The Revd Richard Henderson
EVENTS in the diocese of Lake Malawi took a further turn two weeks ago, when
clergy and lay people openly defied the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most
Revd Bernard Malango (below), and gathered as a large Anglican presence to
greet the Revd Nicholas Henderson (above), their bishop-elect, when he arrived
at the airport on a private visit to Malawi.
The clergy are now under threat of dismissal, and lay prople have declared
the diocese closed until they have their duly elected bishop. The Archbishop of
Canterbury is regarded in Lake Malawi as the only one who can now bring
influence to bear on Archbishop Malango, who is seen as being fêted by the
conservatives of the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) on the one
hand, and taking his cue from the bishops of Zimbabwe on the other.
Mr Henderson, the Vicar of All Saints’, Ealing, and St Martin’s, West Acton,
in London, was elected Bishop of Lake Malawi in July 2005 (News,
19 August and
9 December). He was the personal choice of its previous Bishop, the late
Peter Nyanja, and had been petitioned by the clergy to succeed him. Having
worked closely with the diocese for 18 years, he was seen as a popular choice.
Five Anglicans objected, forcing a Court of Confirmation in September. Mr
Henderson’s chairmanship of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union (MCU) drew charges
of "advocacy of the gay and lesbian movement" — an allegation founded and
fuelled by the posting on a conservative website in the US of an address by him
to the William Temple Foundation, in which he had dismissed as unrealistic the
calls for disciplining ECUSA over sexuality.
Archbishop Malango had earlier declared himself "satisfied and very happy"
with the assurances given by Mr Henderson, who was robustly vouched for by the
Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, after the allegations.
The bishops of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Malawi rejected Mr Henderson
as "not of sound faith" by majority vote at the Court of Confirmation, which
was presided over by Archbishop Malango, and to which Mr Henderson was not
Uproar followed in the diocese. A clergy conference resolved to reject the
imposed appointment of the retired Bishop of Lusaka, the Rt Revd Leonard
Mwenda. Twenty-one clerics wrote to Archbishop Malango, declaring the court to
be uncanonical and accusing it of bias (
News, 31 December).
The diocese has continued to protest at the appointment of Bishop Mwenda,
which is due to take place this month, and to demand that Mr Henderson be
consecrated. Mr Henderson has kept his distance, but made a private visit to
Lake Malawi on 12 February, to see friends and meet UN representatives to
further a scheme for harnessing solar energy in the region.
Archbishop Malango had forbidden anyone greeting Mr Henderson at the airport
to wear any "uniform" that identified them as Anglicans. Clergy members openly
defied him, as did the Mothers’ Union, who turned out in force in their
blue-and-white clothing. "There was a huge number of people there. I was
carried aloft — it was a fabulous welcome," said Mr Henderson on Monday.
Having volunteered not to trespass on ecclesiastical property, he stayed
with Roman Catholics throughout his ten-day visit. Wherever he went in the
diocese, he received a rapturous welcome, even from one of the original five
objectors. Resentment at the Archbishop’s behaviour led lay people from all the
archdeaconries of Lake Malawi to ask for a meeting with him, and they seized
the opportunity of the Archbishop’s visit to the diocesan headquarters.
They were made to stand outside for two hours, while Archbishop Malango
apparently composed and signed a letter of dismissal against clergy who had
associated with Mr Henderson during his stay. The Archbishop then slipped out
by the back door.
Lay people from the archdeaconries seized the property, changed the locks,
and declared the Archbishop barred. "The laity have decided they are going to
take control of this situation, and it is a profoundly powerful voice. We can
only be humbled by their resolve and their Christian witness," Mr Henderson
"This could so easily be resolved by dialogue and consultation. Good order
could be returned to a Church which has so much potential at a very difficult
time. There is famine coming again. The Church is the most powerful
organisation to do something about it; so there is real urgency about this," he
Archbishop Malango ordered the reading of a pastoral letter on Sunday,
reiterating his decision to put in Bishop Mwenda. The churches have agreed
unanimously to write to the provincial bishops refusing him. Parishioners from
the diocese have coined a new word, "Malangoism", and are questioning the
Archbishop’s role in what they regard as a local matter.
In letters to him and in statements to the press, they accuse him of a
"conspiracy against Father Nicholas", of treating them as "trash", of
dictatorial tendencies, and of "controlling the diocese remotely". They suggest
that he hopes after retirement to "secure a job abroad, possibly in the USA".
They also declare that the people of Lake Malawi "have no problem selecting a
White bishop, since they live in harmony with the Whites as compared to
[countries such] as Zimbabwe".
In September, Archbishop Malango closed the case against the Bishop of
Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, and dismissed all 38 charges against him (
News, 2 September). Bishop Kunonga returned from a visit to Archbishop
Malango boasting of his friendship and of having carte blanche to do what he
Turmoil reigns in the Archbishop’s own diocese of Upper Shire, where all the
archdeacons are reported to have been sacked, along with the Vicar General. The
Dean of its cathedral has resigned, leaving no church officers. The clergy have
reportedly not been paid for ten months. Archbishop Malango meanwhile is a
frequent guest at conservative gatherings in the United States and elsewhere,
where he has lambasted both ECUSA liberals and, most recently, the C of E.
Canon Bernard Mkonkholo, the one invited representative from Lake Malawi at
the Court of Confirmation, said on Tuesday that Mr Henderson was "really loved
and needed" in Lake Malawi, and was still expected to come, but that only the
Archbishop of Canterbury’s endorsement that he had been duly elected would have
He expressed his belief that the decision had been made in advance of the
court’s sitting, to "deny, refute, and reject" Mr Henderson. Describing
Archbishop Malango’s flight from the lay people in Lake Malawi as "quite
unbelievable, for a big man like himself", he concluded: "There is work to do;
there is famine here; people are dying of hunger. We need someone in the
position of a bishop to come to the aid of these people."
Archbishop Malango was at a meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces of
Africa in Nairobi this week, and could not be reached for comment.
The Most Revd Bernard Malango