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Zimbabwe, the Bishop of Harare, and his accusations against USPG

by
26 September 2007

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From the Rt Revd Dr S. Bakare
Sir, — The goings-on in the province of Central Africa (News, 21 September), especially in connection with the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, have been totally misleading and confusing to most of the ordinary church members, who may not be familiar with church procedures.

Ordinary Anglicans in the pew do not know that it takes years to prepare the creation of a new province. This cannot simply happen at the whims of an individual bishop with his own agenda. The response given by the Provincial Secretary describes the normal procedure.

As far as Bishop Kunonga’s allegations against USPG are concerned, the Society (USPG) did not begin yesterday to give money to support church institutions in Zimbabwe founded by it, but has been doing this for more than a century. Therefore, to associate USPG donations with a pro-homosexuality lobby is simply outrageous.

For instance, Bonda Hospital has thrived for decades, owing to the support offered by USPG in the form of personnel and funds to run the institution. Before I retired as diocesan Bishop of Manicaland, USPG had offered to pay even a local doctor’s salary as an incentive to attract doctors, seeing that most of them were going overseas for greener pastures.

One has only to see the number of people seeking medical treatment at Bonda, a mission and district hospital, and walking long distances to do so, to appreciate the impact of this health facility on the vast community that it serves.

It is very odd for any Zimbabwean church leader not to acknowledge that kind of support, but instead to allege that donations from USPG had an agenda in favour of homosexuality. It is ridiculous and absurd. What a malicious and totally unfounded statement at this time when most government health institutions are no longer functioning.

Bishop Kunonga’s statements on homosexuality, while politically correct, are nothing but a gimmick for an otherwise ambitious plan that is meant to give him and those bishops who seem to feel insecure and have no principles greater power in lording it over the people. How unethical!

I do agree with Bishop Kunonga on one point, namely that the province of Central Africa has been totally toothless and irrelevant —especially with regard to his own appalling behaviour and leadership. The Archbishop, instead of taking the appropriate action, dismissed the case, having hand-picked a judge he knew would not hand down any decision against Bishop Kunonga. Furthermore, the Archbishop gave moral support to the lavishly celebrated marriage anniversary of the Bishop of Harare a year ago, through his presence as best man.

One expects the province, and especially the Church in Zimbabwe, to have taken to the provincial synod a list of issues for the agenda related to the country’s current crisis, in order to solicit support. That homosexuality, currently a non-issue in Zimbabwe, has been brought up demonstrates the total irrelevance of the church leadership. People are certainly not sleeping with empty stomachs because of homosexuality!

Where the Church has lost the focus of its mission, it ends up, like the High Priest Amaziah, siding with the authorities of the day, totally divorced from the plight of the people. Where the Church turns a blind eye to this suffering, one begins to wonder why the Church is there at all. Will such a Church remain credible in the minds of the people in the future?

As a retired Bishop of Manicaland, I am deeply concerned about the direction that the church leadership is taking at such a crucial time in our nation.
SEBASTIAN BAKARE
Diocese of Manicaland (retired)

From the Revd Chad Gandiya
Sir, — USPG has been perplexed and deeply disappointed by comments made last week by the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga, who alleged that USPG had been using money to bribe bishops to support a pro-homosexuality lobby within the Anglican Communion.

USPG’s connections with the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe go back to 1891. Indeed, we helped to establish the Church there. Moreover, our involvement extends beyond Zimbabwe into the whole of the province of Southern Africa. Most Anglican missionaries who have been sent to the region have been sponsored by USPG.

Our involvement with the health-care system in Zimbabwe is well attested by many, in such places as the dioceses of Manicaland and Central Zimbabwe. Bonda Hospital, for example, receives a substantial grant from USPG, without which it would find it difficult to survive. USPG has in the past been heavily involved in education, including children’s education and theological education. We still give scholarships to Zimbabwean Anglicans recommended to us by their bishops.

We have always maintained a healthy relationship with the Church in Zimbabwe, in that we have not imposed ourselves, but have worked at their invitation and with the local churches.

Bishop Kunonga’s accusations are unfounded, misguided, and mischievous. USPG has not taken a position with respect to the gay issue: that’s not the way USPG works. We work with the Church: we don’t bring our own agenda.

Dioceses around the world make requests for support from USPG, based on their strategies and priorities, which we then consider within guidelines that have been set for us in consultation with our world church partners.

Bishop Kunonga has wrongly claimed that I and a colleague at USPG have been distributing funds in person during a recent visit. USPG staff never carry funds while on visits. Instead, money is sent from USPG’s headquarters in London direct to diocesan bank accounts around the world.

The reason for my recent trip to Central Africa, including Zimbabwe, was to see some of the work we help to fund, and to build and strengthen USPG’s relationship with the Church there. It was a successful trip, marred by Bishop Kunonga’s misguided comments.
CHAD GANDIYA
Regional Desk Officer for Africa and the Indian Ocean
USPG: Anglicans in World Mission
200 Great Dover Street
London SE1 4YB

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