HIGH Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe yesterday said the Anglican Diocese of Harare which fired bishop Nolbert Kunonga purports to head cannot exist at
law outside the constitution of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA).
Hungwe said this when he dismissed an urgent application by the diocese represented by Kunonga for a spoliation order against the CPCA and acting Harare bishop Sebastian Bakare.
Kunonga’s diocese approached the court to bar the CPCA and Bakare from using Anglican property in the capital.
“Applicant (Kunonga’s Harare Diocese) cannot exist outside the constitution of first respondent (CPCA). It has no separate constitution of its own. It, therefore, has no structures of its own other than those set out in the constitution,” Hungwe ruled. “The assets under contention are assets which respondent lays claim to. The question of ownership of these assets is not presently before me.”
Hungwe said it was clear to him that Kunonga’s diocese was nowhere “near demonstrating that it has placed itself within the purview of those who confess to be Anglicans and who abide by the constitution” of their church.
“There is no claim that there was resolution of the synod of the diocese adopting this alleged breakaway (by Kunonga),” the judge ruled. He said Kunonga by breaking away from the CPCA violated the constitution of the church.
“What the papers do show is that Bishop Kunonga and the diocesan secretary and a handful of other worshippers have decided to leave the first respondent. They have, however, not followed the church’s constitution, as such they cannot seek to rely on a constitution that they have so much violated. They claimed they have been despoiled by the acts of the second respondent (Bakare) whose only offence was to minister members of the first respondent,” Hungwe’s judgement read.
Hungwe said Bakare did not despoil Kunonga and the Diocese of Harare of anything when he accepted invitations to conduct services in the diocese.
“I am unable to hold that where a bishop of one diocese is invited to minister in a different diocese and accepts such invitation by the faithful, such services as he may conduct amount to unlawful dispossession of whatever rights are held by the ordained bishop for the locality,” the judge ruled.
“In my respectful opinion no unlawful dispossession occurred in this matter…for to argue that entry into a church premise by a bishop of a separate diocese constitutes dispossession would be to stretch the mandament too far.”
Hungwe said the parties to the dispute, being men of the cloth, ought to resolve their disagreements in a “God-fearing manner”.