Kunonga: the ex-bishop who scorns the law – Bob Stumbles – 16 Apr 08

Politics, greed, corruption and deception appear to be the hallmarks of about seven unfrocked clerics who were once members of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, a Diocese forming part of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA).NO LONGER AN ANGLICAN
Nolbert Kunonga, and his small band, none of whom hold licences to preach any longer and none of whom are recognized as members of the Diocese of Harare (the Diocese) or as Anglicans. This is because Kunonga and his clerical followers, some of whom are relatives of his, rebelled against the Anglican Church and broke away from the Anglican Communion worldwide thereby breaking their vows of canonical obedience to the laws of the Church. This is a serious offence in the eyes of the Christian Church and is called schism.
Kunonga, from the time he became Bishop in about 2001, showed his contempt for the laws of the Diocese in many ways including dismissing many clergymen who merely wished to follow the ecclesiastical laws and spread the gospel of Christ in their churches. In their place, Kunonga recruited persons from his family and other acquaintances. He was not particularly concerned whether or not they had had theological training. He obtained an undertaking from them that they would do what he ordered them to do and this was the requirement for their “ordination” as priests. It is this group that scorns the laws of the Church and refuses to obey secular court orders; this is the group which supported actively or through the inaction of the Police and others, has resorted to threats, violence and the desperate measures of beating up parishioners, of locking out innocent parishioners from the Diocesan Cathedral and its precincts.
In this regard Kunonga and his men caused the harmless caretaker to be beaten up and thrown out of his flat at the Cathedral. Now it is reported that Kunonga and his wife are living in that flat whilst his band of paid and unpaid henchmen threaten and assault members of the public who wish to enter the Cathedral or step anywhere on the Cathedral grounds.
It is stressed that just a few are behaving in this unseemly, unacceptable and ungodly manner. There is hardly any support for Kunonga and his unpriestly behaviour throughout the Diocese. Only a handful of persons, mainly spouses and close relatives, attending the meetings he and his defrocked clerics hold in churches.
By contrast, Church services held by the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) under the leadership of Bishop Sebastian Bakare who succeeded Kunonga, are crowded with great numbers of parishioners. It has been estimated that about 98% of the parishioners throughout the Diocese have remained loyal to the Diocese within the CPCA and therefore loyal to its only Bishop, namely Bishop Bakare.
This is not surprising. Christian churchgoers attend Church for spiritual uplifting and to worship Jesus Christ. They seek to become better Christians. They expect their priest to be filled with faith and love, to be a good, wise, kind, patient, compassionate, just, righteous and holy person. They expect him to have a peaceful, humble, honest disposition, to be principled in conduct and worship and observe the laws; a person who always has a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man. (Acts 24: 16)
Christian churchgoers have been shocked by the increasing unspiritual, unclerical behaviour of Kunonga and his group. Christians and others do not revere or respect people calling themselves priests who threaten, sanction assaults, unlawful acts, refuse to recognise laws and the rights of others, are unjust, have no or very little compassion, understanding or love for their flock and do not focus primarily on the principles of Christ in a spiritual and righteous manner. Such persons, if linked to any church, are shunned and Christianity is brought into disrepute. The teaching of God’s word must not be put into disrepute (Titus 2: 5)
Kunonga equipped with new 4×4 motor vehicles has forsaken the Church and is apparently pursuing party politics which is his passion. Whatever influence gets the better of a man becomes his master (2 Peter 2: 19). In the pulpit and at rallies while he was a Bishop he made party political statements which were unbecoming a clergyman. Now he is canvassing for a particular party, something which would have been strongly frowned upon while he was a bishop. Now that he is no longer a bishop or priest in the church he does not in any way represent the Anglican Church which is a non-party political, religious, Christian organisation.
The governing party in Zimbabwe has acknowledged by its acceptance of his political behaviour, that Kunonga is no longer a priest, a bishop, an Anglican and is not involved within the Diocese. The President of our country reportedly said, “When the Church leaders start being political we regard them as political creatures and we are vicious in that area”. No steps have been taken by the Government to restrain Kunonga from his political outpourings. The reason must be that it recognizes that Kunonga is indeed a political creature but is no longer a church leader. If Kunonga had still been a church leader his political behaviour would cause him to be regarded as a political creature attracting the repercussions stated by our President.
