Mokiwa down, but not out

Tanzanian bishops affirm deposition of former archbishop Valentino Mokiwa, but decline to sign the minutes of the meeting making it “official”

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania has affirmed the dismissal of the Bishop of Dar es Salaam, the Rt. Rev. Valentino Mokiwa. Meeting for two days last week in Dar es Salaam, the bishops by majority vote left intact the 7 January 20017 deposition by the primate of Tanzania, the Most Rev. Jacob Chimeledya, of Dr. Mokiwa for financial misconduct

However, the vote has no legal force, at this time, sources in Tanzanian church tell Anglican Ink, as a majority of the bishops declined to sign the minutes of the meeting. Church watchers speculate the decision to judge Dr. Mokiwa but hold off sentencing was done to permit an orderly transition of power. At this stage Dr. Mokiwa has a right to a pension. However, if he is removed by the House of Bishops, his financial future becomes precarious. If he should continue to fight his removal and seek to hold onto power, sources speculate, the bishops would sign the deposition minutes and deprive him of a pension.

On 8 May 2017 the Swahili-language Dar es Salaam newspaper MTanzania reported Dr. Mokiwa was holding services out of his home for his supporters. The former bishop has been ejected from the diocesan offices and his supporters amongst the clergy removed from office, or pressed to examine their allegiances.

The battle between the two bishops began with the 2013 election for primate. Dr. Mokiwa was defeated for reelection as archbishop by Bishop Chimeledya (pictured) in a fight that pitted the Anglo-Catholic wing under Mokiwa against the Evangelicals led by Chimeledya. The third faction, consisting of bishops drawn from the Wagogo tribe, threw their support to the challenger.

Allegations of bribery were raised immediately after the election, with claims foreign money had been used to bribe the electors. However, after threatening to bring the election dispute to court, Dr. Mokiwa stepped back and agreed to honor the outcome. Sources in the Mokowa camp at the time told Anglican Ink the costs to litigate the election were a factor in deciding not to sue, as was the hope that Dr. Mokiwa would be returned to office in the 2018 election for primate — as Archbishop Chimeledya would be too old to seek reelection.

The wounds left from the 2013 election have not healed, however, with a number of Anglo-Catholic dioceses declining to support the national church. Sources in Tanzania tell Anglican.Ink that such practices have not been unknown as during Dr. Mokiwa’s tenure as archbishop Evangelicals withheld funds from the national church also.

Last year an investigation was launched by Archbishop Chimeledya into allegations of corruption by Dr. Mokiwa. A committee chartered by the House of Bishops found evidence the bishop had embezzled diocesan funds — a charge Dr. Mokiwa has denied, claiming the allegations were politically motivated.

At its last meeting in 2016, the House of Bishops agreed to discipline Dr. Mokiwa after the committee presented its findings. However in January 2017 Archbishop Chimeledya deposed the Dar es Salaam bishop — causing a backlash of support for Dr. Mokiwa from the bishops who were upset their primate had exceeded the mandate given him.

Outside intervention has failed to resolve the dispute. In March the Rt. Rev. Simon Chiwanga, who also was the former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council and Bishop of Mwapwa sought to broker a meeting between the parties, while the chairman of CAPA, the Most Rev. Albert Chama, Archbishop of Central Africa was rebuffed in his efforts to resolve the dispute.  

At last month’s GAFCON primates meeting, attended by Archbishop Chimeledya, as well as by former Primate of Tanzania, Archbishop Donald Mtetemela — Dr. Mokiwa’s predecessor as archbishop– the GAFCON leaders privately  urged the Tanzanian church to come to a speedy resolution of the crisis.

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