Dr Nolbert Kunonga, bishop of Harare, Zimbabwe, is reported as having made the sensational claim that one of the bishops in Zimbabwe is practicing homosexuality. At the same time he accused bishop Michael Doe, a patron of Changing Attitude, of secretly lobbying the province with donations. According to a report published by the Herald newspaper (Harare), Bishop Kunonga has become the leader of an anti-gay lobby in the Province of Central Africa.
Bishop Kunonga is quoted as saying: “It is believed and well known that one of the bishops in Zimbabwe – and we will not mention names here — is also practicing homosexuality and received donations from outside. Those donations are believed to be coming from a man who was expelled or fired by previous bishops in Harare who has come back and is giving donations on behalf of the gay movement.
In a related report, the Diocese of Harare at a Synod meeting in August, drafted and adopted an Act barring all church members from consorting with homosexuals. The Act reads: “This Synod has unanimously agreed to make a Diocesan Act that with effect from the 4th of August 2007, the Diocese of Harare dissociates itself and severs relationship with any individual, group of people, organisation, institution, Diocese, Province or otherwise, which indulges, sympathises or compromises with homosexuality.”
Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, said:
“The attitude being adopted by some dioceses in Central Africa will lead to the further abuse of and prejudice against lesbian and gay people. These bishops are encouraging and perpetuating prejudice and hostility against a vulnerable minority group. They will be held to account with other members of their society for any violence perpetrated against lesbian and gay people.
“Individual bishops, dioceses, provinces and primates, including Archbishop Drexel Gomez, chair of the Covenant design group, have now demonstrated that they refuse to conform to the Windsor report as a document which expresses the mind of the church and have abandoned the Windsor process. They are not ’Windsor compliant’, a phrase they have repeatedly used against The Episcopal Church. It is now impossible for the primates and bishops who claim to lead the global south to maintain that the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church meeting later this month should be required to make any further response to the request of the Primates made in the Dar Es Salaam Communiqué.
“Furthermore, the act adopted by the Diocese of Harare contains echoes of the bill proposed by the Government in Nigeria. It means that the diocese has rejected the commitment made in the Windsor Report and Lambeth Resolution 1.10 to listen to the experience of homosexual people.
“The comments made by Bishop Kunonga and the Act passed by the Diocese of Harare are a direct challenge to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are in opposition to the statement issued on behalf of the Archbishop by the Anglican Communion office last week following the alleged deeply homophobic remarks made by the bishop of Uyo, Nigeria.”
Dr Nolbert Kunonga continued to pronounce against homosexuality in his remarks. He said: “We have taken a position as a diocese and the position has been necessitated by the issue of homosexuality. We totally reject homosexuality; it is an abomination, it is totally against the law of God, and it diminishes the dignity of the human being. We also believe in the supremacy of the scriptures, the primacy of the scriptures and there is nowhere where homosexuality has been condoned.”
Bishop Kunonga said Africans in general and Zimbabweans in particular have never tolerated homosexuality. “On another level, the Constitution and laws of Zimbabwe do not permit us to engage, compromise or indulge in homosexuality. So when we look at all the angles – the religious life, the cultural side, the political system in which we operate – there is no institution that embraces homosexuality.”
The bishop alleged that is wasn‘t Michael Doe alone in attempting to make donations to which conditions were attached. Bishop Kunonga was effectively accusing three people of attempting to bribe the church. He said “There is also another bishop in Zambia receiving donations, the accommodation of Rev Emmanuel Seruwada of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America to address synod, and Rt Rev Michael Doe (General Secretary) of USPG (United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) to secretly lobby with donations. That is why we think it is becoming a cancer and has been happening a great deal.”
The newspaper report claimed that in their addresses to the Synod, Rev Seruwada and Bishop Doe had implored the synod to drop the issue of homosexuals from the agenda in exchange of funding for church projects.
Bishop Jakazi of Manicaland said he also stood by the decision taken by the Diocese of Harare.
“Manicaland Diocese has the same sentiments with Harare but my problem is I haven’t held a synod yet in my diocese to confer with my people, but they already know my stand because I have come out very clearly on homosexuality before. I have been quoted in some newspapers, so it is not something I have thought of today, but it has been of concern in my ministry and in my diocese.”
Because of the failure of the Provincial Synod to censure some bishops “dabbling in homosexuality” the Anglican Province of Central Africa reportedly broke up on 9 September following the withdrawal of Harare Diocese and expressions of intent to pull out by other dioceses. The Diocese of Manicaland also expressed its intention to leave the province along with one other Zimbabwean diocese. Its bishop said he needed to report to his diocese first before going public, making it three out of Zimbabwe’s five dioceses. According to the Standing Orders of the Province of Central Africa, once one diocese withdraws, the province becomes null and void and will have to be reconstituted under a new name and structure.
The break up of the province came following the dismissal by Bishop Kunonga of a last-minute resolution drafted by the Provincial Synod reaffirming the province’s opposition to the gay lobby.
Archbishop Malango failed to save the situation because he “botched” (according to reports) a condemnation of the homosexual lobby, led by the Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Musonda Mwamba, the Right Reverend Dr James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi and two Zimbabwean bishops, one of whom argued “sex was good”, to the amusement of the packed synod. Bishop Kunonga claimed this was a face-saving move, saying the province’s failure to discipline Bishop Mwamba and to resolve the Lake Malawi impasse proved that the cancer had spread in the province.
In highly charged presentations to the Provincial Synod, Bishop Elson Jakazi of Manicaland – who moved the motion for the dissolution of the province – and Vicar General of Harare Diocese Venerable Harry Mambo Rinashe – who seconded – took the outgoing Archbishop, the Right Reverend Dr Bernard Malango, and the homosexual lobby within the province to task over the issue. Both men described homosexuality as an unnatural abomination that had no place in the house of God.