Christian folk throughout the Diocese are aware that Kunonga has left the Diocese and is no longer their bishop. They know that Bishop Bakare has taken over as bishop of the Diocese at the request of the Bishops of the CPCA. In normal circumstances this means simply that one man has left the Diocese and another man, Bishop Bakare has taken over control of it in every respect. But this is not a simple matter. Kunonga has defied the decrees of the CPCA and has also paid no attention to, and disregarded High Court orders, maintaining that he is entitled to all the property and other assets of the Diocese. His reasoning is not understood. If a managing director of an international company with offices and other property in Zimbabwe decides to sever his ties with that company and to break away from it, he cannot say “I do not want to be associated any longer with your company and am handing in my notice. But when I leave I will still hold and control the offices and property in Zimbabwe”. Just as this managing director has no legal basis on which to claim ownership, so Kunonga has no legal basis to claim ownership, control for any interest in property and assets of an organisation he has withdrawn from.
The situation should have been resolved many months ago, but has not because the secular courts have still to give judgment on who is the rightful owner of the Diocesan property and assets. This has made parishioners understandably confused and bewildered. The following points, hopefully, throw some light on the subject:-
1.         On the 21st September 2007 Kunonga wrote to the Archbishop of the CPCA expressing his personal attitude and intention and the desire to withdraw the Diocese from the CPCA.
2.         The laws of the CPCA do not allow such a withdrawal and the Diocese still remains within the CPCA.
3.         Bishop Kunonga’s personal intention to leave the CPCA with immediate effect was accepted by the CPCA. Since the 21st September 2007 he has no longer been the Bishop of the Diocese or a licensed priest, or an ordinary member of the Diocese and he is no longer an Anglican.
4.         Those few priests who supported Kunonga and refused to be bound by the laws of the church have had their licences withdrawn and they are no longer employed by the Diocese. They are not recognized as Anglicans.
5.         Kunonga has been forbidden by the CPCA and should be prevented by all concerned from controlling or having any authority whatsoever over or representing the Diocese of Harare or using the funds and assets of the Diocese. This is a resolution and order of the highest Synod unanimously approved by all the Bishops in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is recognized and accepted worldwide as binding on everyone having dealings with the Diocese.
6.         In the same resolution the bishops unanimously appointed Bishop Sebastian Bakare as interim bishop of the Diocese of Harare (CPCA). It is therefore Bishop Bakare who is the leader of the Diocese, not Kunonga. It is Bishop Bakare who is vested with the power to control and have authority over and represent the Diocese, not Kunonga.
These resolutions have the effect of an ecclesiastical edict or decree; that is, they are official public orders and commands made by the Bishops which have the force of law. They are binding upon Kunonga and the entire Anglican Church. As he is defying these, the secular courts should, with respect, as a matter of urgency order Kunonga and his small group of supporters to remove themselves immediately or have them removed from all CPCA property in the Diocese. Furthermore, the secular courts should rule that Bishop Bakare is the Bishop of the Diocese, not Kunonga.
7.         The defrocked Kunonga seems to believe that he is the owner of all
Diocesan property and trusts and accounts and can do what he pleases for his benefit and that of his defrocked priests and others. The reality is he represents no Anglican Diocese whatsoever and is a lone voice seeking to keep from others what is not his. The legal position is that all property, moveable and immoveable and all monies in and due to the Diocese are beneficially held by the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) but are owned by the CPCA. This is laid down in the Articles of the Constitution and the Canons and other laws of the CPCA. These laws apply to all Dioceses including the Diocese of Harare which still forms an integral part of the CPCA. The Diocese under Bishop Bakare continues to beneficially hold the assets of the CPCA, not Kunonga.
Yet the High Courts of Zimbabwe last year refused to consider an urgent application by the CPCA to prevent Kunonga from using its assets and spending its funds. Instead the Judge decided that the case was not urgent and must run its ordinary course through the courts. The Judge may have felt that he had insufficient evidence on the papers at the time before him to rule that the matter was urgent and to restrain Kunonga from unlawfully spending money of the Diocese and representing the Diocese. But the predictable result of this approach by the Judge was that Kunonga and his cohorts were at liberty to do, and have been doing, what they wanted with assets which did not belong to them. This case has still not been set down to be heard by the courts.
A document entitled “Bishops of the Church of The Province Of Central Africa Statement On The Diocese Of Harare Issue” published after an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops held on 20th December 2007, sets out the decrees mentioned above and is signed by all the Bishops in the CPCA. This document and the evidence of the Bishops constitute irrefutable evidence of the legal position of the Diocese and the CPCA. No doubt, the courts will now take cognizance of this so that the matter of the assets and leadership of the Diocese of Harare may be put to rest urgently.
Bob Stumbles
Chancellor of the Diocese of Harare
Deputy Chancellor of the Church of the Province of Central Africa
16th April 2008


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