certain newspapers - portraying up asylum seekers as less than human enables the poor to blame those who are even poorer for the plight they are in.

On the BBC Radio 4 PM programme later in the day Phil Woolas was insisting that its was only some lawyers and NGOs that he meant. Alistair Mackenzie, an immigration barrister, firmly rejected the idea that the problem with the asylum system was the lawyers. The fundamental problem, in his opinion, was delay, incompetence and poor decision making by the Home Office.

In my limited experience (with one of the NGO's I suppose Woolas thinks is to blame) this is surely the case. The 6-month decision making timetable under the New Asylum Model is frequently missed. People have had reports from the Medical Foundation for the victims of torture simply dismissed. There seems to be a presumption that every applicant is lying (and the burden of proof lies with them). People are challenged to prove their nationality - someone cannot prove they are from Eritrea, say, then the rest of their asylum claim is simply not considered. And it is very hard to prove which country you are from if you've had to flee - few people go back for their birth certificate, for example. And if you do have documents the Home Office will argue they are forgeries.

Many people go through the system with no legal assistance at all. They are seldom successful. (Though I recently met a lady who had won her appeal against the initial refusal of asylum with no help from a lawyer. The Home Office then appealed against that decision, of course.)

Nicholas Sagovsky observed that human rights are indivisible, its just that the rights of asylum applications are worth rather less than those of other people.

I just hope that the minister's statement doesn't presage another reduction in public funding for asylum cases. It's hard enough now to find a solicitor - and (I think I'm right in saying) there are tight limits on the time a lawyer can give to a client (about 5 hours at the first stage, I think - not much help if you have to work through an interpreter).


Changing MCU

Can I draw your attention to the latest MCU press release (here) which was picked up by episcopallife online and Episcopal Café.

Pluralist responded with some thoughtful comments which I have replied to here.

The fact is that ecclesiastical turmoil occurs on several dimensions simultaneously. For instance:

  • Internal church politics are being re-written: the conservative demand for structural change forces all the structures to change, either in opposition to the conservatives or in the attempt to accommodate them.
  • The articulation of faith changes. Partisan groups write their own credal statements as ways of binding their members to them and of distinguishing their group from all others. In turn these statements then become demands: everyone else should agree with them or, from weakness, unless everyone else agrees to them then we're off. Each of these formulations is, by definition, partial and each modifies the reading of more traditional creeds.
  • The church is drifting every further from the university. Ecclesiastical theology is impoverished and narrowed even as academic theology is rich and diverse. This is a particular problem for the MCU and other groups which seek to bridge the gap.
  • Ecumenism and inter-faith work pulls away from a hard credal kernal; internal conflict sends people scurrying back to a centre. And this dynamic makes the voices of those who reach out to others less certain as their relationship with their sponsoring bodies becomes more tenuous.
  • Not to mention globalisation, post-colonialism and new forms of imperialism, global communications and global warming. Or the restructuring of global finance.

In the middle of all this small organizations like MCU have to make shift as best we may. We cannot resolve any of the bigger problems but we do contain many of the tensions they create. We are looking to the future, to plan next steps and immediate priorities.

I guess this is the way the group has worked at its best for the last 110 years. Perhaps the toughest is already behind us.

Nobody said it would be dull.

Botswana: another report

Bishop Trevor Mwamba

Anglicans Petition Mwamba

In the Botswana Gazette

“We, Communicants, Clergy, Church Wardens, Church Councillors, Synod
representatives and Parishioners hereby wish to express own displeasure and
disappointment with the manner in which the Right Reverend Bishop Mwamba has
been discharging his duties as the Bishop of the Diocese of Botswana. We
therefore declare our vote of no confidence in him,” read the petition.

It said whilst the Bishop has not been very visible in their rural parishes, he had
however embarked on extensive foreign travel. “The broader church is not aware
of the purpose and value derived from your globe-trotting escapades and we are
therefore concerned about the cost of these to the Church,” states the petition.

They also accuse the Bishop of taking a very vocal pro-homosexuality stance that
at times seems dangerously close to being contrary to the Lambeth Resolution on
this matter, despite not having taken the decision of the Church in Botswana
into consideration.

