Archbishop Rowan Williams meets with members of All Saints Anglican Church in Malawi. He also visited Zimbabwe and is now in Zambia. Photo: ACNS
Harare, Zimbabwe – The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, praised Anglicans in Zimbabwe for remaining firm in the face of assaults by followers of an excommunicated bishop who has seized church property, forcing people to find other places to worship.
"You know very well, dear brothers and sisters, what it means to have doors locked in your faces by those who claim the name of Christians and Anglicans," Archbishop Williams told the approximately 15,000 people who attended a communion service at a sports stadium on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, on Oct. 9.
"You know how those who by their greed and violence have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals in this country. You have given so much to the church worldwide and to your neighbors in this great and troubled country. Yet you must know that we give thanks to God for you, for your patience and generosity and endurance," said Williams.
The service was attended by bishops from South Africa and Botswana, as well retired bishops of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe.
Williams is in Zimbabwe as part of a three-nation tour in South Africa that began with his officiating at the 150th anniversary ceremony for the Anglican Church in Malawi.
His visit to Zimbabwe is an attempt to show solidarity with Anglicans who have resorted to praying in the open, in tents, and other places after renegade former bishop Nolbert Kunonga seized church property and barred those opposed to his faction from access.
Prior to Williams’ visit, Kunonga took advantage of an Aug. 4 court ruling giving him the right to evict school heads, teachers, and nursing staff at several Anglican institutions. He has vowed to seize over 3,000 properties in and outside Zimbabwe.
On Monday Archbishop Williams visited Anglicans in the eastern Manicaland province, where a colleague of Kunonga is claiming church property.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has sought a meeting with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who was yet to confirm an appointment.
Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, said Mugabe wants to challenge the cleric on the church’s position on homosexuality and western sanctions against Mugabe and members of his party elite.
"Fundamentally, he wants to know why the Church of the British state, the Anglican Church, has remained silent while the people of Zimbabwe, and these people include Anglicans, are suffering from illegal sanctions," Charamba said in an interview with the state weekly, The Sunday Mail.
"The second issue the president wants this man of God to clarify is why his Anglican Church thinks homosexuality is good for us, and why it should be prescribed for us. He thinks that the archbishop will be polite enough to point to him what portion of the great book sanctions homosexuality."
As Archbishop Williams held the communion service, Kunonga held a church service where his followers carried placards denouncing the archbishop. One sign said "No to homosexuality," another said "Mr. Rowan, homosexuality is abnormal."