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A newspaper gets burned in reporting on Anglican Africa; Get Religion, August 123, 2013 August 12, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of the Province of Central Africa, Get Religion, Press criticism, Zimbabwe.
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The Christian Science Monitor has been tripped up by the African press and the internet, reporting as breaking news an item almost two years old.

The gist of the story entitled “Churches feel vulnerable after Mugabe reelected in Zimbabwe” printed on 10 August 2013 is correct — church leaders are worried what Robert Mugabe will do following his reelectionas president — but the background information used to pad out the article is incorrect.

I sympathize with the reporter on this story. This CSM story showcases the perils of re-write journalism. I use the internet for researching my stories also when I am not familiar with a topic. And I have been burned by Wikipedia and African newspapers too. Over the years I have covered religion in Africa I have learned how to smell a bad story — my “spidey sense” goes off when something is not quite right. And it tingled, jingled and jangled with this piece.

The article — written from Boston — begins:

The atmosphere in Zimbabwe after the reelection of strongman Robert Mugabe is not one of great celebration, but of tension. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the main challenger, says he will not join in a new governing coalition but is contesting the credibility of the July 31 vote in court.

Fears are on the rise in the capital of Harare, reports say, that under one-party rule, a host of Mr. Mugabe’s old partners, cronies, henchmen, and friends will start to come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the hour.

So far so good. Without hearing the details, this story sounds right. Though I’ve not been back to Zimbabwe since 1999, I’ve kept up my contacts and have written 150 stories about its travails. At this point the article focuses on the fears of church leaders about what Pres. Mugabe will do next.

Foreign-owned banks, mines, and businesses have heard that, to fulfill a campaign promise made by Mugabe, their assets may be seized and restructured into a majority national ownership arrangement. Now it appears the considerable property of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe, though it is mostly a black membership, may also be under renewed scrutiny by the unscrupulous.

“Oh no”, I thought, not again. Dr. Nolbert Kunonga — an ex-Anglican bishop and one-time crony of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party — appeared to have come back from the political dead and returned to his evil ways. The article then moves to detail:

The chief Anglican bishop in Zimbabwe, Chad Gandiya, this week accused a renegade clergyman and friend of Mugabe of restarting a campaign using brutality, the courts, and police to seize churches, orphanages, and missions owned by mainstream Anglicans.

That also seemed likely, but Dr. Gandiya is only the Bishop of Harare — one of five Anglican bishops in Zimbabwe. Though bishop of the diocese based in the capital, he is not the chief bishop for the country — the chief bishop is the Archbishop of Central Africa who happens to live in Zambia. But the report seemed right. The diocesanFacebook page recently posted a note saying:

Anglicans across Zimbabwe must remain aware that the disbarred bishop intends to feature prominently in Church affairs and cause confusion, and is reportedly being revived by some evil forces who believe in his crusade to repossess our properties using the Constitutional Court. This is informational, for your knowledge, but remain prayerful. Victory is ours! We must not forget the pain. Anglicans are forgiving.

But after this point things become unglued. It cites an old New York Times story for color quotes on Dr. Kunonga — a name worthy of a James Bond villain — and then states things that set off my alarms.

Gandiya told reporters that Kunonga this week sent thugs into his own home in Harare, where they stole cellphones and records of church holdings and personnel. Gandiya also said that in the area of Murewa, outside Harare, local police are supporting Kunonga’s effort to take over a mission, and to evict 100 children from the Shearly Cripps orphanage, first started by British and American missionaries. …

Kunonga’s splinter church for a time enjoyed standing but is now in legal limbo. But this could change again. Kunonga currently holds, in contravention of a court order, some of the largest Anglican church buildings and edifices in Harare, including the main cathedral, along with bank accounts and vehicles. …

The head of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said he is seeking a visit to speak with Mugabe about the issue.

I had reported all of these things almost two years ago for the Church of England Newspaper as had the secular press. Last year I reported on the expulsion of Dr. Kunonga from the cathedral and the return of the diocesan bank accounts and vehicles to Dr. Gandiya. Had something happened this past week?