“Whilst it is evident that this matter has great potential to divide the Anglican Communion, you have not engaged the church in Botswana in any manner and there is not even a Pastoral Letter in which you would have brought the Church into your confidence regarding your position.”

The petitioners noted that the relationship between a bishop and Batswana clergy has never been as low as it is under Mwamba’s leadership.

More here


There is a sense that an opposition to Mwamba has added grievance on grievance in an attempt to make a case.

On the matter of homosexuality, as I understand it, they are simply wrong. I believe Bishop Mwamba has consistently said simply that the matter is irrelevant - that the church in Africa has far more serious challenges to deal with. Sexuality is and should be peripheral. Nonetheless it is a dangerous charge coming straight from the Mugabe handbook of ecclesiastical subversion: throw mud and use force.

It is always a difficult judgement as to how to respond to public complaints. However, given that the majority coverage in the media is from the disaffected, it would be good to have a factual statement of rebuttal and the steps the bishop is taking on the diocesan website.


Botswana: diocesan respose to critics

Building a church in Botswana

The Anglican Diocese Of Botswana Sets The Record Straight

From Mmegi (Gabarone)

As members of the Diocesan Standing Committee, which is the legally constituted Governing body of the Anglican Diocese of Botswana, we wish to set the record straight with regards to the recent stories which appeared in the papers regarding the Judgement from the High Court and the rumours flowing from that decision.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Botswana is grieved by the publication of such reports purporting to be talking about the actions of the bishop.
The bishop at no time did he 'decide' to appeal the judgment, other than to say he had received it and was taking advice in respect thereof.
It's unfortunate that Mmegi writer (Mmegi 28 October, 2008), on a basis of a letter written by people, casts aspersions on the character of the Bishop of the Diocese of Botswana, the Rt. Rev. Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba, by publishing unsubstantiated assertions: that he runs the Diocese without consultation and decides on issues unilaterally. To regurgitate such assertions is mischievous and only intended to tarnish the image of the Diocese. The least he could have done was to establish the accuracy of the assertions.
In addition, after this judgment, it was only proper for the applicants to return to the Bishop [who is their Chief Shepherd] and ask for his placement in accordance with the Canons and Constitutions of the Province of Central Africa, which clearly state that it is only the Diocesan Bishop who places clergy in parishes.
The Anglican Church is Episcopally led and Synodically governed. This means the Bishop is the head with particular responsibilities, which include training, ordination, appointment and discipline of clergy and laity; and the Synod is the legislative Body whose responsibility is to pass Diocesan Acts, and from time to time amend existing ones to be in line with Constitutions and Canons of the Church of the Province of which Central Africa, of Botswana is part.
The Synod, consists of the Diocesan Bishop, and his Assistant Bishop, The House of Clergy consisting of any priests and deacons holding the Bishop's licence and the House of Laity, being representatives chosen from each and every parish in the Diocese.
In between Synods the Diocesan Standing Committee comprising elected members of Synod is mandated with the power to act on behalf of Synod.
Each Diocese has a Registrar and a Chancellor both of whom must be learned in law, in order to help the Bishop and Synod and related structures not to act ultra vires. As can be seen above, Structure defines us and both the laity and the clergy are represented in the Diocesan Standing Committee.
This is the committee that the Bishop works with hand in hand, before he takes any so called "drastic" decision.
The suggestion that the Bishop has taken unilateral decisions and continues to do so is baseless and incorrect. There has never been a time that the Bishop has taken "drastic actions without consulting the membership of the Anglican family".

