THE Anglican Church in Zimbabwe sought to open a new chapter in its troubled recent history with the consecration of Chad Gandiya as Bishop of Harare.
But even as 10,000 Anglicans thronged the City Sports Centre in a display of unity, the excommunicated former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, had obtained a court order stopping the ceremony.
The Anglican Church appealed against that decision, effectively nullifying the earlier order and allowing the ceremony to go ahead.
Senior church officials hoped Gandiya’s installation would loosen Kunonga’s grip on his former diocese, although he still claims jurisdiction over the diocese and holds diocesan property and accounts on the strength of a High Court judgment in his favour.
Family Affair ... Gandiya is joined by members of his family
Gandiya’s principal consecrator was the acting Dean of the Province, Bishop Albert Chama, who is currently Bishop of Northern Zambia.
The consecration, watched by thirteen bishops, was followed by an enthronement in the Cathedral Church of St Mary & All Saints. Such defiance of Kunonga would hardly have been possible as recently as some months ago without violence by his state-backed shock troops.
Gandiya is known as a liberal in the Anglican Church which has been battling sharp divisions, particularly with the church in Africa, over the ordination of gay bishops.
The Anglican Church moved to excommunicate Kunonga after he announced in 2007 that he was pulling his diocese out of the Anglican Church Province of Central Africa in a row over homosexuality.
Kunonga said: “We are inspired and motivated by our beliefs in the scriptures, our beliefs as Catholic Christians and our beliefs as human beings that homosexuality cannot be accepted because it takes away our human dignity and it is not accepted in the Constitution of our country, and it is inconceivable in our cultural background.
“It is unthinkable that a man could undress in the presence of another man and a woman can undress for another woman. So it’s an abomination not only from the scripture point of view, but also from the cultural, political set-up in which we are operating. All these are violated by thinking or intending or compromising with homosexuality.”