Nolbert Kunonga was Bishop of Harare until 2008 when he split from the central
Anglican church over the ordination of homosexuals and was excommunicated. But with the backing of President Robert Mugabe – whom he describes as a “prophet from God” – the partial courts and the security forces, he has seized control of 40 per cent of Zimbabwe’s church property including schools and orphanages.
Many of Zimbabwe’s 350,000 Anglicans have been reduced to praying in private gardens,
sports grounds and meeting halls.
Dr Rowan Williams arrived in Zimbabwe this morning and is due to lead a Eucharist
service for an estimated 20,000 people at a sports stadium in Harare at (Sunday)
lunchtime. He is also expected to meet President Robert Mugabe on Monday (local time) and to appeal to him to rein in Dr Kunonga.
But in a rare interview with the *Daily Telegraph* at Harare’s Anglican cathedral,
St Mary’s, Dr Kunonga said that Mr Mugabe would not involve himself in
church matters and Dr Williams never should have come.
“He is no threat, there’s nothing he can do,” he said. I am in charge of the church, of all its properties. I am in the cathedral. That’s my throne. He cannot come here. It’s a great shame that (he) is visiting Zimbabwe, lobbying for homosexuals and acting as a British envoy. He is appointed by the Queen and represents England.”
He said it was “at the discretion” of President Mugabe who he meets, but that
the 87-year-old, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in
1980, had no power to influence the workings of the church. “There’s no church-state relationship here. In the colonial state, the Anglican church was the state church but from 1979 to the present day it is just one of the denominations,” he said. “Whether they meet doesn’t affect us, Mugabe has no right to impose anything on us. If he were to, you would call him a dictator.”
He said Rowan Williams was to blame for the split in the Church of the Province of Central Africa, which includes the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. Rowan Williams is the reason why the Anglican church all over the world in divided - because he has not taken a position on homosexuality,” he said. Many people say he is an educated guy but he is very naive not to take a position.”
Dr Kunonga arranged for buses to bring worshippers from around the region to a
Sunday morning service at St Mary’s, which has remained largely closed to the
public since he seized it, and visited only by a handful of worshippers most
Sundays. Before the service started, placards bearing slogans including “Rowan go back to England” and “Canterbury must repent” were handed out to the 1,000 congregants at the church who were sent to march around the block.
Asked about the fact that most of the 350,000 Anglicans in Zimbabwe still support
the church under Dr Williams, he said: “It’s not a majority or minority, it’s about a moral right, what the scripture says. When even a few people are gathered in the light, it’s enough.” He denied that he had previously used the police, who are generally seen as pro-Mugabe, to chase Anglicans out of churches using tear gas and batons. “I don’t know who is being intimidated, I am not intimidating,” he said. “These people you say can’t come to church, they can. No one is stopping them. If they say they don’t like who is bishop, that is a very different matter.” He denied that he was “Mugabe’s bishop”, adding: “I am everyone’s bishop. This church was here before Zanu PF and I have been a priest for 40 years now”. “Zanu PF has been in power for 30 years,” he said.
He said he believed the Anglican church in Zimbabwe was already healing but swore
it would never rejoin with the central authority “as long as the Archbishop
of Canterbury remains homosexual. He is a weak man who can not make a decision,” he said. “They say he is an academic man but I am myself an academic and I have never seen an academic like him. I am schooled enough in the Anglican faith, I am better than him, it’s for sure.”