It is a lie that the Bishop does not want reconciliation. It should be put on record that Bishop Mwamba has always been in a reconciliatory frame of mind, hence his approach in handling the issue of the 'concerned clergy'.
He deliberately avoided taking these clergy to a Diocesan Court, and tried other avenues, such as using the Clergy school forum, inviting the concerned clergy individually to his office, sending mediators, as well as inviting the whole group and sitting down with an independent listener.
All these efforts were spurned. In the letters of revocation of the licences of these 'concerned clergy', Bishop Mwamba left the door open for them to reconsider their position and come back to discuss whatever issues they had with him as their Chief Shepherd. Instead of taking these reconciliatory opportunities, these clergy decided to take the Bishop and the Diocese to a Civil Court.
The Diocesan Standing Committee is therefore very concerned that the Church Wardens of St Peter's write in such a manner which suggests that the Bishop is not reconciliatory. We believe in reconciliation as given in Matthew 18: 15-20.
The Judgement did not deal with the issues that led to the revocation of the licences. Those still stand before us to deal with. The Anglican Church is about order and discipline which will not be compromised whilst upholding mercy and love.
As the leadership of the Diocese of Botswana, we wish to inform the whole Diocese that we are all concerned with what we are going through as a Diocese, and that every effort will be made to bring about healing and reconciliation.
We commend all God's people to the care and help of Almighty God through whom all these challenges will be turned into stepping stones to a peaceful, stronger and happy future.
By Order of Diocesan Standing Committee,
The Reverend Father Benjamin Moleko
Diocesan Secretary


It's like a war - Zim bishop

Bishop Bakare of Zimbabwe awarded the Per Anger prize

Bishop Sebastian Bakare, representing the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, has been awarded the 2008 Per Anger prize for his committed work for human rights in a politically unstable Zimbabwe. Bakare will participate in the prize giving ceremony on 10 November, and is the main speaker during the HR conference in Luleå on 13-14 November.

As bishop of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, Sebastian Bakare has for many years fought for the situation and rights in society of vulnerable people. Despite the limited ability of civil society to act, he has worked constructively for people’s right to freedom of speech and protection against oppression.

Bakare is an incredibly important voice in the Zimbabwe of today, which is characterized by a difficult political and humanitarian situation, with record inflation and growing famine; a country where government-backed police and military persecute dissidents and those who protest against violence and political oppression. Bishop Bakare has himself received threats as a result of his open and clear criticism of the government, his condemnation of local police brutality and his defence of human rights.

The Living History Forum has been commissioned by the Swedish government to award the prize in the spirit of ambassador Per Anger. The prize was first awarded in 2004. ”The prize is awarded to persons displaying great bravery and initiative. They have acted for no personal gain and often at great personal risk. With this award, we want to inspire people to make a stand, to dare to contradict and to show moral courage. Good role models are important”, says Eskil Frank, Director.

The basic criteria for the choice of prize winner is that he/she does work that promotes democracy and humanitarian efforts, is characterized by active measures and initiative, works for no personal gain, takes great personal risks, displays great courage and is a role model for others.

This year’s prize citation: For having given voice to the fight against oppression and for the freedom of speech and of opinion in a difficult political situation, with courage and personal sacrifice, Bishop Sebastian Bakare is awarded the 2008 Per Anger Prize for humanitarian and democracy-promoting work.


From: news24 (South Africa)

It's like a war - Zim bishop

Stockholm - An Anglican bishop from Zimbabwe on Monday expressed grave concern over the situation in his country, sentiments that were echoed by a Swedish cabinet minister.
"It is like a war, in the sense that there is total absence of peace," Bishop Sebastian Bakare told Swedish radio news.

Bakare was in Sweden to accept the Per Anger Prize, a human rights prize for his efforts at fighting oppression.

"People are crying, no food, no water, no medication," Bakare earlier told broadcaster TV4. "Some are displaced, children are not going to school. I think every aspect of our society you look at is crying."

Bakare expressed doubts about the call for power-sharing of the home affairs ministry between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his arch-rival, prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai.

A summit of southern African leaders called for this on Sunday, but Tsvangirai questioned the viability of sharing the key ministry.

The bishop said he had "never had any trust in any compromise in government. You either win or you lose. The elections in March were decisive enough, that is what the people wished."
"People need to have a strong government to put the economic situation in a better position, not this wishy-washy kind of argument," he added, saying that he was optimistic that "one day Zimbabwe is going to be free."

International Development Co-operation Minister Gunilla Carlsson said she was "disappointed" that the emergency summit of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) had failed to break the deadlock between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Bishop Bakare speaking in Sweden

All here

Also: episcopallife online,

Job, anyone?

Job Vacancy:

Archbishop's Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs

Location Central London - Lambeth Palace

Salary £44,850 Band 2 (lay appointee) / Residentiary Canon (ordained appointee)

Key Areas:
You will work closely with the Archbishop, supporting him in all matters relating to the Anglican Communion, including his visits within the Communion. You will also lead the Communion team at Lambeth, taking a strategic overview as well as focusing on issues specific to individual provinces. Your responsibilities will be carried out in close co-operation with colleagues at the Anglican Communion Office.

Person Specification:
Flexible, energetic, and with good political judgement, you must be able to develop open, constructive relationships with a range of key people and organisations across the Communion. You should also have a good understanding of the cultures and traditions of Anglican churches across the world, backed up with first-hand experience.

Interested? See here for full job profile and application form. And rather you than me.


Zimbabwe: still no agreement

The Telegraph reports:
Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, said he would form a new government
"as soon as possible" yesterday, after his neighbours backed him over the
country's deadlocked power-sharing agreement.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change had been demanding control of
the home affairs ministry, but a Southern African Development Community (SADC)
summit in Johannesburg at the weekend said the post should be shared.


Statement from the Movement For Democratic Change on the outcome of the SADC Extra-Ordinary summit on the Zimbabwe dialogue

All here
The Extraordinary Summit of the SADC leadership, held on the 9th November 2008, has just concluded with the resolution that a Government of National Unity be formed immediately in Zimbabwe and furthermore that the Ministry of Home Affairs be co-ministered between the MDC and Zanu PF.

With greatest respect to SADC, the issues before them, which were not resolved by the facilitator’s various visits to Zimbabwe and by the Troika meeting held in Harare on 27th October 2008, centred around the following:
  • The equitability and fairness in the allocation and distribution of all ministerial portfolios.
  • The immediate agreement and legal passage of Constitutional Amendment 19
  • The constitution and composition of the National Security Council
  • The equitable allocation of Provincial Governors
  • The fraudulent changing of the Global Political Agreement between its acceptance by the principals on 11th September 2008, and the signing of the same on 15th September, 2008
The MDC is shocked and saddened that the SADC Summit has failed to tackle these key issues .
It is precisely because of this that we remain committed to the agreement signed 15th September. It is precisely because of this that we cannot accept any arrangement that does not allow the MDC to effectively contribute to ending this suffering.

I would like to put out that the failure to consummate and implement the Global Political Agreement means that there is no legitimacy on any government or any person purporting to be Head of State. In short, Mr Mugabe is not the President of Zimbabwe without this agreement. Given this dangerous and precarious situation and the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe we hope and pray that the guarantors of the agreement, in particular progressive members of SADC and the African Union, will now move very quickly to try and salvage this agreement.

We remain committed to the agreement and peaceful resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis and I am hopeful that sooner, rather than later, the democratic voice and vote of the Zimbabwean people will be heard and respected by our African institutions.

Until that day, the MDC will continue to stand with the people of Zimbabwe, for it is from them that we derive our legitimacy, and because of them, that we remain resolute in our struggle for democracy.

Thank you

Morgan Tsvangirai
President Movement for Democratic Change

All here

March on Mwamba, who was out.

Protestors against Mwamba's episcopacy

From Mmegi (Gabarone)

Last Friday afternoon, the Anglican Cathedral in Gaborone was turned into hostile territory as disgruntled faithful demanded the resignation of Bishop Trevor Mwamba.

The congregation's planned march from the South Ring Mall to the cathedral did not materialise as they failed to secure the required police escort.

However, the determined placard-waving group assembled in the church premises and chanted anti-Mwamba slogans. After about 20 minutes of song and dance, they handed a petition to churchwardens, Lorato Manthe and John Melamu because Mwamba was not available.

In the petition, the group talks about 'dirty dealings' with church finances. They say how the handling of money in the church is a closely guarded secret as the last audit report was done for the 2005 financial year.

They demanded answers for P8.8 million which the church failed to account for when the qualified audit report was held at the last diocesan Synod in 2006. The group alleges that the bishop has not shared information on the sale of a church residence for around P1 million and the subsequent purchase of another in excess of P3 million. "The sales of church property seems to be on the rise and we are concerned at the rationale and authority for these transactions which are suspect," the petition said.