A quick email to Dr. Gandiya returned an answer from Harare that the bishop was worried Dr. Kunonga might try something new. But they still possessed the cathedral, orphanage, schools, bank accounts and cars of the diocese. Dr. Kunonga and his allies had absconded with some things, and saddled the diocese with unpaid bills –but nothing more. Nor did the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff seem to know anything about plans for a meeting between Robert Mugabe and Justin Welby.

True, the Anglican Communion News Service did re-post the story. But ACNS is not a news service in the sense that it engages in journalism. It is not even the news service for the Anglican Communion. It releases press statements for some Anglican churches and agencies on behalf of the Anglican Consultative Council — a London-based pan-Anglican organization that discusses issues of common concern but has no authority other than moral suasion. (And that has been damaged in recent years due to the Anglican sex wars with some of the African churches boycotting its meetings). It also provides an RSS service for Anglican related news articles. In other words, its re-posting of a story is no guarantee of authenticity.

It is pretty easy to see how the mistake was made. One of the hyperlinks in the CSMstory goes to a piece in the Zim Daily. The date at the top of the page is today’s date. And tomorrow the date at the top will be tomorrow’s date. Even though the story is two years old. The examples pulled from this article for the CSM were true — but no longer.

What is the moral of this story? Trust but verify.

Relying on a mis-dated story from the internet from an African newspaper can lead to journalistic disaster unless you verify the information with those involved. That cannot always be done — following a Christianity Today story I wrote on Zimbabwe in 2011, the government press office stopped responding to my emails. But without verification, a reporter takes his professional life in his hands when relying on uncorroborated stories from the African press.

Journalists should thus be afeard. The internet is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that seem to give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about a reporter’s ears, offering him the mirage of an easy ending to a story on deadline.

And, I would also say a second lesson to be learned from this fiasco is that there is value in engaging specialist reporters. it may be cheaper to keep things in house or out source everything to the wire services — but as the old adage goes “you get what you pay for” — and this holds true for journalism also.

First published in Get Religion.

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Supreme Court evicts schismatic bishop from Harare’s churches: Anglican Ink, November 19, 2012 November 19, 2012

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Dr. Nolbert Kunonga

The Zimbabwe Supreme Court has handed the breakaway bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga a surprise loss and ordered he turn over the diocese’s churches to the lawful bishop, Dr. Chad Gandiya.

The decision caps five years of legal battles between Dr. Kunonga and the Church of the Province of Central Africa and its bishops of Harare, Dr. Sebastian Bakare and Dr. Gandiya. It has also been marked by violent intimidation of Anglicans loyal to the province – estimated to be over 90 per cent of its members – with the security services and police intervening on behalf of Dr. Kunonga to drive Anglicans out of their churches.

Appointed Bishop of Harare in 2000 in an election marred by interference from the security services, the American educated bishop has had a controversial tenure.

A native of Zimbabwe, Nolbert Kunonga earned a PhD from Northwestern University and taught at Dr. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown New York before returning to Harare to stand for election as bishop.

Read it all in Anglican Ink:

Bishops plea for justice from Robert Mugabe: The Church of England Newspaper, September 9, 2012 p 3 September 10, 2012

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Zimbabwe’s Anglican bishops have appealed to President Robert Mugabe to enforce the rule of law in the Central African nation and end police support for former Harare Nolbert Kunonga.

Last week the Bishops Cleophas Lunga of Matabeleland, Julius Makoni of Manicaland, Godfrey Tawonezvi of Masvingo and Ishmael Mukuwanda of Central Zimbabwe wrote to President Mugabe asking him to intervene in the case of Daramombe Mission in Chivhu in the Diocese of Masvingo.

They asked the president “members of the Government of National Unity, Home Affairs co-ministers and the Police Commissioner-General to intervene in this matter where innocent and peace-loving worshippers are being driven out of their church buildings for no  legitimate reason.”

