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ALEXANDRIA 2009: Archbishops Disagree Over Appropriate Response to Mugabe Regime

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: Archbishops Disagree Over Appropriate Response to Mugabe Regime
Windsor Continuation Report under Wraps

By David W. Virtue in Alexandria

Four archbishops of the Anglican Communion disagree on how to deal with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe who has brought his nation to the brink of total collapse economically and politically.

At a press conference today, South African Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said he has tried to impress on Anglican Primates here the urgency of the situation and the humanitarian needs of the people.

"The people of Zimbabwe have spoken loud and clear in 2008. Mugabe is holding on to power illegitimately and needs to step down. A Cholera epidemic is ravaging the people of Zimbabwe. I am in pain that military intervention will cause our people to be affected."

A statement released here noted "with horror the appalling difficulties" in Zimbabwe under the current regime. Anglicans in Zimbabwe's Diocese of Harare continue to face ongoing harassment and violence from Mugabe's police force attempting to stop them from worshipping. Renegade Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, an avid Mugabe supporter, still claims ownership of the Anglican churches despite being officially excommunicated in May 2008.

In their statement, the primates say that they do not recognize Kunonga as a bishop within the Anglican Communion, and call for "the full restoration of Anglican property within Zimbabwe to the Church of the Province of Central Africa." Kunonga was replaced in December 2007 by Bishop Sebastian Bakare, who is supported by the majority of the country's Anglicans.

Both Archbishop Thabo and Albert Chama, Bishop of Zambia and Dean of the Province of Central Africa, a leading contender to succeed Archbishop Bernard Malango, say they are opposed to using force to get rid of Mugabe and called for massive prayer and divine intervention for the situation to change. "Sanctions might work. We respect the sanctity of life. We want to take the position of wait and see and see military intervention as a very last resort."

However, two other archbishops, Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and York Archbishop John Sentamu, both believe that military intervention is the way to go. They have called for the military ouster of President Mugabe. In an article published by "The Guardian" newspaper, the Archbishop of York called for military intervention by the "international community" to topple President Mugabe.

Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu labeled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a "Frankenstein" and called for other countries to intervene before the country descends into bloodshed. The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, urged international intervention to curb the violence and harassment leading up to a runoff vote in Zimbabwe.

Archbishop Rowan Williams has called for the primates to appoint a representative to go to Zimbabwe "to exercise a ministry of presence and to show solidarity with the Zimbabwean people."

The primates also urged action to deal with the humanitarian crisis and for the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury to facilitate ways in which "food and other material aid for Zimbabwe can be distributed through the dioceses of the Church of the Province of Central Africa."

Asked by reporters if they could get an inkling about talks on the Windsor Continuation Group, