9/11/2007

Hatred on the Doorstep, Signs in the Sky.

Archbishop Malango of Central Africa, at the meeting of Synod, has ousted Bishop Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of Botswana as dean of the province. Read the Living Church article here. He did so just in time since the Archbishop is soon to step down and it would not do to have the Bishop of Botswana in a position of trust and power. Bishop Mwamba’s successor in this upset will preside at the election of a new Archbishop. Now, at least, that person will not be “pro-homosexual.”

At that same synod the Province of Central Africa seems to have self destructed, again around the matter of the support of the West and of the “pro-homosexual lobby.” At least that is the story that lies on the surface. On the surface it would appear that the difference are about the several dioceses of the Province and their attitudes towards gay and lesbian people. Underneath, however, is the crassly political world of kiss up bishops, national differences and regional social and political pressures. What emerges is an ecclesial world entangled with the political processes of the several countries, with the dictatorship of the President of Zimbabwe at the core.

Thinking Anglicans, as always, has had several important notices on the ecclesial struggle. Read them HERE. Episcopal Café has a fine article on the relationship between the firing of Bishop Mwamba, the support of the bishop of Harare and the political / ecclesial morass in the Province. Read it HERE.

In order to get a bit of the flavor of the raging vindictiveness of the current mess, the Harare Herald had an article on the unfolding situation at the Provincial Synod and the Diocese of Harare Synod held last month.

The Harare Herald had this to say about the matter: (I have placed some of the text in color for emphasis.)

THE Anglican Province of Central Africa’s provincial synod opens here today to tackle a potentially explosive agenda pitting orthodox African bishops against the liberal American Episcopal Church keen to introduce a pro-homosexual lobby into the province.

The issue of homosexuality — which could make or break the province — comes in the wake of a concerted campaign by a Church of England parish led by a London-based gay cleric Nickie Henderson who wants to buy a bishopric in the vacant diocese of Lake Malawi.

To this end, Henderson and his allies in the American Episcopal Church have been doling out hundreds of thousands of pound sterling and US dollars prior to and ahead of the synod to buy votes from some poor dioceses, a move that has been condemned by orthodox bishops among them Dr Nolbert Kunonga of the Harare Diocese, and Albert Chama the Bishop of Northern Zambia, among others, who argue that there is no room for homosexuality in the province.

In fact, three of Zimbabwe’s four dioceses, with the exception of Masvingo, have made it clear that they will not be part of a province that embraces homosexuals. To this end, at its last synod, the Harare Diocese drafted and adopted an Act that says it will not stand with homosexuals.

Reads the Act dated August 4 2007: ‘‘This Synod has unanimously agreed to make a Diocesan Act that with effect from 4th August 2007, the Diocese of Harare dissociates itself and severs relationship with any individual, group of people, organisation, institution, diocese, province or people who indulge in or sympathise or compromises with homosexuality."

Things are not well in Central Africa: even allowing for lousy reporting (and worse editing), the story from the Herald accuses the backers of The Rev. Nick Henderson, who they have determined is gay, and his American Episcopal Church backers of attempted bribery and takes The Episcopal Church to task for wanting to “introduce a pro-homosexual lobby” in the Province. Fr. Henderson’s, whose election as bishop in Lake Malawi was denied by the Province was at the time indirectly accused of complicity in murder. One of Fr. Henderson’s critics died and the conjecture was that he was poisoned by friends of the “pro-gay” crowd. The conjecture went nowhere, but the Harold reporter just couldn’t resist dragging it out again. So the article got the best of all worlds: gay or gay friendly people engaged in bribery, outside lobbying, and possibly poisoning.

But look closely: The Harold article also noted that in August the Harare diocese passed a statement of disassociation with “any individual, group of people, organization, institution, diocese, province or people who indulge in or sympathise or compromises with homosexuality,” and that this was being affirmed in the Syond.

This is mostly food for the local political grist mill. Zimbabwe has a horrible record in terms of anti gay activities and the diocese of Harare has kissed up quite nicely with the hate mongers out there. Interestingly, the Harare Herald ends its report with this short item:

Meanwhile, bishops from Zimbabwe, yesterday shot down from the agenda an anti-Zimbabwe item that had been sponsored by the gay lobby that sought to discuss the political and land situation in Zimbabwe.

The bishops said the church had no right or mandate to debate the matter, which is constitutional in Zimbabwe, and in light of the fact that Sadc, to which the province belongs, had already pronounced itself on the matter.”

So the bishops of Zimbabwe got their way by making any criticism of the government (an anti-Zimbabwe item) a matter of “the gay lobby.” This will serve them well back home.

The Province of Central Africa is a mess. The Dean is cast out, the bishop –elect of Lake Malawi is cast out, the Bishop of Harare is accused of complicity in criminal actions of the President of Zimbabwe, and the whole Province is set to split into three provinces. This would of course be bad news for several reasons, not the least of which is that the bishops of Zimbabwe could kiss up all the more without the inconvenience of criticism from within their own province. At the same time the Diocese of Harare’s resolution will encourage others to use anti-gay rhetoric as a means to kiss up to their own governments, often corrupt and dictatorial, who need a scapegoat to both prove their moral purity and to provide an enemy everyone can hate. In the Anglican world this sort of resolution gives license for politically convenient gay bashing. Resolving to condemn any “any individual, group of people, organisation, institution, diocese, province or people who indulge in or sympathise or compromises with homosexuality” is a politically expedient means to give approval to corrupt and repressive regimes without having to appear obsequious. It is the old, old, outer rim of the cesspool of fascism, in which the church supports “robust” governments that stamp out immorality. When it turns out that the iron fist slams down on the church it is too late.

