Anglicans across Zimbabwe and the Communion are celebrating today after the country's Supreme Court ruled that the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya is the lawful trustee of diocesan church properties. This decision means Anglicans will once again be able to worship in their church buildings, and the diocese can retake control of other properties including schools, clinics and orphanages.
It is the end of a six year-long battle with an excommunicated bishop, Nolbert Kunonga who left the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and founded his own rival church. His claims to church properties in Harare and elsewhere in Zimbabwe resulted in worshippers being kicked out of churches--often violently--and clergy losing their homes and places of work.
Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya said he was "elated" at the news that the Supreme Court had ruled in their favour. In an open letter to the Church and its supporters he wrote: "My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, this is your victory! This is your hour! Give all the glory to our almighty Father in heaven. I want to immediately call upon all our people to be gracious in winning the legal battle. Now let the work begin!
"With the good news about the Supreme Court judgement in our favour, I am once again calling on all members of our beloved diocese and friends both near and far to heed to our call to join us in...rebuilding the diocese."
Bp Chad has asked every parish to undertake an inspection of all the buildings they were banned from using and then renovate them. But more than the buildings themselves, the bishop called on parishes to rebuild those who had suffered through the persecution. "The rebuilding of God's people in our diocese should be a priority also," he said. "Our people were greatly traumatised by the persecution of the last five years. They are in need of healing. The spiritual and pastoral care of our people through holistic ministry should be reflected in all our diocesan and parish programmes. In many ways we had already started doing this. None-the-less, we need to strengthen it."
Primate of CPCA, Archbishop Albert Chama told ACNS that the decision was also great news for the Province as a whole: "We thank God for the outcome of the Supreme Court in Zimbabwe. We know that God has always been on our side, and today this has come clear for the Province of Central Africa and in particular for the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. We thank all the people who have been praying and standing with us."
Fighting Kunonga's case through the courts has cost CPCA a considerable amount of funds. Over the years, appeals were made by the Province to the rest of the Anglican Communion for help to continue paying for legal fees. The investment has paid off, and the church in Zimbabwe is now looking forward to a brighter future in which services can be held in churches again rather than outside or in alternative venues such as pubs and sports clubs.
Shortly after the news, messages of support and congratulations were sent to Bp Chad by members of the Anglican Communion including the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun whose diocese has been a long-time supporter of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.
This has been a battle that has seen the Anglican Communion as a global family praying and acting together. Anglicans around the world have been praying for the situation, and last year the Archbishops of Canterbury, Southern Africa, Central Africa, and Tanzania together met with the country's president Robert Mugabe. During the meeting they presented him with a a dossier compiled by the bishops in Zimbabwe which gave a full account of the abuses to which Anglicans had been subject. They asked then that the President use his powers as Head of State to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behaviour.
While the persecution lessened following that visit, it has taken until today for the legal system in Zimbabwe to finally bring an end to this persecution and injustice.