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Bishop-elect in Malawi faces opposition

FIVE ANGLICANS in the diocese of Lake Malawi have called for the election of the Revd Nicholas Henderson as Bishop to be nullified, and a new nomination offered, writes .

Mr Henderson, the Vicar of All Saints', Ealing, and St Martin's, West Acton, was elected on 29 July, and is to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Central Africa, Dr Bernard Malango, on 9 October ( News, 19 August).

The five, all from the Nkhotakota region, claim that the election was not properly conducted under the canons and constitution of the Church. Their lawyer, Steve Kafumba, said: "Their complaint is that the Electoral Assembly twisted the formalities of the elections to suit the Bishop-elect. The members are challenging the whole election process."

The five argue that Mr Henderson, who succeeds the late Bishop Peter Nyanja, and who has been working for 18 years with the Malawian diocese, "is a man who has only been known to most people in the diocese after the death of the Bishop because some priests went on a deliberate campaign to portray him as someone who has been assisting the diocese".

One said there was fear that he would bring "strange traditions" to the diocese. Another of the five is reported to have accused the electors of putting too much emphasis on the monetary advantage of electing a foreigner "as opposed to how he would assist to bring more people into the Church". Mr Henderson's most recent undertaking for the diocese of Lake Malawi was a scheme to harness solar energy to provide sustainable electricity.

Malawi has four dioceses, and has one English bishop, the Bishop of Northern Malawi, the Rt Revd Christopher Boyle.

Mr Henderson said on Tuesday: "It's perfectly in order for people to put in an objection: there is a 28-day period with any appointment during which a challenge can be made. I would be astonished if the election were not properly conducted. It's overseen by the Archbishop, and the electorate was overwhelmingly in my favour."

Mr Henderson dismissed a report in The Times that Malawi was "in uproar over the promotion of a pro-gay churchman". An admirer of Dr Malango, with whom he acknowledges a good working relationship, he told the Church Times last week: "We may well have our disagreements over some points, but I don't think that will stop us working closely together."

Clergy and parishioners in Malawi were keen to get him there, said Mr Henderson on Tuesday, and, though the normal confirmatory process due to take place in early September would have to consider the objection, he did not think it likely to be upheld.

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