The cost for not kissing up to civil authorities is high: Witness the strange case of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube who has been highly critical of the President. He resigned as Archbishop after a picture of him in bed with a woman appeared in State controlled media. The BBC reports that “Last month, Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic Bishops backed Bishop Ncube, praising him for ‘exposing the evils’. They said the attacks on him by the government and state media were ‘outrageous and utterly deplorable and constitute an assault on the Catholic Church’.”

What is happening in Central Africa and Zimbabwe are signs: there is hate on the doorstep, there are signs in the sky. Every diocese and province that encourages this sort of hate mongering will receive their reward.

The Anglican Communion is not in a crisis because of the issue of homosexuality foisted on them by the decadent West, or even (as some would say) because of matters about the interpretation of scripture. It is in crisis because its several houses are in disrepair and in various ways make national and regional choices that provide a safety net in a world where the church is fragile and ultimately insecure. Central Africa is one such house. As of last week it appears that is no longer a house, but a series of houses. It is not alone, of course. At various times our own House – The Episcopal Church – has been found wanting in this regard. All kissing up is not obvious. Some is quiet and respectful. But one day we too will pay for homage given to governments that too easily display the markings of imperial power.

I have never been to a Primates Meeting to observe what is going on, but I imagined, in a moment of giddy hope, that they might indeed gather to talk about living out their roles as leaders of the Church in perilous times, where fascism and imperialism whack away at any hopes for the kingdoms of earth being a reflection of the kingdom of our hopes.

The Primates Meetings have turned out to be a disastrous idea. What was meant to be meetings of safety for the exchange of ideas and perhaps a bit of tea has become the context for power plays in which all sorts of local as well as global concerns arise, not as matters for discussion and reflection, but as news sources for posturing and seducing people back home.

Here is the real problem of any sort of emergency Primates Meeting following the September 30th so-called deadline for a response from The Episcopal Church: That meeting will provide ripe fruit of hate for political consumption back home, including here in the US. Those who eat will make such statements as this, by the Diocese of Nike (no really) in Nigeria:

“THE first synod of the Anglican Diocese of Nike was concluded in Enugu yesterday with a strong condemnation of what it called the debasement of moral values exemplified in same sex marriage and homosexuality.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the synod, the church described same sex marriage as "devilish and a deviation from the Holy Scriptures" which it said is the anchor of the Anglican faith. It called on the Christian faithful to shun such practice in view of the punishments awaiting the perpetrators.


The synod also observed with satisfaction what it described as the stable leadership that had been entrenched at various levels of governance in the country, calling for prayers and support of the masses to enable the leaders succeed in their efforts to move the nation to enviable heights.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Mwamba, the now dismissed Dean of the Province of Central Africa (now no longer a Province) looks to a better future. Ecumenical News International some time ago wrote this: “Mwamba said, however, he thought there would be "forward movement, even a breakthrough, on this issue” (that of the current Anglican Communion stand-off) when leaders of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) meet in Mauritius from 2 to 5 October. "I believe that quite number of African bishops who have threatened not to attend next year's Lambeth Conference in Canterbury may change their minds," he said. "Yes, there are problems, but a week is a long time in politics and we still have almost a year to go before the next Lambeth Conference," the meeting of global Anglican leaders that takes place every 10 years.”

A week is a long time, and this week in particular must have been difficult for Bishop Mwamba: kicked out of his job as Dean of the Province, accused of being part of a paid for pro-homosexual lobby, and by innuendo of various crimes and misdemeanors (remembering that Zimbabwe has a long reach and a longer memory.)

As far as I can tell it is all because Bishop Mwamba thinks, or rather believes, that Anglicans have more on their plate than matters of sexuality.

And, now that I think about it the worse news of the week is that Bishop Mwamba will probably not now be at that meeting of CAPA, since he is no longer in any way a “leader” of the Council. Archbishop Malango has no doubt been talking to his friend, Archbishop Akinola. It would not do to have a voice of reasonable protest against the workings of CAPA’s “Road to Lambeth” statement.

4 comments:

  1. For several years now, Mugabe has consistently referred to the British government as "Tony Blair and his gay mafia". So there's a very strong political dimension to all this. As for Fr Henderson "buying" a bishopric in Malawi - he was elected to it by the diocese!

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  2. Mugabe had no difficulty in turning a blind eye to the antics of Canaan Banana (am not making this up), Zimbabwe's first president (1980-1987). In the mid-90's a Zimbabwean policeman charged with murder pleaded in mitigation that he had been drugged and repeatedly raped by Banana, during Banana's largely ceremonial term of office.

    Banana's 2003 "Daily Telegraph" obituary adds that the accused policeman was then "joined by a veritable army of accusers, including dozens of former students of the University of Zimbabwe (where Banana had been Chancellor from 1983 to 1988), several members of the State House football team, the Tornadoes (who testified that their patron's fascination for scoring extended beyond the pitch), and assorted policemen and air force officers. There was, in addition, testimony of sex with cooks, gardeners and several aides, a jobseeker and a hitch-hiker."

    An impressive list. n And a bit rich for Mugabe and his apologists, who ignored Banana's behaviour when he was in office, to now be throwing stones on this particular account.

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  3. It is interesting that there are those who really believe that the "pro-gay agenda" is well financed and endowed with finacial help when it is really the ultra-orthodox anti-gay faction that has this facility. "When it doubt blame the other for what one has wrought." seems to be the slogan.

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  4. Hmm - is it possible to accuse others of using the Current Unpleasantness for political ends while failing to notice that you are doing the very same thing yourself?

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