“As Anglican Bishops in Zimbabwe in the Church of the Province of Central Africa, we wish to express our dismay at the continued harassment of the faithful in the Diocese of Masvingo. What happened to freedom of worship in Zimbabwe,” they asked.

The bishops said that a court had held ruled the Daramombe Mission in the Diocese of Chivu was not part of the properties claimed by Dr. Kunonga as it was not part of the Diocese of Harare when he served as its bishop.  However, Dr. Kunonga’s supporters had seized the church with the support of local police officials and driven out Anglicans loyal to the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

“What Kunonga is using to hoodwink the police are title deeds which he illegally refused to surrender to the Diocese of Masvingo at its formation. We are also disturbed that the police have taken sides. They are the ones who are in the forefront when our members are evicted from their church buildings,” the bishop said.

During his meeting with President Mugabe in 2011, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams pressed him to intervene in the Dr. Kunonga affair and uphold the power of the courts.  The protestations, however, appear not to have swayed the octogenarian Zimbabwe strongman as sources inside the country continue to report harassment by the security services of Anglicans.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Kunonga calls for a war on the “white man”: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 6. May 17, 2012

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Dr Nolbert Kunonga

The former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, has urged Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe to expel the few remaining white farmers from their lands, telling a gathering of ZANU (PF) supporters that “Whites like other aliens should not be allowed to own land and other properties in the country as they are strangers.”

In an account of his sermon printed in The Zimbabwean, Dr. Kunonga said that he too had been engaged in a campaign of expropriating white-owned properties. “I took 3800 church properties in the region since their title deeds were in my name. There was no way the properties could remain under charge of the church controlled by whites and their black puppets. Bishops such as Julius Makoni, Chad Gandiwa and others are MDC-T and furthered western interests,” he said.\

The controversial bishop, who was excommunicated by the Church of the Province of Central Africa after he quit the church to form his own Anglican Church of Zimbabwe, has waged a violent campaign of repression with the support of the security services against Anglicans who are loyal to the Bishop of Harare.

In 2011 the Archbishops of Canterbury, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Tanzania, along with local Anglican bishops, met with President Mugabe asking him to reassert the rule of law in Zimbabwe, and protect persecuted Anglicans from the depredations of Dr. Kunonga. The former bishop has been banned from travel to the U.S., the E.U. and the U.K. due to his complicity with the crimes of the Mugabe regime.

A long time supporter of the Zimbabwean president, Dr. Kunonga has campaigned against the opposition MDC party and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.  He told the gathering at the Dimbe Primary School near Marondera in Mashonaland East that MDC-T and “its western puppet, Morgan Tsvangirai, are agents of doom fighting to reverse the land reform programme and hand back land to the former colonial white masters.”

“Tsvangirai is a white man masked in black skin. He is like the Biblical Pharaoh who enjoyed the suffering and economic deprivation of his own people. On the other hand, Mugabe is the Biblical Daniel sent to suffer for the cause of his people,” said Dr. Kunonga.

The former bishop added that those who drive out white farmers, MDC supporters and foreigners from their lands “will enter the kingdom of God.”

“As Christians; we must gear ourselves for a bloody war against white interests,” he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Mugabe meeting for Dr. Williams: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 14, 2011 p 1. October 18, 2011

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has presented a dossier to President Robert Mugabe chronicling the oppression of Zimbabwe’s Anglicans at the hands of the security services and thugs in the pay of breakaway bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga.

During his two-hour meeting with President Mugabe on 10 October, Dr Rowan Williams urged the Zimbabwe strongman to halt the attacks. President Mugabe professed ignorance of the persecution, but countered by asking the Anglican Church to condemn the sanctions imposed by the West against his regime and for the church to take a firm stand against homosexuality.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Dr Williams – who was accompanied by Archbishops Albert Chama of Central Africa, Thabo Makgoba of South Africa, Valentino Mokiwa of Tanzania, and the bishops of Harare and Botswana characterised the meeting as having been “very candid” where “disagreements were expressed clearly, but I think in a peaceful manner.”

