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Wrangling Marks Central African Synod: CEN 9.13.07 September 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Zimbabwe.

Wrangling over Robert Mugabe, homosexuality, the place of The Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion, and the aspirations of national churches, marked the General Synod of the Province of Central Africa, held Sept 6-8 in the southern Malawi town of Mangochi.

Initial reports on the proceedings of Synod have been contradictory. The government backed Harare Herald reported the Province had been dissolved, following the withdrawal of the Zimbabwe dioceses, angered over an insufficiently fierce condemnation of homosexuality and the Western Churches. However, the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Rev Trevor Mwamba emailed Religious Intelligence saying the “Province is still intact.”

Preliminary reports from Malawi indicate a conservative turn within the Province. Three Zimbabwe dioceses, led by the controversial Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, were able to block resolutions proposed by Bishop Mwamba on the crisis in Zimbabwe. They argued such political matters were beyond the scope of the Province’s deliberations and meddled in the political affairs of the sovereign dioceses and countries. Taking up the cry of homosexuality, Dr Kunonga was able to shift attention away from the political and economic crisis in the region on to the disputes within the Anglican Communion. A resolution reiterating the Provinces commitment to the principles enunciated by the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 was adopted, but Dr Kunonga is said to have rejected this stance as not sufficiently strong.

According to a report in the Herald, the Diocese of Harare and Manicaland and a third Zimbabwe diocese have quit the Province, in protest, forcing the Province to break apart. A point denied by Bishop Mwamba. Debate over dividing the diocese into three national churches: Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi were held, but no action taken. Bishop Mwamba’s conciliatory stance towards The Episcopal Church led to his removal as Provincial Dean by the Archbishop of Central Africa, Bernard Malango. The Rt Rev Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia as Dean by the church’s General Synod, which began on Sept 6 in Mangochi, Malawi. The government-backed Herald reported Bishop Mwamba was ‘relieved of his duties’ due top his ‘pro-gay’ and pro-American lobbying, and because he misrepresented ‘the province’s position on the issue of homosexuals.’

The Oxford-educated Bishop Mwamba had urged the African churches to moderate their tone on the issue of homosexuality, and address first the continent’s social and economic problems. In a June 2006 interview with The Church of England Newspaper in London, conducted during the US Church’s General Convention, Bishop Mwamba stated he supported the 1998 Lambeth stance on human sexuality, but argued the Communion had become sidetracked by the issue at the expense of the poor. Last week’s Synod will be the last for the church’s primate. Archbishop Bernard Malango turns 65 in January and is expected to retire at that time. The new Dean, Bishop Chama, will oversee the election of a successor and will serve as acting primate.

Provincial canons require the empty Episcopal sees of Lake Malawi and Archbishop Malango’s soon to be vacant diocese of Upper Shire be filled before a new Archbishop is elected. The on-going wrangle over the disputed 2005 election of London vicar Nicholas Henderson in Lake Malawi, may give Bishop Chama a longer than expected interim. The replacement of Bishop Mwamba by Bishop Chama may indicate a conservative tilt. Bishop Mwamba is scheduled to address the Modern Churchperson’s Conference on the question of African Anglicanism, while Bishop Chama is a member of the Ekklesia Society — the development and relief agency headed by Bishop Bill Atwood, one of two Americans consecrated in Nairobi by the Kenyan church to oversee conservative US congregations.

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