Bishop of Upper Shire deposed and excommunicated by the Archbishop of Central Africa

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The bishop of Upper Shire has been deposed from office and excommunicated by the Church of the Province of Central Africa. On 23 Oct 2022 the Primate of Central Africa, the Most Rev Albert Chama wrote to the Rt Rev Brighton Malasa stating he had been excommunicated for violating the constitution and canons of the province. The Nation reports Archbishop Chama as appointed the Rev. Canon Grant Tebulo vicar-general of the diocese until a new bishop is elected.

In 2020 an independent auditing firm engaged by the provincial House of Bishops investigated the finances of the Diocese of Upper Shire and its bishop. The audit came in response to a campaign led by lay leaders to oust the bishop, accusing him of misconduct and abuse of office. 

On 14 December 2018 the Nyasa Times reported that representatives from 37 of the 41 parishes met at St George’s in Zomba and endorsed a call for him to go.

Local newspapers reported the charges leveled against the bishop were financial, moral and political. The bishop has been accused of adultery and having children out of wedlock with women other than his wife. He has been accused of appointing cronies to senior positions in diocesan schools and hospitals, who then seek fees for preferential treatment in admissions and services. The lay leaders also accuse the bishop of diverting funds donated from overseas groups into his own pocket, while also involving himself in partisan party politics. 

Meetings between the protestors and the bishop’s representatives overseen by the Primate of Central Africa had proven unfruitful and with the auditors report in hand in April 2022 the House of Bishops gave Bishop Malasa six months to leave office.

Bishop Malasa responded he would not go unless he were given a severance package, as required under canon law, that would pay him a salary, housing and car allowance until he reached the age of sixty-five. In August Bishop Malasa asked for a severance package of one billion Malawian Kwacha (approximately $1 million) to take early retirement at the age of 46.

The diocese could not afford the bishop’s terms for the buy-out, and Archbishop Chama asked Bishop Malasa and the diocesan standing committee to meet with him on October 14 and 15, 2022. However, Bishop Malasa and the standing committee rebuffed the archbishop’s request to meet. 

“By refusing to have meetings that would have assisted the Archbishop fulfill this requirement, former Bishop Malasa, members of the Diocesan Standing Committee and the board of finance have cast aside the constitution and the canons of the Church of the Province of Central Africa. 

 “Through the authority of Christ committed to us, we thereby separate them from the Church of the Province of Central Africa and the Anglican communion for actually failing to avail themselves for the two meetings when the Archbishop actually arrived in Zomba.”

Bishop Malasa has not responded to press inquiries for comment.