Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Umzimvubu cathedral destroyed by fire

The Primate of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa reports the cathedral, chapter house and offices of the Diocese of Umzimvubu have been destroyed by fire. In a statement released on 7 Nov 2015 the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town said on Saturday the Diocesan Council met at the Glenthorne Diocesan Centre to discuss the on-going dispute with the Bishop of Umzimvubu, the Rt. Rev. Mlibo Ngewu, and to set the 2016 budget. “These they have done and we are grateful to God for their service. Sadly, before the end of their proceedings the diocesan centre, the houses and the old Cathedral burnt down,” the archbishop said, adding “I am pained and devastated by this loss and act of callousness.” The suspicious fire comes in the closing phase of a multi-year dispute between the bishop and the diocese. Following their 6-10 February 2012 meeting the South African bishops announced that they had “unanimously resolved the diocese should be placed under the care of a provincial administrative team.” Elected second bishop in of the rural diocese in South Africa’s Eastern Cape in 2003, Bishop Ngewu has had a rocky episcopate. Charges of simony, nepotism, embezzlement, fraud, sexual harassment and bullying of his clergy have been leveled against the bishop and by August 2011, two-thirds of the diocesan clergy had written to the Archbishop of Cape Town requesting his intervention. In 2014 Bishop Ngama filed suit against the Archbishop asking the Pietermaritzburg High Court to reinstate him as bishop. Attorneys for the archbishop told the court Bishop Ngama had not cooperated with the “process of reconciliation” set up by the archbishop, and the first vicar general appointed to oversee the diocese had resigned after threats were made upon his life, and the head of the administrative review team had quit after he was accused of racism by the bishop. The review committee had completed its work but its report had not been made public. Bishop Ngewu’s attorney argued that the original agreement reached with Archbishop Makgoba that called for the bishop to step aside ended once the review was complete. The archbishop’s attorneys argued the suspension should remain in place to allow the church’s disciplinary mechanisms now to unfold. In his Saturday statement, Archbishop Makgoba noted “a petition was tabled at this Diocesan Synod which was accepted unanimously. The petition passed a motion of no confidence on Bishop Ngewu and his administrative team. It called for the Diocese to be declared vacant. Subsequently, the Synod of Bishops at their meeting in September 2015, dealt with this petition through the Canon 14 route. Bishop Ngewu was given time to answer as required by Canon 14. His response is due at the end of December 2015. He will deliver his response at the Synod of Bishops in February 2016.”

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