Church acts against breakaway Robert Mugabe ally

Harare, Zimbabwe - The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe will next week file a court application seeking to seize control of a diocese from its bishops in a dispute that is central to a row over homosexuality.

The Province of Central Africa wants to seize three vehicles from the Right Rev Nolbert Kunonga, Bishop of Harare, and bar him from using any of its properties, according to a report on the website

Bishop Kunonga is internationally discredited as a supporter of Robert Mugabe’s regime, and in a remarkable snub of a diocesan bishop for political reasons, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has not invited him to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Last month Bishop Kunonga, who according to the Church Times has never had to answer accusations over evictions of villagers or of incitement to murder, declared that he was breaking up the Province of Central Africa and withdrawing the Harare diocese because of the province’s “liberal” approach to homosexuality.

Most of the Province of Central Africa is conservative on homosexuality, which is illegal in Zimbabwe and other African nations. Although another diocese in the province, Lake Malawi, has elected a liberal vicar from London, the Rev Nick Henderson, as its bishop, local difficulties have meant that he has yet to take up the appointment.

But Bishop Kunonga insists that the Province has failed adequately to censure bishops who are sympathetic to homosexuality.

New Zimbabwe reports that the Anglican Church has engaged the Harare law firm Gill, Godlonton & Gerrans to pursue the cleric before the “funds and investments are spirited away”. Documents seen by the website’s correspondent show that the Anglican Church is seeking an order barring Bishop Kungonga from accessing the Church’s bank accounts, transacting with the Church’s investments and “from working and or doing business from any of the Church’s immovable properties wherever situate.

“Following Kungonga’s withdrawal from the Church of the Province of Central Africa, he has no right to remain in possession of the Church’s assets including the bank’s funds, investments, movable and immovable assets,” lawyers said in papers to be filed at the High Court on Monday.

“The Church entertains a well-founded fear that Kungonga will fund his new ministry with the Church’s resources as he has access to the Church’s investments and funds.”

Bishop Kungonga used an interview with Zimbabwe’s state media last week to defend his anti-homosexuality stance. He said: “We are inspired and motivated by our beliefs in the Scriptures, our beliefs as Catholic Christians and our beliefs as human beings that homosexuality cannot be accepted because it takes away our human dignity and it is not accepted in the Constitution of our country, and it is inconceivable in our cultural background.

“It’s an abomination not only from the Scripture point of view, but also from the cultural, political set-up in which we are operating.”

Having Bishop Kunonga as a foe is a gift for the pro-gay movement in the African Church. His support for the conservative evangelical wing is an embarrassment from which leaders will be anxious to distance themselves.