ANGLICANS in Harare have given startling eye-witness accounts of what happened in churches last Sunday, after a court order to overturn a ban on Anglican worship.
The police, who used riot gear to prevent worshippers holding services on the previous Sunday (News, 18 January), withdrew the prohibition against supporters of the legitimate Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), loyal to the interim Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare.
Rita Makarawo, a judge appointed by President Mugabe, but described as an Anglican “renowned for giving honest judgments”, ruled late on Saturday afternoon that the churches were to be shared between the CPCA and the breakaway Anglican province set up by the former Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Nolbert Kunonga.
The ruling, that the Anglican Church (described as a “faction”) “has a clear right to continue enjoying the use of the church premises”, is an interim interdict. The judge refused to grant the CPCA’s pleas for possession and control of all the churches.
The Anglican province had also sought a order restraining Bishop Kunonga, the police, and others from interfering with the conduct of church services, but this was also refused. The ruling gives Bishop Kunonga the right to hold services at the same times as they have been held in the past, but he has to make the churches available to the Anglicans 90 minutes after their activities.
All the weekend activity happened against a nationwide power blackout, when most people in Harare were also without water or telephones. With all communication down, congregations ran on foot to spread the news.
Worshippers came to Harare Cathedral from all over the city, as requested by Bishop Bakare in defiance of the earlier ban. Most had gone to the church hall at 9 a.m. hoping for a service led by the Bishop, but learned that he was to take a service in the cathedral itself at 11 a.m.
“The procession came in with Bishop Bakare entering his cathedral for the first time. Kunonga had stationed himself in front of the altar, and when Bakare arrived he began to shout at him. . . He told Bakare to leave the cathedral, as it did not belong to him, and he had not been licensed by Kunonga.
“He grabbed Bakare’s liturgy book and threw it on the ground. Someone stepped forward with another one, but this, too, was snatched away. He showed every sign of being about to attack Bakare with his staff.
“Bakare suggested they should take the service together but this was rejected.
“The police now arrived, and took both bishops outside, while the congregation continued to sing. An hour or so later, the churchwardens came back and told the people that they were to move to the church hall. This they did, and the service was reported to be very joyful, with Bishop Bakare preaching.”
Services elsewhere in Harare were very different. One churchgoer reported: “The church was packed and we had a wonderful, very noisy, service.
“We had an anthem in the vernacular, with the choir singing and dancing. . . The third time round a very old lady began to ululate, and immediately everyone joined in singing the refrain and clapping. The anthem was based on the New Testament lesson, which had been 1 Corinthians 1.10 — ‘I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another . . . so that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.’”
Newspapers in Zimbabwe continue to misreport the situation over the deposed Bishop Kunonga, a close ally of President Mugabe. The Sunday Mail reported: “Anglican parishioners have been involved in skirmishes over the control of the assets of the diocese of Harare, after the diocese, led by Bishop Kunonga, pulled out of the province over differences over homosexuality.”
Bishop Kunonga gave his own version to the government-owned Herald. He told the paper, which gets a wide airing on websites around the world: “The people said we don’t want to be associated with homosexuals, and any person who is associated with homosexuals ceases to be an Anglican. In the diocese of Central Africa, there are bishops who are homosexuals and we can’t accept that.”