Dr Williams also clarified the Anglican Communion’s stance on homosexuality, disavowing recent moves by the American and Canadian Churches to authorise gay bishops and blessings stating the church does not allow same-sex relationships and that is common ground across the Anglicans.

“On the practice of homosexuality by bishops in the US and Canada, these are provinces, which do not represent the general line,” he told reporters.

A statement from the bishops said the dossier presented to the President “gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church has been subject. We have asked, in the clearest possible terms, that the President use his powers as Head of State to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behaviour.”

Archbishop Makgoba reported that “although moving on in age and forgetful in certain instances, the President was aware of our pain, frustration and disappointment at the police-aided church conflict and violence by Kunonga.”

The archbishops “appealed to his heart and his Catholic conscience, and asked him to stop the suffering of his people,” Archbishop Makgoba said, adding that “President Mugabe asked that we also pray and intervene to end sanctions, as they were hurting all Zimbabweans. He also said Britain had dishonoured its pledges in the implementation of the country’s post-independence land reform programme.”

After introductions and pleasantries, the meeting began with an hour-long presentation by Dr Williams and his team on the problems facing the church. According to the government-run Harare Herald, President Mugabe said he was unaware of many of the incidents cited by the bishops, but stated the courts would have to sort out the dispute.

President Mugabe then launched into a 30-minute soliloquy, denouncing homosexuality, Western sanctions against his regime and the evils of white colonial rule. He also urged the two Anglican factions to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences.

“He said it would be better for everyone if they united. The President said he hoped the Anglican delegation did not come to Zimbabwe under the impression that the disharmony is the act of Government,” a source told the Herald.

“Faithful” of Harare lauded by Canterbury: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 14, 2011 p 1. October 14, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised the “faith and endurance” of the Anglicans of Zimbabwe in the face of persecution by “false brethren,” calling their witness an inspiration to the world.

Dr. Rowan Williams – accompanied by the primates of Central Africa, South Africa, Tanzania, and the bishops of Zimbabwe and Botswana — received an enthusiastic greeting on Oct 9 from approximately 15,000 Anglicans packed into a sports arena in Harare.  Across town outside the city’s Anglican cathedral, occupied by supporters of breakaway bishop Dr. Nolbert Kunonga, pickets denounced the archbishop with signs labeling him a colonialist and supporter of homosexuality.

One member of the congregation (who for safety reasons cannot be named) told CEN he was overjoyed by the archbishop’s visit, writing that Dr. Williams’ presence gave encouragement to the Harare’s embattled Anglicans.

God’s “purpose is justice: not an abstract idea of fairness, but a situation where every person has the fulfilment God desires for them, without interference from others,” Dr. Williams told the congregation, taking as his text Matt 22:10-11.

Addressing the persecution suffered by Anglicans at the hands of Dr. Kunonga’s supporters, the archbishop said, “You know very well, dear brothers and sisters, what it means to have doors locked in your faces by those who claim the name of Christians and Anglicans. You know how those who by their greed and violence have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals of this country.”

Yet in the midst of this oppression, the will of God “is so strong that it can triumph even over these mindless and Godless assaults. Just as the Risen Jesus breaks through the locked doors of fear and suspicion, so he continues to call you and empower you in spite of all efforts to defeat you,” the archbishop said.

The assaults upon the church had taught Zimbabwe’s Anglicans “that it is not the buildings that make a true church but the spiritual foundations on which your lives are built,” he said, urging them to hold fast.

Touching upon Zimbabwe’s turbulent history, he noted that “for a long period in this country, an anxious ruling class clung on to the power they had seized at the expense of the indigenous people and ignored their rights and their hopes for dignity and political freedom. How tragic that this should be replaced by another kind of lawlessness, where so many live in daily fear of attack if they fail to comply with what the powerful require of them.”

The faithful Christians of Zimbabwe were a model to the world, Dr. Williams said.  “Day by day, you have to face injustice and the arrogance of ‘false brethren’,” he said.