The faithful accuse the bishop of failing to honour a court ruling that said he must re-instate the priests he suspended. They said Mwamba is deliberately frustrating the court order as he has denied one priest the right to preach at the Lobatse Parish and the police had to intervene.

They accused the bishop of looking down on local priests. They said Mwamba has allowed the recently appointed Dean and Vicar General, who is not a local to commence work though he does not have a work permit. The group said the bishop is violating the laws of the Diocese of Botswana. Under the Act of the Diocese, they say the Synod is supposed to meet at least once a year or after consultation with the Standing Committee but this has not happened.

The group has demanded that for the good of the Anglican Church in Botswana, Mwamba should immediately resign as bishop. They have expressed no confidence in him.


Sad though this situation is, the protestors seem to offer an excellent model of future church protest: "After about 20 minutes of song and dance, they handed a petition to churchwardens, Lorato Manthe and John Melamu because Mwamba was not available."

On the other hand, and this point is by no means confined to Botswana and may be especially pertinent to the C of E with its appointed bishops: how, and to what extent, is a bishop accountable to the people of the church?

A repeated refrain in discussion of episcopal authority is, 'the church is not a democracy'. This thought is seldom followed by a positive description of the character of the church. In England, I'd say, the church is a collection of principalities or, slightly more accurately, of constitutional monarchies - with all the weight on the latter. That is to say, the bishops owe nothing to church members though they, on the other hand, owe him fealty and deference.

So then, how should a bishop account to church members?

Another analysis on proposition 8

Gay Religion reports that Catholics and Mormons together won the Proposition 8 campaign.

Exit polls show that religious views had a profound effect on the result, spanning racial lines:
-- 84 percent of those who attend church weekly voted yes.
-- 81 percent of white evangelicals voted yes.
-- 65 percent of white Protestants voted yes.
-- 64 percent of Catholics voted yes. Catholics accounted for 30 percent of all voters.
A late push by many churches to win over their congregations played a decisive role in increasing turnout and swaying opinion, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, who analyzed the figures.

All here. Previous comment on this blog here. And you might like to go to give Mad Priest support - he has got into hot water for some over hasty comments on the matter.

Moves against Mwamba?

Bishop Trevor Mwamba

Anglicans Planning Bishop Mwamba’s Ouster?

all here

Some senior members of the Diocese of Botswana are said to be lobbying members of the Anglican Church for the ouster of Bishop Trevor Mwamba through a motion of ‘no confidence’.

Contacted for comment, Bishop Mwamba said the Church would issue a press statement this week, but he would not comment on the allegations.

“We don’t want to bring about division within the church, all we would like to do is to fight spiritual poverty,” Bishop Mwamba said.

The church’s secretary, Father Benjamin Moleko, would neither confirm nor deny the allegations, merely saying, “I can’t comment on something that is not official.” He said the Bishop was elected by members of the Dioceses and one of the options is that the Bishop can resign in the event of upheavals.”

Father Moleko denied reports that the church was appealing the high court’s judgment that ruled in favour of seven banned priests and ordered them to be reinstated. “That is a false statement. The church is not appealing. We are following the court order,” he said.

But some sources within the church claimed that the Bishop had announced the Church’s intention to appeal, something which did not go down well with some followers.

However, Father Moleko confirmed that the St Peter's Anglican Church in Mogoditshane had written a letter to the church dated 20 October 2008 in which they dissociated themselves from any intention to appeal. “We will write a pastoral letter to all the churches around the country. The priests who were banned need to be reissued with new licenses. We have learnt that some of are already preaching,” he said.

According to information received by The Gazette several senior members of the Dioceses of Botswana across the country are caucusing for Mwamba’s expulsion, scheduled for some time before Christmas. The Gazette obtained exclusive information from some members of the church, who said they were “unhappy and we have decided that we should do something about this.” It is also reported that some sections of the congregation are planning demonstrations against the Bishop.

all here


In a divided church the court is a weapon to hand for all sides. It is not surprising that the clergy who won their reinstatement will use their victory as a platform for further action. They have put the diocese on the back foot. They have achieved considerable publicity for their cause. They have been able to present themselves as martyrs, victims of arbitrary power.

