THE Anglican Church’s Province of Central Africa has expelled the bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, and declared his post vacant after he wi
thdrew the diocese from the province alleging rampant homosexuality in the church.
In a letter to the controversial Kunonga on Tuesday, the Dean of the Province of Central Africa and also bishop of Northern Zambia, Albert Chama, said he would soon appoint a vicar-general to act as the head of the church in the capital.
The province is made up of Anglican churches in Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Chama told Kunonga — a staunch Zanu PF supporter — that his purported withdrawal of the diocese from the province was “unconstitutional and un-canonical” as it was tantamount to “altering the structure and the essence” of the church.
“Consequently the heading of your letter stating ‘formal withdrawal of the Diocese of Harare from the Province of Central Africa’ is unacceptable and misleading,” Chama wrote. “We, however, as the Dean of the Province of Central Africa accept and acknowledge that you and some of your supporters have by notice of your letter severed relationship with the Province of Central Africa.”
On September 21, Kunonga wrote to the former Archbishop of Central Africa, Bernard Malango, saying he was withdrawing the Diocese of Harare from the province.
“I declare that the See of Harare is with immediate effect vacant and in accordance with Canon 14 (1) I shall be appointing a vicar-general to hold office whilst the necessary steps are taken for the holding of an elective assembly to elect the next bishop of the Diocese of Harare,” Chama told Kunonga.
He said Kunonga should hand over the church’s property to the vicar-general to be announced in due course.
The Province of Central Africa last week filed an urgent High Court application to compel Kunonga to surrender the church’s property and divest himself of the rights of being a signatory to the Diocese of Harare’s bank accounts and investments.
But Kunonga in his answering affidavit said the matter should not be heard in a secular court, but must go through an ecclesiastical trial.
Meanwhile, the Anglican Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ) in pastoral letter on Tuesday denied that homosexuality was rife in the church as alleged by Kunonga and the bishop of Manicaland Elson Jakazi.
“The Province of Central Africa upholds Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10 which rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with scriptures and calls upon the faithful to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation,” reads the pastoral letter signed by ACZ chairperson, Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi.
He said Kunonga and Jakazi’s allegations were grossly exaggerated and baseless.
“Mudslinging is taking place and hurtful comments are being said about certain bishops,” Tawonezvi added.
However, the Province of Central Africa is yet to take action against Jakazi.
Kunonga’s predicament was triggered by his letter of September 21 to Archbishop Malango withdrawing the Diocese of Harare from the congregation alleging that the church was failing to censure some bishops involved in homosexuality. Malango has since retired.
Bishop Jakazi reportedly also threatened to withdraw the diocese from the province on the same grounds raised by Kunonga.
“Our communion has been guided by nothing else than the moral doctrine of Christ, which was one based on the premise that we hold primary the fundamental canons of faith which are indeed in the sacred scriptures,” wrote Kunonga. “It is our fear and reverence of these that made us to seriously weigh our susceptibility when faced with a threat of compromise and breach of the said in the face of what our province was and is facing now, homosexuality.”
Kunonga said homosexuality had become an issue in the church, adding that unlike what members of the Synod and Episcopal bench wanted people to believe, it was not a “matter of desktop” contemplation, but a matter of “faith and conscience”.
“Knowing very well your own position against homosexuality, it is frightening to us the level of advances this scourge has reached and it is fast coming as you are retiring. This has urged us to pull out as a diocese,” Kunonga said.
He wrote that the diocese was worried by the position taken by Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana regarding the issue of homosexuality and its damaging implications on the province. Kunonga alleged that Mwamba had made a number of public statements since June 2006 sympathetic to homosexuality and the Diocese of Harare had “refused to be represented by him and will not accept him as a diocese”.
Mwamba responded promptly to Mutasa’s letter in his capacity as a bishop of the Province of Central Africa and a lawyer.
He advised Mutasa that as far as the constitution and canons of the province were concerned all property in the province belonged to the Province of Central Africa.
Mwamba said a diocese seeking to break away would alter the combination of the Province of Central Africa. He said alteration of the province could only be possible under the church’s fundamental declarations.
Mwamba wrote that there would be need for a proposed amendment, which would have to be provisionally approved by the provincial synod having been okayed by the synod of each diocese in the province and confirmed by the provincial synod by a two-thirds majority of those present.
The outcome would have to be endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury as not affecting the terms of the communion between the Province of Central Africa, the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion.
“This has not been the case with the Diocese of Harare,” Mwamba averred. “The decision taken by the bishop of Harare is tantamount to a schism.”
He said the next logical thing for Kunonga to do was to resign from the church.
On October 1, the retired Bishop of Manicaland Sebastian Bakare wrote to Chama saying the issue of homosexuality raised by Kunonga and Jakazi never arose in the church.
“The fact that the issue of homosexuality has never been an issue or a topic of discussion in the congregations of the diocese makes one assume that it was a mere smokescreen for a hidden agenda, namely to form a new province together with the Diocese of Harare for reasons best known to themselves,” Bakare wrote.