ZIMBABWE: Excommunicated Anglican bishop ordains own clergy

December 18, 2008

Renegade Zimbabwean Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who broke ties with his church earlier in 2008, has ordained 33 deacons and priests to serve in his self-styled Anglican Province of Zimbabwe.

Kunonga was in May excommunicated from the Anglican church after he decided to break away from the denomination's central African region over what he said was its sympathy to homosexuals.

"This is confirmation that we are going ahead with the building of the new province after breaking away from the Province of Central Africa," Kunonga was quoted as saying by the government daily newspaper, The Herald, on December 15 after the ordination ceremony in Harare.

Kunonga is locked in a legal battle with the Anglican Church in Central Africa due to his refusal to vacate his office and hand over church property to Sebastian Bakare, who is now bishop of Harare in place of Kunonga, but has been forced to work out of suburban offices in the capital.

Church members say gangs of thugs have been blocking Bakare's followers, who comprise the majority of the parishioners, from holding services in the church buildings forcing them to gather and pray in the open or in buildings belonging to other denominations.

Kunonga claimed more people were joining his group. "I am happy sanity is returning to the province," Kunonga was quoted as saying at the weekend ceremony. "This has also seen more people joining the new province upon realizing the reasons for us breaking ties with the Anglican Province of Central Africa."

Kunonga is a close ally of the leader of Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF party, Robert Mugabe, and is among beneficiaries of Mugabe's controversial land reforms where the state expropriated farms and equipment from former white farmers in a move said to be aimed at correcting "historical imbalances."

He has praised Mugabe as "the second son of God" and "more Christian than myself" and appears at many state functions.

Kunonga said of his self-made province: "As the Anglican Province of Zimbabwe we stand guided by the scriptures and will not sympathize with homosexuals. We are not unique and we join other bishops and provinces in East and North Africa that have rejected homosexuality and those among us who support the practice in their creeds."

Mugabe is an avowed anti-homosexual and once called gay people "worse than pigs and dogs."