HARARE - The Archbishop of Canterbury and principal leader of the Church of England, Justin Welby, has said the example of the victory against persecution of the church in Zimbabwe by renegade bishop Nolbert Kunonga will be a source of renewal for the whole Anglican Communion.
Welby, who was in Africa for the Anglican Consultative Council, held in Lusaka, Zambia, said the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe had faced troubles, even after they had “got their churches back”.
Kunonga, a loyalist to President Robert Mugabe, who was excommunicated in 2007 by the main Anglican Province of Central Africa and the worldwide head of the church for inciting violence in sermons supporting the governing Zanu PF party, seized church property, taking over orphanages, church buildings and schools countrywide with the help of police.
The stand-off left mainstream Anglicans without places of worship and many were subjected to intimidation and violence.
The Supreme Court later ruled that Kunonga did not have the right to the Anglican church property and decreed him to return the property.
Kunonga claimed he left the mainstream Anglican Church because it backed same-sex marriage unions.
Welby, who had an hour-long private meeting with the homophobic Mugabe at the State House in Harare, was also grilled by the nonagenarian about the church’s position on homosexuality.
The meeting with Mugabe was also attended by several Anglican bishops and the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing.
Later, Welby told a large-scale Eucharist in Harare’s Glamis Arena that the Anglican Church here served a God who had overcome suffering.
The spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide paid tribute to the Zimbabwe church’s faith, courage and persistence in the face of difficult times.
“In Zimbabwe, you have shown that you trust Jesus. In the Anglican Communion, we need to share the love of Jesus generously with those who do not agree with us,” Welby said last weekend at the Glamis Arena in Harare at a colourful and energetic celebration that brought together clergy and choirs from all parts of the country.
“The example of the church here will be a source of renewal for the whole Anglican Communion.
“It is a joy to be here with a church that is remembered and loved all around the world,” the Archbishop told worshipers.
“All Christians everywhere salute you.”
Bishop of Matabeleland, the Rt Rev Cleophas Lunga, said it has been very special for the people of Zimbabwe that Archbishop Welby had travelled to see them.
“He has come at the right time. His visit will further encourage the church here,” he said.
“And to know that people outside Zimbabwe — among them the Archbishop of Canterbury — have been praying for us means a lot.”
Archbishop Welby’s flying visit to Harare was the first to Zimbabwe by an Archbishop of Canterbury since Rowan Williams visited in October 2011.