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Letter from the Church of the Province of Central Africa

Posted on: September 4, 2009 12:44 PM
Related Categories: Central Africa

The Church of the Province of Central Africa has asked that the following letter from the Dean of the Province be circulated by ACNS:

It is with increasing concern that we, the Bishops of the Anglican body of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) note the ongoing involvement of the Law Courts in Zimbabwe in respect of numerous cases instituted about the status of Nolbert Kunonga vis-à-vis the CPCA and his rights to our property.

We are not alone in expressing concern.   The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) voiced their astonishment at a meeting held in Alexandria, Egypt, in February 2009 and recorded their earlier views, stating:

"As representatives of the Anglican Communion, we re-iterate that we do not recognise the status of Bishop Norbert (sic) Kunonga and Bishop Elson Jakazi as bishops within the Anglican Communion, and call for the full restoration of Anglican property within Zimbabwe to the Church of the Province of Central Africa".

This statement reflects the true and lawful position.  It also echoes the sentiments of the Anglican Communion worldwide, members of whom are frankly shocked by the conclusions and decisions given in some of the judgments of the courts in favour of Kunonga, a man who has abandoned the Anglican faith and the CPCA.  It would seem a few of the learned judges (and magistrates) are either under some misconception or unwittingly ignore the true situation.

We have therefore deemed it appropriate to draw attention respectfully to the following in order to put beyond doubt the factual, legal and ecclesiastical position:-

  1. The CPCA is a multinational body covering Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, whose laws are transnationally binding upon its members.
  2. Its laws, like those of any other similar organisation, are not available to be used by any person who is not a member of the body of the CPCA.
  3. Likewise, its property and assets, like any other similar organisation, belong to it and cannot be usurped, removed or unlawfully used by anyone outside its membership.
  4. The Diocese of Harare (the Diocese), its property and assets, form an integral, permanent part of the body of CPCA, as do all the other dioceses and their assets in the Province.
  5. The CPCA laws call on bishops, before taking office, to swear that they will be bound by, and govern their diocese in conformity with the laws and canons, Acts and other regulations of the Province and their diocese.
  6. On the 21st September 2007, Nolbert Kunonga willfully broke his canonical oath and unilaterally, formally and intentionally chose to break away and cut all ties with the CPCA.  He had irrevocably exited from and would have nothing more to do with us.
  7. His departure and cessation of membership was noted and accepted by the CPCA.
  8. The result of his action was that he not only forfeited his membership and had no status nor rights within the CPCA but also ceased automatically to be a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.  More than that, he was no longer an Anglican Bishop and therefore there was a vacancy in the See of the Diocese.  Anglican officials and Anglicans throughout the world acknowledged that this is the situation.
  9. We wrote to Nolbert Kunonga to vacate our property and assets in the Diocese and make them available to us.  He ignored our request.  He still uses the property, assets and money of the Diocese for his own purposes.  In our respectful submission, Nolbert Kunonga is acting as a trespasser on our property and his undoubtedly unlawful use of our funds and assets is tantamount to theft.  And his claim to be bishop of the Diocese is a deliberate misrepresentation amounting to falsehood as is his claim to be an Anglican.
  10. Instead of withdrawing peacefully and without demur, Nolbert Kunonga and a few non-Anglican collaborators commenced a programme of sustained threats, intimidation and assaults on members of the CPCA, depriving them of access to worship in the parish churches or even on the premises of the Diocese.
  11. By breaking away from the CPCA, Nolbert Kunonga committed the act of schism.  To underscore this, Nolbert Kunonga, on the 15th March 2008, formed his own church.  He proclaimed himself Archbishop of his organisation and appointed 4 or 5 non-Anglican colleagues as bishops.  This defiant move of Nolbert Kunonga is a classic case of schism; entering into membership of a (presumably) religious body not in communion with the CPCA.  Thus he has overtly given his allegiance to an organisation separate from and not recognized by the Anglican Communion.
  12. To put the position of Nolbert Kunonga firmly into an unmistakable category after he declared the formation of his own church, we let it be known on the 12th May 2008 that his status is that of a person excommunicated from the CPCA and the Anglican Communion throughout the world.

We find it incredible that the establishment of his own church by Nolbert Kunonga does not seem, with respect, to resonate in the minds of some of the learned judges in Zimbabwe hearing the cases before them on Nolbert Kunonga.  Surely, the existence of his own organisation must put beyond all possible doubt the fact the Nolbert Kunonga as a result of his own actions and behaviour cannot lay claim to any right to be a bishop in, and have control over, property of the CPCA in the Diocese.  He has now made himself Archbishop of an organisation in opposition to and not recognized by the CPCA.   He would have had a conflict of interests if he had not already given up membership of the CPCA.

From a theological point of view a judgment cannot interfere with faith which is controlled by an individual’s conscience.  Faith cannot be tested overtly nor imposed upon a person by a court order.  This is why in the Anglican Church laws have been specially promulgated to facilitate the propagation by priests and others of the Christian faith.   Those persons who choose to be Anglicans willingly, subject themselves to the faith, worship, teachings, format and rules, fellowship, mutual support, the proclamation of the Gospel and the care of God’s people in love and faith as prescribed in our Canons, Acts and other laws.  These are spiritual and ecclesiastical aspects outside the scope of the Common Law Courts.  Nolbert Kunonga withdrew his membership from this organisation voluntarily.  But this does not give him, nor the courts, the right to insist thatCPCA members must follow him and change their faith and allegiance to the CPCA.  No
one has the right to restrict, prevent or prohibit Anglicans from worshipping in their Churches of the Diocese as they have done peacefully and respectfully for many years.

We now earnestly seek your kind consideration of the above facts and comments and are emboldened, by the worldwide support we have received, to believe the only conclusion you can reach is that –

  1. Nolbert Kunonga is not a member of the CPCA; is not an Anglican bishop in the Diocese; and has no right to occupy or use the Anglican assets in the Diocese; and
  2. Nolbert Kunonga has elected to become Archbishop of an organisation he has formed and which is not recognised by the Anglican Communion Worldwide; and he has been excommunicated from the CPCA and the Anglican Communion internationally; and
  3. The CPCA is an organisation not confined to Zimbabwe but is transnational and recognized internationally; and
  4. In view of all of the above, the civil courts have no jurisdiction to deal with issues pertaining to the status of Nolbert Kunonga vis-à-vis the CPCA and the Anglican communion and, in any event, Nolbert Kunonga has no locus standi to be a party to pleadings in any civil court because, by his own admission, he has abandoned and severed his links with the CPCA and formed his own church which is a separate entity in no way connected to the CPCA.

To bring this epistle up to date, we have pleasure in announcing that, to international acclamation and in accordance with the laws of the CPCA and other ecclesiastical laws, Dr Chad Nicholas Gandiya, having been duly elected in June 2009, was consecrated and ordained within our Province as an Anglican Bishop recognized worldwide on the 26th July 2009.   The ceremony was witnessed by numerous bishops and well over 10,000 others who were in attendance.  He was enthroned on that same day in the See of the Diocese of Harare. 

After Nolbert Kunonga had left the CPCA and the Diocese and until this momentous enthronement of Bishop Gandiya occurred, Bishop Dr. Sebastian Bakare had acted as caretaker Vicar General/Bishop of the Diocese of Harare from November 2007, a role he filled with distinction and success.  Bishop Bakare had been called upon to administer pastorally and otherwise after Nolbert Kunonga left the Diocese effectively on the 4th August 2007.

We, the Bishops of the CPCA, hereby draw to your attention yet another application just launched by Nolbert Kunonga.   Although he has nothing to do with, and disassociated himself from the CPCA and formed his own church/organisation, in his latest application he asks the honourable High Court in Zimbabwe to set aside the consecration and enthronement of Bishop Chad Nicholas Gandiya as the Bishop of the Diocese of Harare and for the court to pronounce that he, Nolbert Kunonga, is still bishop of that diocese!

We re-iterate our firm belief that Nolbert Kunonga has no locus standi to appear before, and be recognized by the courts.  It is our strong contention that the courts in Zimbabwe have no jurisdiction to interfere with the procedure and decisions legitimately made by the transnational CPCA.   We trust that the application will be dismissed on these grounds.

Such a decision will remove the strong perception held by us and most interested persons, locally and internationally, namely that the honourable Courts in Zimbabwe appear to be minded for reasons best known to themselves, to ignore the lack of status of Nolbert Kunonga and the question of jurisdiction and to presume to rule upon the internal, domestic, spiritual, theological, administrative and Church affairs of the CPCA.

We sincerely call upon the courts to heed our concerns so that the chapter on the behaviour and demands and absence of status of Nolbert Kunonga in the Anglican Church can finally be closed.

Dated on this, the 1st day of August in the Year of Our Lord 2009

The Rt Revd Albert Chama
Dean of the Church of theProvince of Central Africa