The Diocese of Northern Malawi has decided to elect a new bishop. According to the blog, "Not the Same Stream," there is an impending clash around the election due in large part to the nomination of someone who is presently part of ACNA. Here is a longish excerpt from that post:
"... in the recently vacated Diocese of North Malawi clergy have been told by the bishops that they are to nominate one candidate only from amongst their own number for elections for a new bishop. The outgoing bishop Christopher Boyle, is shortly to take up a new position advising on immigration issues in the Diocese of Leicester, U.K.
However, a nomination to succeed him in the person of Fr Scott Wilson of All Saints Episcopal Parish, Weatherford, Texas has been made. Wilson who has led mission teams in South Africa and a Cursillo programme in Malawi was the ‘runner up’ to Bishop Boyle in 2001.
Unfortunately, since then Fr Scott Wilson’s parish, under his oversight, has joined a breakaway movement splitting off from the American Episcopal Church. As part of the former Diocese of Fort Worth his parish is now a member of the Common Cause Partnership – Federation of Anglican Christians in North America (A.C.N.A).
The status of this schismatic grouping is not certain and it is unclear whether it is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Certainly A.C.N.A. bishops were excluded from last year’s Lambeth Conference and the movement continues as a source of disruption within the Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Central African Province has never been associated with the schismatic North Americans despite efforts on the part of former Archbishop Bernard Malango to persuade it to break with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
With allegiance to such a body, should Wilson be elected it would cause some significant tensions between the bishops within an already troubled Province. Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi has just been elected to a major position in the Anglican Communion as Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. This is one of the four ‘Instruments of the Anglican Communion’ and is a focus of world Anglicanism.
Nevertheless, such is the ferocity of the current struggles it too has been heavily criticised by the breakaway Americans and Tengatenga accused of being ‘open to manipulation’. Additionally, it is difficult to see Wilson working in the Province with the likes of the Rev’d Dr Chad Gandiya the recently elected Bishop of Harare, Zimbabwe, who has also been criticised by the Common Cause Partnership for his ‘liberalism’. Finally, what kind of relationship Scott Wilson would have with Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana is unknown? Wilson’s new grouping has hysterically criticised Mwamba for being willing to associate with the American Episcopal Church and for suggesting that Africa might have other more pressing problems than those of religious infighting in the United States.
...There is now potential for a divisive and schismatic scenario in Northern Malawi with the danger of an issue-based regime quite unlike the present. How the bishops of Central Africa respond to Wilson’s candidature will have the potential to affirm or destroy the Province’s status as a bona fide member of the Anglican Communion.
All eyes will be on what used to be an almost unknown part of the Communion but which over the past few years has become something of a bellwether if not a ‘basket case’. What the poor carpenter of Nazareth, in whose name this all takes place, would make of it all is anyone’s guess but he was rarely uncritical of those who misused their positions of authority."
So there is something of a test case here. By the time it all comes to a head, Fr. Wilson may well be, in addition to his other credentials, a priest deposed by the church that ordained him. Long standing norms suggests that churches in communion with one another honor such depositions. Of course these are not normal times and who knows? But the deposition may be an additional impediment. So Wilson is from a church not in communion with Canterbury, not a member of the Anglican Communion, not from the diocese and in the process of being deposed.
And on the far side, not knowing the workings of the church in Malawi except by way of the thoughts of a missionary who gave many years of his life to Malawi and from what I read in the Church press, I wonder just what is going on. Why is a diocese in Malawi not able to find suitable clergy from within the Province, much less the diocese?
This thing is a mess - a mess for the diocese, a mess for the province, for the Anglican Communion.