“Yet you must know that we give thanks to God for you – for your patience and generosity and endurance. Your life here is tortured by uncertainty and the constant risk of attack, yet it speaks to all of us in the worldwide Communion of the victory of Jesus Christ and the undefeated will of God to welcome people into his Kingdom and to seat them at the table of his Son so that we can celebrate the marriage of heaven and earth in the fleshly life and death and resurrection of the Lord,” the archbishop said.

Mugabe meeting for Archbishop Williams: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011, p 7. August 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, Zimbabwe.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will travel to Harare in October and will seek a meeting with Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe to plead the case for the country’s persecuted Anglicans.

Dr Williams will also visit Malawi and Zambia during his tour of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, and is expected to offer moral encouragement to the Church. President Mugabe’s office has not decided whether the country’s leader since independence will meet with Dr Williams — who has been a harsh critic of the regime.

A spokesman for Lambeth Palace confirmed “the Archbishop is visiting Zimbabwe as part of a wider trip, which will also see him visit Malawi and Zambia,” but noted the itinerary had yet to be finalised.

The Anglican Bishop of Harare, Dr Chad Gandiya has been locked in a long-running dispute with the former Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, over the ownership of the Diocese’s properties. While the courts initially ordered the parties to share church premises pending a final adjudication of the dispute, the security services have thrown their support behind Dr Kunonga and evicted Anglicans loyal to Bishop Gandiya from church properties.

Earlier this month the country’s Supreme Court handed down an order permitting the issue of ownership of church properties to be adjudicated by the courts, but held that trusteeship of the Church’s buildings would reside with Dr Kunonga until a final order is handed down.

Zimbabwe has been an on-going issue for Dr Williams since he took office as Archbishop of Canterbury — and in 2005 was the topic of the sole interview he has granted to The Church of England Newspaper since his move to Lambeth.

In 2007 Dr Williams pressed Dr Kunonga to distance himself from the Mugabe regime during a meeting with the renegade bishop in South Africa and on 7 December, 2008 the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, called for armed intervention to end the regime.

While the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken often about the situation in Zimbabwe, he has so far declined to take any further action — apart from not inviting Dr Kunonga to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

After Anglicans were locked out of their churches during Christmas, Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu on 27 December, 2009 released a statement saying they condemned “unequivocally any move to deny people their basic right to worship.”

The “unprovoked intimidation of worshippers by the police is completely unacceptable and indicative of the continued and persistent oppression by state instruments of those perceived to be in opposition” to the regime of strongman Robert Mugabe the Archbishops said.

On 3 February, 2009 the primates of the Anglican Communion called upon the African Union to take steps to end the crisis “due directly to the deteriorating socio-political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.”

The regime showed a “total disregard for life” and was responsible for the “systematic kidnap, torture and killing of the Zimbabwean people” they said, and asked Dr Williams to appoint a representative to Zimbabwe on behalf of the Communion, “to exercise a ministry of presence and to show solidarity with the Zimbabwean people.” In 1985 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie appointed the Rt Rev Keith Sutton, Bishop of Lichfield, as his envoy to South Africa to support the anti-apartheid campaign.

However, Dr Williams has so far declined to act upon the Primates’ request.

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.”

America dons the victim’s mantle in church wars: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 5, 2011 August 5, 2011

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Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

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.

Ecuador church leader defends Mugabe’s honor: The Church of England Newspaper, October 1, 2012 October 2, 2010

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Dr. Walter Crespo, the head of the Anglican Church of Ecuador, has denied accusations that he supplied arms to Columbian FARC rebel groups, and defended his church’s recognition of Robert Mugabe as one of the key progressive anti-imperialist leaders on the world stage.

“[I] was, [am], and will remain a man of leftist political convictions” the controversial cleric told The Church of England Newspaper, adding that his “public recognition of the moral leadership of Dr. Mugabe as the legitimate President of Zimbabwe, and a worldwide leader is in perfect line with his historical trajectory.”