None of which puts them in the right.

There is a very good chance that this dispute will come back to the courts in some form or other and the decision at that point could fall to one side or the other. It will make no substantive difference.

No court case is going to expunge poison from the system nor make those who have fallen out friends again. It will only feed enmity.



On the shores of Lake Kivu

I found this a brief and useful introduction to the present conflict in eastern DRC. Zimbabwe has long had financial and military interests in the area which is said to be a major source of the Mugabe's regime's wealth.

Guns, rockets, and the DRC's filthy minerals

Can Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband halt Africa’s next potential genocide, as the eastern Congo continues to implode?

Author: Barry Sergeant

Posted: Monday , 03 Nov 2008 JOHANNESBURG -

Is Africa ever so pitiful as when on the brink of another potential genocide? And when is it as sad as when there are no African hands in sight?

This weekend, France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and his British counterpart David Miliband held crisis talks for 90 minutes with Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila in a diplomatic push in what is politely referred to as the wish to "halt a rebel advance and looming humanitarian disaster in the east of the country".

Millions of people have already died. The First Congo War, which stretched from November 1996 to May 1997, was nothing on the Second Congo War, known also as Africa's World War and the Great War of Africa. This started out in August 1998 in the DRC and "officially" ended in July 2003, but hostilities, particularly in the east of the vast country, continue to this day. The Second Congo War is ranked as the biggest war in modern African history, directly involving eight African countries, as well as about 25 armed groups.

Until now the war and its aftermath has killed at least 5m people, mostly from disease and starvation, ranking the conflict as the deadliest in the world since World War II. Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and a number of his cronies were directly involved in the conflict, where "Zimbabwe" would be recompensed for its army's "support" of the DRC by Zimbabwe's participation in various pots of the DRC's vast and rich resources endowment.

Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had overthrown DRC dictator Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga ("The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake") in May 1997, was shot and wounded by a bodyguard in an assassination attempt, on 16 January 2001, and taken wounded to Zimbabwe, only to die two days later. Angolan troops were seen wall-to-wall at Kabila's funeral cortege in Kinshasa.

The roots of the ongoing crisis in the DRC, characterised by unspeakable violence, wanton lootings, mass rapes, cannibalism, and genocide, are complex but can be traced back to the 1994 Rwandan genocide when around 1m Tutsis were hacked to death by the Hutu Interahamwe, militant wing of the MRND, and the Impuzamugambi, militant wing of the CDR.

Today, fighting between the rebel group Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), led by rebel military strongman Laurent Nkunda, and the national Congolese army, the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), has escalated sharply in the past few days, as CNDP troops have advanced closer to the eastern city of Goma which sits at the top of Lake Kivu, an exploding lake, and is also subject to assaults from Nyiragongo, a violent active volcano.

According to some of the latest reports, around 220,000 people have now been displaced since the most recent fighting broke out, this time in August, bringing to more than 1m the number forced from their homes in Nord-Kivu (which borders Rwanda) of a population of 5m. The head of Uruguay's military, which contributes 1,300 troops to the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, was quoted on Friday as saying that the CNDP was "backed by tanks" and "artillery" from Rwanda.

General Jorge Rosales was quoted as saying that it was "not easy to identify rebel forces," but indicated the "high probability that troops from Rwanda are operating in the area". Meanwhile the UN refugee agency is flapping in a never-ending panic.

The DRC's eastern provinces of North and South Kivu are rich in minerals, notably cassiterite (tin ore), gold and coltan. The mineral trade has underpinned the war since 1998, according to Global Witness, an NGO: "Almost all the main armed groups involved in the conflict, as well as soldiers of the national Congolese army, have been trading illegally in these minerals for years, with complete impunity".

In July-August 2008, Global Witness documented extensive involvement of armed groups and Congolese army units in the cassiterite and gold trade in North and South Kivu (see Control of mines by warring parties threatens peace efforts in eastern Congo, 10 September 2008). Those who are buying the illicit mining output are funding another potential genocide.

