Central African archbishop intervenes in Manicaland

Archbishop Albert Chama has ordered a return to the status quo in the dispute between the Bishop of Manicaland and the congregation of St Agnes Anglican Church in Mutare

The Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa has intervened in the dispute between the Bishop of Manicaland and the congregation of St Agnes Anglican Church in Mutare, directing the Rt. Rev. Eric Ruwoma (pictured) to rescind his excommunication of 40 church members and to restore to office the parish vicar, the Rev. Gilbert Mbona.

Last year Bishop Ruwoma suspended the rector of St Agnes on suspicion of having committed adultery and appointed the former Bishop of Harare, the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare to serve as priest in charge of the parish. However, leaders of the congregation refused to accept Bishop Bakare, citing his involvement in the political campaign to unseat President Robert Mugabe.

When Bishop Bakare attempted to take possession of the church, protests ensued. In December 2016 Bishop Ruwoma excommunicated 40 members of the congregation and asked a civil magistrate to issue a restraining order against 26 members of the church for their role in the protests..  Supporters of the protesters told Anglican Ink they believed Bishop Ruwona and a lay leader of the church, Mrs. Portia Magada, were seeking to gain control of the church against the wishes of the congregation. They also charged Bishop Ruwona with financial misconduct and mismanagement, alleging that while he was receiving his stipend, other clergy had not been paid for several months.

A counter charge was made, however, that those in rebellion are supporters of former bishop Elston Jakazi. In 2007 the then Bishop of Harare, the Rt. Rev. Nolbert Kunonga, withdrew the diocese from the Church of the Province of Central Africa to form the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe after the province began ecclesiastical proceedings to investigate the controversial bishop on charges of fraud, heresy and attempted murder. Dr. Kunonga, who was an ally of the ruling ZANU-PF Party and President Robert Mugabe used the power of the state to expel congregations and clergy from churches that did not pledge their loyalty to him. Dr. Kunonga was joined by the Bishop of Manicaland, the Rt. Rev. Elston Jakazi in the schism.  However in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in favor the Province against the breakaway bishops and Bishop Jakazi lost control of St Agnes. The province appointed a new bishop in 2012, who abruptly resigned however in 2015, leading to Bishop Ruwona’s appointment.

Last month the Most Rev. Albert Chama, Archbishop of Central Africa and Bishop of Northern Zambia met with Bishop Ruwoma and the Rt. Rev. Chad Gandiya, Bishop of Harare and president of the Zimbabwe Anglican Council. Archbishop Chama asked Bishop Ruwoma to restore Fr. Mbona to office, discontinue the civil litigation and rescind his excommunication of the 40 parishioners. While the status quo has been restored, the bad feelings remain unresolved, with both sides accusing the other of misconduct and un-Christian behavior.

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