The fiery prelate added he “was not, is not, and will never be a puppet of political imperialism or of degenerated ‘official Anglicanism’ as it is practiced by ‘Lambeth’ and ‘815’.”  [815 is a slang expression for the US Episcopal Church, whose offices are located at 815 Second Avenue in New York City.]

Last month Dr. Crespo, joined by former Anglican bishops Nolbert Kunonga and Elson Jakazi, invited President Mugabe to Quito to receive an honorary Degree of Doctor of Civil Laws.  “The conferment of the honorary doctorate to the Head of State is in honour of and recognition of Comrade Mugabe’s outstanding leadership of not only Zimbabwe but of the rest of the world including Latin America,” the bishop said.

On Sept 26, President Robert Mugabe returned to Harare after attending the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  The Zimbabwe strongman had been scheduled to travel to fly to Quito to pick up his honorary degree.

A government spokesman said “time constraints” had prevented President Mugabe from traveling to Quito.   Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu said the president would be travelling to Mexico in December for the 17th Climate Change Convention and “will then fulfill that commitment.”

However, press reports detailing Dr. Crespo’s alleged ties to arms dealings, may have played a part in the postponing the ceremony, émigré Zimbabwean newspapers have reported.  SW Radio Africa news stated “it’s thought the revelations about Bishop Crespo’s shady life have diminished the propaganda value of the doctorate.”

The Anglican Diocese of Harare led by Bishop Chad Gandiya and the Church of the Province of Central Africa stated they too “dissociate themselves from any activities associated with Dr. Crespo and the ‘Anglican’ Province of Ecuador.”

The Diocese of Harare stated it was “not at all surprised by this apparent solidarity between Dr. Kunonga and Dr. Crespo, they are both rebels fighting for a nonexistent cause.”

Dr. Crespo told CEN his denomination was not tied to the US Episcopal Church or to the Anglican Communion, but was descended from a Church of England congregation established in Guayaquil in 1821, that in 1957 was incorporated as an independent denomination under Ecuadorian law.

The Ecuadorian bishop stated that he was a man of the left, and that his incarceration in 2001 and imprisonment for three years while awaiting trial for gun running had been engineered by right wing paramilitary groups tied to corrupt elements within the Ecuadorian and Colombian government.

Dr. Crespo stated his leftist credentials were beyond reproach.  He was first jailed at age 16 in 1966 by Ecuador’s military junta for his involvement with the High School Students National Federation (FESE) and in 1970 went into exile in Spain.

The bishop told CEN he was jailed a second time by the Franco regime while working as a school teacher.  And in 1998 was jailed a third time when he attempted to take his seat as an elected member of Ecuador’s National Assembly.

Ecuador’s anti-clerical laws forbad clergyman from holding civil office, and he was jailed for 231 days for contempt.  His jailing led to a revision of the country’s constitution, he said, that now permits clergymen to serve in government office.

The allegations that he was “involved in gun running were false,” he said, adding that in 2001 he was arrested “under dirty charges of supporting FARC.”

Far from being an ally of FARC, Bishop Crespo said, he and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Santo Domingo de los Colorados, a German national, were seeking “the freedom of several European citizens kidnapped by the Colombian insurgency.”

His involvement in hostage negotiations with FARC prompted the “conspiracy” by the head of the Colombian security services, Jorge Noguera, and the chief of the Ecuadoran police, which the bishop said led to his jailing and the expulsion of the Catholic bishop from Ecuador.

Jorge Noguera served as chief of the DAS (the Colombian Administrative Department of Security) from 2002 to 2006.  In 2007 he was accused of being a member of the AUC, a right-wing paramilitary group.  In 2008, Noguera was arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy for his AUC work while serving as chief of the security services.

Dr. Crespo told CEN he “defeated eight indictments, the last one issued on Dec. 24, 2009.”

“Where is Noguera now a days?  He is in jail in Colombia, arrested by his own accomplices,” the bishop said.