Foremost among the armed groups active in the mineral trade are the predominantly Rwandan Hutu Forces démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), some of whose leaders, says Global Witness, allegedly participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Meanwhile, the formal mining sector in the DRC, such as it is, has been harshly sold down during this year's global equities sell off, but more than the average. The stock price of Katanga Mining, which owns the biggest brownfields project in Katanga Province, in the south, was recently trading 94% below its high levels, seen in January this year.

A giant leap forwards, and fall back a bit

Barack Obama rides a tricycle in the 1960s in Hawaii Photograph: Obama for America/AP

Like pretty well every other blogger this morning, I guess, I'd like to comment on the American Presidential election.

But instead Jan Edminston at A Church for Starving Artists said it for me:

Maybe nothing will change.

Maybe the economy problems and the wars and the deep seated racial prejudice and the suspicion of other cultures and faiths will not go away.

But for one day, at least, let's dream.

There are kids who will never remember when it seemed impossible that a black man could be elected president. A black man whose middle name is Hussein.

Another closely fought and expensive vote - that on Proposition 8 which would remove the right to same-sex marriage in the State of California - looks like it's swinging in the conservative direction. Final result yet to be announced.

And there's an interesting article by Max Blumenthal on The Man Behind Proposition 8: Howard F. Ahmanson Jr with his wife, Roberta. They were key funders of the conservative campaign to undermine TEC. he concludes:
While the Episcopal global schism represented a towering achievement for
Ahmanson, the passage of Prop 8 would be the apotheosis of his long career. He
does not seek credit—recognition only damages the causes he funds. Ahmanson
derives satisfaction from transforming a nation the same way he transformed
himself. “The Christian view of man is that we're not perfect,” Roberta Ahmanson
told me. “You don't give to things that base themselves on the optimistic view
that human beings are going to be doing it right.”


Death at baptism

Crossing the Kolobeng

From Mmegi (Botswana)
Should people continue to die in the name of religion? This question becomes pertinent following the recent tragic incident in Thamaga in which three members of a local church drowned at Kolobeng River during a baptising session.

One of the deceased was the pastor of the church, who was the first one
to drown. The two other church members drowned after they jumped into the
river to rescue the priest. But according to the police, this was not the
first fatal incident during a baptising session.
All here.

Bishop: End the civil war in Sri Lanka

From Union of Catholic Asian News

COLOMBO (UCAN) -- The head of the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka has issued a statement calling for an end to the country's civil war.

Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo issued the statement on Oct. 29, following a meeting of 400 Sinhalese and Tamil laypeople and clergy, including the Church's diocesan councilors from around the country. They gathered at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo.

The annual meeting of the Diocesan Council of the Church of Ceylon, held Oct. 26-27, discussed the current problems of war and violence in the country, as well as parish work. At one session they discussed how their diocesan councilors could promote peace.

Bishop de Chickera, saying the harrowing experiences of victims of this war prompt God's people to take action, called in his statement for "wider ecumenical intervention."

The bishop released his message the day after Tamil rebels carried out an air attack on a government military base in Mannar, dropping three bombs. Three soldiers were injured and two buildings slightly damaged, according to state media reports. One rebel aircraft flew south to Colombo and dropped two bombs on the capital's main power station, in Kelanitissa. State media said that attack injured four workers and damaged two turbines.

Religious leaders need to speak out against the war, Anglican Father Marimuthupillai Sathivel, parish priest of St. Michel Church in Colombo, told UCA News. "The silence of religious leaders at this crucial moment may be taken as support for the war," he added.

The priest spoke of the fear of those who had been displaced by the fighting in the north of the country, where the government has mounted a sustained offensive with the aim of defeating the rebels militarily.

More than 300,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, according to the United Nations.

Lamenting the loss of life due to years of the fighting, Father Sathivel said it was a shame the government had allocated billions of rupees for the war rather than for development.

More than 80,000 people have been killed since Tamil rebels began fighting for a separate state in 1983. Aid agencies place the current number of displaced people around the country at more than 600,000.


End detention at Dungavel

From the Church of Scotland:

We will stand by failed asylum seeker's children

Church offers support network to the government

A senior Kirk official today praised the
government for listening to its concerns about Dungavel - and asked that
churches be part of the solution.

