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Bishop closes churches for wedding anniversary
Anglican bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, ordered all churches in his diocese to close yesterday, to mark the occasion of his 33rd wedding anniversary
Monday, September 11, 2006
by Independent Catholic News

The controversial Anglican bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, ordered all churches in his diocese to close yesterday, to mark the occasion of his 33rd wedding anniversary. Instead he held a prayer meeting and fundraiser at a sports arena to celebrate the occasion.

Of those attending the event, individual parishes were asked to contribute 500,000 Zimbabwe dollars (more than 1,000) and each member of the congregation was to bring 5,000 Zimbabwe dollars (at least 10).

The 5,000-seat sports arena, was less than half full, with some stands taken up by choirs and parties of school children.

Several cars outside, including the bishop's limousine, were bedecked with ribbons and colourful balloons. Vendors sold Bibles and Christian mementos. en in dark suits identified by lapel badges as 'security' patrolled the grounds of the arena in scenes more reminiscent of a political rally in the troubled southern African nation.

The bizarre event celebrating Kunonga's 33 years of marriage to his wife, Agatha, is expected to deepen rifts in the Anglican Church, one of the country's main Christian denominations. Many Anglican clerics and church leaders stayed away.

"It's not right to be told where you can pray," said one priest who asked not to be identified for fear of action by Kunonga or his loyalists.

Critics accused Kunonga of running the church like a branch of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, using similar tactics of threats and intimidation.
The 2001 election of Kunonga, an outspoken supporter of Mugabe's authoritarian rule, split Zimbabwe's Anglicans.

Last year, regional Anglican bishops dropped charges against Kunonga, a former African liberation theology professor in the United States, of alleged incitement to murder and besmirching the name of the church.

He appeared before a church court in August 2005 after being accused by parishioners of intimidating critics, ignoring church law, mishandling church funds and bringing militant ruling party politics to the pulpit. In the key charge, Kunonga was accused of urging a priest to instruct ruling party militants to kill 10 of the bishop's opponents in the local Anglican hierarchy.

Church leaders are among the most outspoken critics of Mugabe's record on democratic and human rights, but in sermons supporting Mugabe, Kunonga has denounced some black clergy as "Uncle Toms" and puppets of whites. Kunonga also ordered the removal of cathedral memorials to black and white Zimbabweans killed in the two World Wars, as well as to pioneers of former white-ruled Rhodesia and victims of the 1972-80 war that led to the country's independence from Britain.

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