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Dr Makoni ignores order to reinstate two sacked priests

26 September 2014


Facing complaints: the Bishop of Manicaland,  Dr Julius Makoni, at Southwark Cathedral in 2011

Facing complaints: the Bishop of Manicaland,  Dr Julius Makoni, at Southwark Cathedral in 2011

THE Bishop of Manicaland, in Zimbabwe, Dr Julius Makoni, has ignored an order by the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, to reinstate the licences of two priests who complained about his behaviour, one of the priests reported this week.

In May, Dr Makoni revoked the licences of the Revd Gilbert Sambona of St Peter's Church, Mandeya, and previously of St Bartholomew's Church, Resape, and Canon Philip Gwashero of St Peter's, Nyanga.

Two weeks before this, the two priests had sent a letter of complaint about him to Archbishop Chama, also signed by three members of the laity. The letter raises concerns about the Bishop's divorcing his wife and the fact that he was a "non-resident Bishop" who "spends most of his time away".

It also says that clergy had not received their stipend for three months. "If asked about it, the Bishop quickly gets angry and shouts back at those who have asked", the letter states. Donations received from abroad were "not declared in a transparent manner". The letter also complains that a woman priest was presiding at the eucharist without permission.

A week after sending the first letter, the two priests wrote to the Archbishop again, complaining of "victimisation" by the Bishop, including "a barrage of various threatening calls". They had been summoned to a meeting, they said, and asked to confirm that they were the authors of the first letter.

In letters revoking the licences of the two priests, Bishop Makoni charges them with making "false allegations" about him, which brought "shame and scandal on the Church which is trying to heal from recent past hurt".

In June, the Archbishop instructed the Provincial Registrar, Dr Fanuel Sumaili, to write to Bishop Makoni informing him that the complaint from the two priests was permitted in the Canons, and should not have resulted in sanctions.

"I regret that your decision to revoke the licenses of the two priests under the circumstances has the effect of undermining the efficacy of the said Canon and depriving the members of the rights as bestowed by the Canons," he writes. The Bishop's action was "clearly inappropriate".

He continues: "The Archbishop has directed me to formally inform you that you reinstate the two priests while their complaints are investigated before constituting the Church Court. He would like to have this done within 14 days from the date herein and a report to that effect sent to his office."

On Tuesday, Canon Gwashero said that neither he nor Mr Sambona had yet been reinstated. He said that he had been without a stipend since May: "That is the main problem. My wife is a teacher. With the little she gets, that is how we are managing to survive." He said that he hoped to meet the Archbishop during his visit to Zimbabwe on 4 October.

On Tuesday, Dr Makoni said that the matter had ended "a long time ago". The Archbishop had been "misinformed", and, after a disciplinary procedure within the diocese, "everything was resolved."

On Wednesday, Archbishop Chama said that he was "handling the matter" and wished to make no further comment.

Last year, Anglicans in the Diocese of Manicaland celebrated their return to their churches and cathedrals, after being barred from places of worship for five years (News, 3 May 2013).

Dr Makoni was elected Bishop of Manicaland in 2009, a year after being made deacon in Southwark Cathedral, and two months after being ordained priest.

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