Anglican leader in regional tour
Harare – Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams this week concluded a whirlwind tour that took him to three SADC countries. Archbishop Williams visited Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia where he met the leadership of the countries and attended to issues affecting the church. The countries fall under the Church of the Province of Central Africa. In Malawi, where he spent three days, Archbishop Williams joined in celebrations to mark the church’s 150 years of existence in the country and met President Bingu Wa Mutharika. They discussed agriculture in Malawi and problems facing the future of food production. Afterwards, the Archbishop said President Wa Mutharika had “expressed commitment to dialogue with the civil society”. This follows recent anti-government protests spearheaded by civil society and opposition parties that resulted in 18 deaths when demonstrators clashed with police. However, it was the second leg of his tour that attracted the most attention. The church in Zimbabwe has split and hard questions had to be asked of the Anglican leader regarding the issue of homosexuality. Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga broke away to form the Church of the Province of Zimbabwe after saying he could not condone homosexuality. He has been embroiled in church property wrangle with the CPCA-aligned church and this has led to violence between parishioners. The CPCA parishioners claim victimization at the hands of Archbishop Kunonga, whom the courts say legally controls church properties in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Williams decried violence. However, he was repeatedly met by demonstrators denouncing homosexuality as he went about Zimbabwe. The Archbishop met President Robert Mugabe and handed the Zimbabwean leader a dossier with allegations of parishioners’ persecution. He admitted afterwards that homosexuality was a problem in the church, pointing out that while they did not allow same-sex marriages they must respect all people’s rights. Homosexuality has split the worldwide Anglican Church and differences have been pitched in recent years by the consecration of a gay bishop in the United States. Archbishop Williams refused to condemn the illegal Wstern sanctions on Zimbabwe, claiming the economic embargo was not affecting ordinary people. He proceeded to Zambia and met that country’s new President, Michael Sata. Archbishop Williams congratulated President Sata on his electoral victory and acknowledged his commitment to developing Zambia.