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Pro-Mugabe bishop now forms his own church division


Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who has been stripped of his credentials to function as a priest by the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), has formed his own church, the Anglican Province of Zimbabwe.

The bishop, a staunch ally of President Robert Mugabe, used the full force of the Zimbabwean police to disrupt several Anglican Sunday church services in Harare. Police arrested at least three priests and a number of parishioners opposed to him, the South African Press Association quoted a church official as saying.

The priests were dragged from the church because they were conducting services without the authorisation of the police or that of Bishop Kunonga, said church spokesperson Christopher Tapera. He added that paramilitary police in riot gear and carrying batons disrupted a service at St Elizabeth’s church in Harare’s middle-income suburb of Belvedere.

Kunongo had told journalists on 12 January, "History has been made today in the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe. We have formed our own province." He was speaking at the Anglican cathedral in central Harare, which the CPCA says should be under the jurisdiction of Bishop Sebastian Bakare, who it appointed to replace Kunonga until a new head is found.

Kunonga announced the withdrawal of his diocese of Harare from the province of Central Africa in September after he accused the CPCA of failing to censure bishops who are sympathetic to homosexual clergy.

But on 20 December, 14 bishops from the CPCA revoked Kunonga’s licence and said that he "is no longer authorised … to have any authority or control whatsoever over the Harare diocese, nor to represent it in any way, nor use the funds and assets of the diocese". The Central African province of the church groups Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana.

The Anglican bishops also resolved that the Harare diocese continues to form part of the Province of Central Africa. However, at his press conference, Kunonga said he would disregard the resolutions of the CPCA, "It is a theological lie to say a bishop or priest had been de-ordained or de-consecrated. Once a priest or bishop, always a priest or bishop. So it is a lie that I have been stripped of my bishopry." He added that the Church of the Province of Central Africa had no jurisdiction over the new Province of Zimbabwe, and explained, "They have no authority over our property and they know that."

Kunonga’s province of Zimbabwe comprises Harare, Chitungwiza, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West. These areas are only found in the northern half of Zimbabwe, and the new province excludes the rest of the country. Since September 2007 Kunonga has unsuccessfully tried to bring the Harare diocese under the jurisdiction of the province of Kenya.

Kunonga has officiated at numerous State functions, including President Mugabe’s 2002 swearing-in ceremony. The bishop has also been given a farm by the government from among those that it seized off former white farmers, and he is on a list of allies of the president banned from travelling to the United States and the European Union under sanctions imposed after the 2002 elections, which were widely condemned as having been rigged.

Ecumenical News International