Trouble brews over gay issue

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The General Synod of the Anglican province of Central Africa, which met in early September in Malawi, replaced the provincial dean because of his “pro-gay” and pro-American viewpoints, according to The Living Church magazine.

There were also contradictory reports as to whether the province had broken up over the issue of homosexuality. The Zimbabwe government-backed Harare Herald initially reported that the province had been dissolved after the Zimbabwe dioceses withdrew, angered over an insufficiently strong criticism of homosexuality and churches in the developed world. However, the Religious Intelligence Web site reported it had received an e-mail from Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana saying that “the province is still intact.”

Archbishop Bernard Malango, the primate (senior bishop) of Central Africa, removed Bishop Mwamba as dean of the province. His replacement, Bishop Albert Chama of Northern Zambia, was approved by synod. The Harare Herald said that in addition to being “pro-gay,” Bishop Mwamba had misrepresented the province’s position “on the issue of homosexuals.” In an address to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention last year, Bishop Mwamba called on African churches to lower their rhetoric concerning homosexuality and address economic and social issues such as HIV/AIDS.

He had also introduced resolutions at the synod concerning the political situation in Zimbabwe under the controversial leadership of President Robert Mugabe. However, Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of Harare, an ally of Mr. Mugabe, blocked discussion of the resolutions, reported Living Church.

Four national churches – Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe – make up the province. The Agence France Presse news agency reported that three of five dioceses in Zimbabwe decided to sever ties with the province, saying they will not “stand with homosexuals.”

AFP reported that there are fears that the Central Africa church province might break into three national provinces of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

In other news, African and American bishops – and one Canadian – met in a low-key setting in late July in El Escorial, Spain at a one-week event called “Walking to Emmaus: Discovering New Mission Perspectives in Changing Times.” Trinity Wall Street Episcopal church in New York organized the event to support relations between dioceses in a “companion” relationship. Thirty-two African bishops and 24 American bishops attended. Bishop Philip Poole, suffragan (assistant) bishop of Toronto, attended as a guest to meet his partner bishop, Thabo Makgoba of Grahamstown, South Africa.

Ellie Johnson, director of the partnerships department at the Anglican Church of Canada, gave a presentation on the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Mission and Evangelism.

Topics of discussion among the attendees were HIV/AIDS, women’s empowerment, the same-sex issues diving the Anglican Communion and the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals.

Ms. Johnson said the Canadian church has had to trim its activities in Africa due to financial constraints, but that the African dioceses said they want in be in relationships with Canadian dioceses that involve more than money.  Fourteen of 30 Canadian dioceses have international companion diocese relationships. A resolution at the 2007 General Synod urged all dioceses to work on international partnerships before the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

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