America dons the victim’s mantle in church wars: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 5, 2011 August 5, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
Tags: Fort Worth, Harare, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Nolbert Kunonga, Robert Mugabe, San Joaquin
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The murders, beatings and state-sanctioned violence suffered by Anglicans in Harare under the Mugabe regime are akin to the discomforts faced by Episcopalians loyal to the national Church who reside in dioceses that have departed for the Anglican Church in North America.
This summary of the situation in Harare from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori came in an August 2 report released by the Episcopal News Service (ENS) summarizing her trip to Central Africa. Her remarks are similar to claims made at the Jamaica meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2009. However, in Kingston delegates from the Global South rejected the Presiding Bishop’s attempt to cloak the Episcopal Church with the victim’s mantle, arguing in the United States it was the Episcopal Church who was the aggressor in its legal battles.
In its article on the Presiding Bishop’s July 29-31 visit to Zimbabwe, ENS wrote: “A crippled nation at the mercy of tyrannical leaders, Zimbabwe is home to a persecuted yet resilient community of Anglicans who’ve been victimized, intimidated and run out of their own churches by a state-supported renegade bishop and his allies.
“Yet, despite being excluded from all worship spaces in Harare, ‘the Anglican church is growing, filled with joy, and looking outward’,” Presiding Jefferts Schori told ENS.
The article then quoted the Presiding Bishop as having said: “They have experienced the same kind of thing as congregations in Fort Worth and San Joaquin.” The Church’s press office explained the Presiding Bishop was “referring to attempts by former leaders in those places to take ownership of diocesan property and leave loyal Episcopalians without a spiritual home.”
ACNA clergy contacted by CEN in Fort Worth and San Joaquin expressed displeasure with the analogy drawn by the Presiding Bishop, with one priest noting that situation was actually “quite the reverse.”
“We’re the ones [like the Diocese of Harare] with 90 per cent of the people and are the ones defending ourselves against their attempts to drive us out of our church homes.”
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Fort Worth, Suzanne Gill, earlier this year told CEN the picture painted by the national Church was not true to life as Bishop Jack Iker had sought time and again to find a “gracious” way forward. “People wonder from time to time about a mediated settlement. As you know, this was tried and rebuffed,” she said.
“We still try in vain to get the press to notice that we gave away four parishes in February 2009, or that we have four churches being run by TEC clergy which are owned by the [breakaway diocese]. We even pay the casualty insurance on one of them,” Ms Gill noted.
During the debate on the Anglican Covenant on May 7, 2009 at ACC-14 in Kingston, the Bishop of Peru, the Rt Rev William Godfrey, urged the ACC to take up the question of the property lawsuits in the US. “When good and godly men choose to set aside” the Biblical injunction not to take their disputes to court, “we must ask why.”
The Anglican Communion “must put everything that is a problem on the table” for discussion, Bishop Godfrey said.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responded that “the reality is that those who have sought to remove property” from the control of the national Episcopal Church were the problem.
Nor was this an American problem alone. “In Harare” Dr Nolbert Kunonga had alienated church property from the province, while “in the Sudan” the Diocese of Khartoum was “trying to get its cathedral back” from a breakaway group.
She added the “[previous] Bishop in Jerusalem,” the Rt Rev Riah Abu al-Assal, “sought to remove property” from the diocese. “When leaders of the Church assert property of the church is personal property and are unwilling to discuss the issue,” national Churches have a “fiduciary and moral duty” to fight.
Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum objected to the Presiding Bishop’s remarks and disputed her grasp of events in Khartoum. It was “not a cathedral but a house” that was in dispute, he added.
The Bishop in Iran, the Rev Azad Marshall responded that the Presiding Bishop was “wrong” to link the overseas property disputes in Africa and Israel to those of the Episcopal Church. The Jerusalem dispute was not in any way like the American dispute, he said, adding the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East supported the decision taken by the breakaway American dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church and take their property with them.