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Zimbabwean Churches Told to Support Ruling Party—or Else: Christianity Today, Aug 11, 2011 August 10, 2011

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First printed in Christianity Today.

Pastors and advocates report that a new wave of persecution is washing over the churches of Zimbabwe as the country prepares for a new round of elections called by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party.

Churches are “being targeted and harassed by security agencies and militias which are controlled by ZANU PF,” said Marlon Zakeyo, the Zimbabwe advocacy coordinator of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva. They are “in need of active and practical international solidarity and prayer,” he said.

Reports from the Central African nation state that leaders of many of the country’s evangelical, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and African Independent Churches—especially the Zion Christian Church and the VaPostori Apostolic sects—are being pressed into service by the regime to cement its hold on power.

While the former Anglican bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, has long used his church to back “Zimbabwe’s Moses,” ZANU PF is also alleged to have made a concerted effort to bring the Apostolic churches under its control.

Over the past two years members of the opposition party, MDC, have been expelled from many Apostolic churches, and some pastors have reportedly been killed for refusing to support the regime. TheZimbabwe Briefing, a South Africa-based publication supporting Mugabe’s ouster,reports that some Apostolic leaders aretelling their followers—estimated to number approximately 1 million—that Mugabe is the Archangel Gabriel and God’s anointed ruler for Africa.

Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) executive director Useni Sibanda has condemned the political “invasion” of the Apostolic churches, and has urged “church leaders to maintain their credibility by not allowing themselves to be manipulated by politicians.”

ZANU PF spokesman Gadzira Chirumhanzu said it was not possible for church and state to live independent lives. However, he told Christianity Today the party “does not interfere in one’s beliefs; be he Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever.”

“There is no way a church can divorce itself from society, politics, or whatever,” said Chirumhanzu, the party’s director of Science and Technology. “Rules and regulations governing churches, sects, you name it are promulgated in parliament, hence I don’t see how Useni wants to achieve his organization’s objective if it does not participate in politics one way or the other.”

Churches that have opposed the ZANU PF party line have met with violent suppression. On April 20, police stormed an ecumenical prayer service held at the Church of the Nazarene in the Harare suburb of Glen Norah. Organized by evangelical leaders under the theme “Saving Zimbabwe, the Unfinished Journey,” the service commemorated a 2007 prayer service where police shot and killed an opposition leader and jailed over 100 pro-democracy activists.

video of the April incident shows that after firing tear gas into the church, police drove the congregation from the building, beating those slow to respond with truncheons. Nazarene Pastor Paul Mukome reported that ten worshippers and four pastors were arrested, while the vice-chairman of the Harare MDC was severely beaten.

A Roman Catholic priest told The Tablet, a U.K.-based Catholic publication, that clergy were also subjected to arbitrary arrest and questioning. “There’s no freedom of speech. You preach that people are hungry and the moment you say people are hungry those in authority feel attacked. So you are an enemy,” the unnamed priest said.

Politics was driving this issue, the current Anglican bishop of Harare, Chad Gandiya, said. President Mugabe has “insisted on holding” elections this year. The MDC opposes the push since the country still has not adopted a new constitution.

The political parties were “vying for support and the church is seen as a source” of votes, Gandiya said. “Unfortunately, those that are deemed to be non-cooperative are then harassed. Various members of the president’s party have gone to gatherings of various churches, especially the African Independent Churches, to try to win their support. They don’t seem to have done the same with the mainline churches. One possible reason could be that the mainline churches would not give them the same kind of platform.”

For Anglicans, the fight “in our church is political but dressed in religious clothing,” Gandiya said. “Nothing has changed. We continue to be harassed and prevented from using our church buildings while Dr. Kunonga is assisted by the police in his ambitious expansionist [plans].”

But in the midst of the political infighting, the churches continue to do their “holistic ministry quietly,” he said. “Our population is greatly traumatized and in need of healing. Our people are afraid. Please pray that our leaders take the lead in encouraging people not to engage in violence.”

Paul Mukome, the Nazarene pastor, agreed that prayer is necessary—but his prayer request differed. “The biggest message for Zimbabweans is that the time to pray has come,” he said. “We have to pray harder for our leaders so that they know how to lead through the image of God.”

Q+A with Robert Duncan: Christianity Today August 2009 p 17 July 25, 2009

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Read it all at Christianity Today.

The archbishop of the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) spoke with CT in Bedford, Texas, where conservatives constituted their alternative to the liberal Episcopal Church.

Q: What is going on here in Bedford?

A: Bedford for us Anglicans is the end of the beginning. We have struggled, some of our congregations for over 30 years, with issues that have been forced upon us by the Episcopal Church. We’ve come to a point where we are not operating in force anymore.

Q: Rick Warren told the ACNA not to be “reactionary,” what did he mean?

A: He means the war [in the Episcopal Church], it’s not yours anymore, that’s behind. God’s got a whole new work for you.  We are trying to move on. Don’t be reactionary or reactive means get over the wounds, get over the hurts, get over the lawsuits, get over all the stuff.

Q: What is the ACNA’s plan to reach out to America?

