The Herald (Harare)

22 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Anglican Church Needs Cleansing

opinion

So, the long-drawn-out Anglican property ownership saga is nearing its denouement after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Bishop Chad Gandiya and his Church of the Province of Central Africa against Dr Nolbert Kunonga. The latter, who broke away from the CPCA over some differences with Gandiya and company about six years ago, formed his Church Province of Harare.

The schism brought to the fore huge emotions, political connotations and ultimately questions about the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. For Bishop Gandiya's side, the hiatus has seen the desecration of the church, which now needs cleansing. Just to highlight the level of alleged desecration.

"Our investigations found that many churches had been turned into homes, where procreation was taking place and, in some instances, even brothels," Reverend Clifford Dzavo, an official at the CPCA was quoted in the media yesterday.

"We will use holy water and incense to cleanse these churches before we can worship there. We will also pray to ask God to forgive those who defiled the churches and we will reconsecrate them for worship."

Kunonga, for his part, has reportedly refused to kiss and make up with Gandiya because, "In it (the Supreme Court judgments) we see that homosexuality has prevailed." For an outsider, especially one that has never set foot in the Anglican Church, controlled by whoever and has followed the drama at the many fronts, it is easy to see that more incense and holy water is needed to cleanse the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe and as the behemoth institution that it is political, as issuing from its home in England -- moral and spiritual.

Over the years and in the latest twist to the saga, the dispute has shown itself to be very divorced from the very tenets of godliness that include piety, forgiveness, grace and love -- and this is both for Gandiya and Kunonga camps. The two men literally became embodiments of either martyrs, demi-gods or saints or the devil incarnate -- and both factions freely judged, labelled and condemned.

When Kunonga, on the strength of legal victories, excluded and otherwise persecuted worshippers from the other faction, the sentiments that were passed by the latter's followers largely showed unbridled hate and revulsion of the man of the cloth.

The sentiments that have followed his fall from legal grace have been, save for Gandiya's diplomatic olive branch, unveneered in passion and hate for Kunonga and Kunonga is clearly a man in trouble.

He will surely receive a lot of backlash, retribution and anger. One could not miss the absence of the pious "This-is-the-day-that-the-Lord-has-made" celebrations as Gandiya's supporters jubilated, waving open palms to the heavens. They were joined by the likes of "human rights activist" Jestina Mukoko.

Yesterday, news that the Gandiya faction was going about claiming properties, as they legally ought to, and spelling doom for Kunonga tenants, had a hint of the savagery that is yet to set in, perhaps for the last time.

Which brings one of the biggest questions about the Anglican Church. It is not a secret that the Anglican Church has a lot of properties and it is not exactly the desire not to worship under trees that may have motivated the bitter Gandiya-Kunonga fight.

There are important subplots, which the ordinary parishioner may not have considered, or known even.

The church has land, schools and hospitals and has been leasing out some of its properties. This translates to huge fortunes for those who control the Church.

It is not misplaced to state that church income in Zimbabwe is not subject to taxation and our depraved souls as Zimbabweans, whether we be of cloth or otherwise, have tended to draw to lucre of any kind.

There have been efforts across the world to see to it that churches, including the Anglican Church, are taxed, which move the Church has rejected, prayed against. Another subplot is that of homosexuality.

Here is an area that the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe will need a lot of cleansing. Kunonga cites homosexuality as the key reason why he broke ranks with Gandiya and company. The latter have been denying the charge.

He has put it on record that: "Our position is clear that we do not tolerate homosexuality at all costs and we do not intend to compromise on this . . . homosexuality has been accepted elsewhere within the Anglican Communion is irrelevant and has no place in our Zimbabwe context."

But given what is happening elsewhere in the world as the Church has sought to, or has been sought to, ordain gay priests and solemnise gay unions, the gay issue remains a tricky affair which Anglicans and Christians in Zimbabwe follow with keen interest.

The other big issue concerns the Anglican Church has been politicised in Zimbabwe. Even the dumbest of fools will know that the factions with the Anglican Church have more or less assumed the prevailing political preferences of today. While Kunonga has been brazen in his support for Zanu-PF, wittingly or otherwise or whether Zanu-PF found succour in the same or not, Gandiya's side has drawn all the anti-Zanu-PF elements at home and abroad.

Perhaps the open palms at the courts were not fortuitous? Only the Lord knows what amount of cleansing of this and other issues will require so parishioners go about worshipping their God.

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