The email below comes from Marondera (75 km east of Harare). On Saturday 5 January Bp Bakare held a meeting in the morning with ‘his’ priests (about 35) and in the afternoon some 120 churchwardens and some clergy had the third in a series of meetings to update people on events in the Diocese.
Sent: 05 January 2008 23:52
Subject: Anglican church
Dear friends and family in Christ.
I spent all Saturday at meetings with the new Bishop, Sebastian Bakare, starting with a lovely communion service at St Michael’s Church Mbare, and found him a gracious and caring man, now well into his seventies, at least. A sound theologian and ready to accept ‘back into the CPCA’ those priests who had followed the rogue ex-Bish, Dr. Norbert Kunonga, the ZANU(PF) supporter, some of whose priests have been engaged in touring Harare beating up people and priests who wanted to ‘return’ to the CPCA. There were about 60% of the parishes of the Diocese represented, showing their support for Bakare, and deciding to stand up to Kunonga, though some parishes are actually sadly divided, one priest, and some of the congregation continuing to support Kunonga. Others have been locked out of their churches by the Kunonga faction priests! It is an incredible mess!
The Bishops of the Province have made it quite clear that those priests who continue to follow Kunonga cease to be priests in the eyes of all African Bishops, and their ‘sacramental’ actions are considered invalid. They will, from now on, be unable to obtain a license from any of the Bishops of the CPCA.
Our priest at All Saints, Marondera, Fr. Simba, has now ‘seen the light’, wants to move to Botswana, and is now a firm supporter of Bakare, despite his actions and words to me four weeks ago when he reacted to my declaration to be ‘for the CPCA’, by calling me a racist, etc.
I am the only white priest in the Diocese, though there is a coloured supplementary priest who was not present at the meeting.
I was impressed by the solidarity and commitment of those priests and church wardens present at the meetings, and their apparent lack of bitterness towards those who had physically and verbally abused them. I felt the Holy Spirit present in a way I had never felt in any meeting chaired by the ex-Bish.
There are huge problems ahead for the Diocese and the new Bishop, as the opposition is still in possession of the Diocesan offices, and many of the trust funds, set up to help supply the clergy, retirement benefits, etc. Those funds are being plundered and the civil courts have, so far, been unwilling to judge in favour of the rightful owner of the funds, the CPCA, being biased in favour of the pro-Mugabe Kunonga. One such ‘rebel’ is in our congregation and I am expecting trouble when I take the ‘Shona’ service, with the help of sub-deacons tomorrow.
[Update received yesterday: I took the 0730 service, in Shona, with help from a sub-deacon on Sunday and it was a very joyful affair, even though one of our members, a Trustee under NK, did not receive communion, which was honest, anyway.]
I have developed a new respect for my fellow parishioners, especially the church wardens who had insisted on a vestry meeting to sound out the feelings of the congregation. Other wardens and laity have been beaten up by pro- Kunonga ‘priests’ for daring the organise such meetings. There is no doubt that the vast majority of the laity are now behind Bp Sebastian Bakare.
The new Bishop has re-stated the proper Anglican doctrine of the powers of the laity and church wardens to oppose, if necessary, their rector – the complete opposite of Kunonga who stripped many wardens of their offices and denied the right of the people to hold extraordinary vestry meetings, wishing to retain all powers in the hands of his loyal priests. (We see the parallel of the President’s method of governing the country).
I am very encouraged and must stay in more contact with what goes on in the Diocese, now that I am, again ‘persona grata’. The Bishop asked me to end the meetings with a prayer, and I was almost in tears.
Please keep praying to the Diocese, especially St. Mary Magdalene Avondale, Christchurch Borrowdale, St Elizabeth’s Belvedere, (those who know the Diocese) and others still either divided or under Kunonga. Later we’ll get a list of Parishes and priests now loyal to the CPCA.
That’s enough and it is late. I have to send e mails when the power comes on late in the night.