Reverend Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk's Church and Society
Council, made the remarks ahead of the Moderator's visit to Dungavel detention
centre on Monday.

Mr. Galloway commented:
"We are pleased that the government has listened to us, as the Dungavel regime was inhumane, especially for young children.

"But following Jim Murphy's announcement, there must be action. And we
want to be involved in that action."

He felt that churches had a lot to offer the government and failed asylum seekers:
"The Kirk has always been regarded as being a place of support and safety for the vulnerable in society.
"I know of church members who stood as surety for a family of failed asylum seekers, and they fulfilled their bail conditions without fail."

All here.

Methodist Church: worsening crisis in Zimbabwe

The Methodist Church in Britain is warning that the humanitarian crisis in
Zimbabwe is likely to worsen over the coming months.

Roy Crowder, Partnership Coordinator for World Church Relationships with
special responsibility for Africa, said: ‘The stalemate in negotiations between
MDC and Zanu-PF is making the situation even worse. This is a time when people
should be planting for the following year, but the economy is devastated and
seeds and fertiliser are in short supply. The delay in achieving a viable
political agreement threatens to prolong the economic and humanitarian

Donations to MRDF’s appeal for Zimbabwe can be made by debit or credit card
on 020 7224 4814, or by cheque, payable to “MRDF (Zimbabwe emergency)”, posted to MRDF, Methodist Church House, 25 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5JR.

The long shadow of a court case

Rev. Jim Ferry, Holy Trinity Church Toronto. MALCOLM TAYLOR/CNS, July 2007

I have just finished reading James Ferry's In the Courts of the Lord (New York, Crossroad, 1994).

It is a book in three parts. First the author describes his journey to accept his homosexuality as a normal part of himself and to lose the self-hatred he had previously developed. Second, he describes life as a parish priest and the hypocritical and destructive culture of 'don't ask, don't tell' which stemmed ultimately from the bishops' collective inability to be clear where they stood on their acceptance of homosexuality within the church.

The third section, on his trial before a church court, was my main interest, though both previous sections are essential to understanding the context of the trial.

The fact of Jim Ferry's homosexuality had become known in the parish not only to those who were supportive but also to a couple of people (and then further afield) who were decidely homophobic.

To pre-empt the coming storm Ferry went to his bishop and explained the situation including the fact that he was in a sexual relationship with a man he loved. In accordance with the bishops' guidelines at the time his bishop, Terence Finlay, asked him to resign. Ferry, asked to choose between his partner and his job, did neither. Finlay brought Ferry before the church court in February 1992.

The charge against Ferry was disobedience and the diocesan prosecutor struggled to stick to it. Ferry's defence was to raise the issue of homosexuality in the church. They made a number of arguments about obedience, not least the facts that Ferry had not actually been asked to give up his relationship, that the 'guidelines' were for assessing ordinands not clergy in post, and that they were applied inconsistently even within the diocese. But their central thrust was that homosexuals should not be treated any differently to heterosexuals in the polity of the church.

The case had international press coverage, though I confess I missed it at the time.

The judgement was self-contradictory. Ferry was found not guilty of disobedience (the pivotal charge against him) but was guilty anyway of refusing to refrain from a homosexual relationship 'contrary to the Bishop's instructions, the Respondent's vows on Ordination, and the discipline of the Church.' The court did not find his conduct to be disobedient or disorderly but did find him contumacious (which generally entails disobedience). A final charge of unbecoming conduct was simply ignored. Thus the court avoided any judgement on the precipitating issue of homosexuality.

The court had no power of sentence but made recommendations to the Bishop. Bishop Finlay removed Ferry from office and withdrew his licence.

On the face of it either an appeal or the civil suit that had originally been contemplated would have been successful. But neither were pursued.

However, time changes things. In 2006 Terence Finlay, then retired as Archbishop of Ontario, celebrated the marriage of a lesbian couple saying that he “came to the conclusion that their love for one another was part of God’s divine love and it was appropriate that that be deeply blessed.” He was himself admonished by the diocesan, Colin Johnson, and had his licence to celebrate weddings withdrawn. Ferry demanded an apology, he remains without a licence.