A: We want to be clear that the congregation is God’s fundamental way of doing things, just like the family is God’s fundamental building block for society. And if the chief agency is the congregation, the chief agents are the individual Christians.  We have to disciple. We have to teach people to love God … and share their faith. We have to teach them how to engage the world in service, in Christ’s love.

Q What is your message for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams?

A: He should understand there really is realignment in Anglicanism. There is a new Reformation in the Christian West. I hope he sees the unity despite our diversity.  It’s a unity in Christ. He should see the passion for mission. I trust he sees a people that look recognizably Anglican.

Q: What do you have to say to those who criticize the ACNA for being against gays?

A: Jesus was not against anybody. We’re not against anybody. Jesus came to die for all.  The Father’s desire is to reach out to everyone—all of us are broken. What I hope people experience from us is the love of God. The starting place is meeting people where they are.  What we have embraced as our clear statement is the transforming love of Jesus Christ.  I hope that people come out and test us.

Episcopal commission to probe bishop: CEN 7.10.09 p 6. July 11, 2009

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An Episcopal Standards Commission has been convened to investigate complaints of misconduct lodged by the clergy of the Diocese of Ballarat against their Bishop, Michael Hough.

On July 2, Michael Shand QC, chancellor of the Dioceses of Ballarat and Melbourne told the Ballarat synod that 13 priests, along with a number of lay leaders and retired clergy had requested an investigation of the bishop by Episcopal Standards Commission.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Episcopal commission to probe bishop

Muslim Priest and Buddhist Bishop-Elect Are Raising Questions About Syncretism: Christianity Today 3.27.09 March 27, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Christianity Today, Syncretism, The Episcopal Church.
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Jesus saves, the Episcopal Church teaches, but a growing number of its clergy and leaders believe other faiths may lead to salvation as well. Long divided and distracted by questions of sexual ethics, the Episcopal Church (along with most mainline Protestant communities) are facing a cultural and theological shift towards religious pluralism—the belief that there are diverse paths to God.

The debate is not just academic. In two current cases, Episcopal clergy are under scrutiny for practicing and promoting other religions. On February 12 a devotee of Zen Buddhism was elected bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Northern Michigan diocese. Meanwhile, a Seattle-area priest has been given until March 30 to decide whether she is a Muslim or a Christian as her bishop will not permit her to profess both faiths.

Read it all in Christianity Today.

Crack up of Anglican Communion at hand, evangelicals say: Christianity Today 7.19.08 July 20, 2008

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The crack-up of the Anglican Communion is at hand, evangelical bishops attending the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury tell Christianity Today, and the 400 year old Anglican project appears over.

“I’d like to expect a miracle,” said Bishop Gregory Venables of Argentina, a leader of the evangelical alliance at Lambeth, but said he feared the prospects for the church holding together were grim.

“Humanely speaking there is little hope for even a peaceful separation” between the liberal and evangelical wings of the 80-million member communion of churches, Bishop Venables said on July 18.

The twenty day gathering of bishops from across the 80-million member communion began on July 16 on the campus of the University of Kent in Canterbury. The conference—held every ten years—is one of four institutional ties for the 38 provinces, or member churches, of the Anglican Communion. While it has no juridical power, Lambeth has exercised a moral authority over the Communion and has been the venue for resolution of past controversies such as the ordination of women and the morality of contraception.

Read it all at Christianity Today

Thug Bishop: Christianity Today 4.3.08 April 3, 2008

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Even before Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s troubles in the country’s March 29 elections, an effort to create an independent Anglican church loyal to him had collapsed.

Support for Mugabe ally Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of Harare and his breakaway Anglican Church of Zimbabwe has all but disappeared, with the bishop’s waning control maintained by government security services.

Read it all in Christianity Today.

Episcopal Headquarters Takes Steps to Remove Conservative Bishops: Christianity Today 1.18.08 January 18, 2008

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Three conservative bishops of the Episcopal Church are under fire from the church’s national leaders and are being threatened with dismissal for seeking to pull their dioceses out of the church in protest of its leftward drift.

The attempted purge of conservative bishops Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Jack L. Iker of Fort Worth, and John-David Schofield of Fresno by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori marks a new stage in the battle over church doctrine and discipline that has threatened to split the Episcopal Church since the hotly contested 2003 consecration of a non-celibate gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire.

On January 11, Bishop Jefferts Schori stated that a secret review panel had handed down an indictment against Bishop Schofield for “abandoning the Communion” of the Episcopal Church. In November delegates to his diocese’s annual convention voted to pull out of the Episcopal Church and seek the oversight of an overseas archbishop from the Anglican Communion.

Read it all in Christianity Today.

Conservative Anglicans Elated and Cautious: Christianity Today February 2005 February 20, 2005

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Communion, Christianity Today, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Primates Meeting 2005.
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Conservative Anglicans Elated and Cautious
Withdrawal request welcomed, but some wish statement had been stronger.

Traditionalist Anglicans around the world reacted to the news the primates of the Anglican Communion had suspended the Episcopal Church from membership in the 70 million member bodies’ international council with a mixture of elation and caution.

Conservative leader Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh called the February 25 communiqué an “epochal” moment in the life of the church, while the archbishop of Sydney adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

Read the article at Christianity Today