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Synod evacuated as fire destroys cathedral and diocesan centre

Posted on: November 9, 2015 2:41 PM
The diocese of Umzimvubu's Glenthorne Centre, old Cathedral and other buildings destroyed by fire on Saturday
Photo Credit: Anglican Church of Southern Africa

[ACNS] The Umzimvubu diocese’s Glenthorne Centre, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, was destroyed by fire on Saturday as diocesan Synod members concluded their budget-setting meeting in the building.

The diocese is currently in a period of turmoil. It’s bishop, the Rt Revd Mlibo Ngewu, temporarily relinquished his role following complaints to the Archbishop of Cape Town about his leadership style.

The Bishop of Mthatha, the Rt Revd Sitembele Mzamane, is currently leading the diocese as the Archbishop’s Vicar General; and is overseeing newly elected structures including the diocesan council, finance Board and trust board.

The new Synod met on Saturday and, after agreeing the 2016 budget, had to abandon the meeting as a fire broke out which destroyed the diocesan centre, houses and the old Cathedral. The people in the building were safely evacuated and there were no injuries.

A wooden cross in the old cathedral, although heavily charred, survived the fire and remains as a powerful sign against the blackened stone wall.

Capetown _umzimvubu _fire _02_460

The power of the Cross, even after the fire that ruined the cathedral, the cross burnt but stays visible in ashes," Archbishop Makgoba said as he posted this photo on Twitter

“I am pained and devastated by this loss and act of callousness,” the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, said. “Do pray for Bishop of Mzamane and the team of people that we elected during this difficult time in the diocese.

“As scripture says: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies’ (2 Cor 4:8-10).

“We will keep on seeking the truth of Christ even in such difficult times,” he said.

Archbishop Makgoba has written to the bishops in the province asking them to pray for Bishop Mzamane “to give him strength as he acts in our stead in the diocese” and said he would visit the bishop himself when he returns from a pastoral visit to Swaziland.

The new Synod had previously accepted a petition of no confidence in Bishop Ngewu and called for the diocese to be declared vacant. This was discussed by the provincial Synod of Bishops in September and Bishop Ngewu was given until the end of December to file a response before the matter is again discussed by the Synod of Bishops in February next year.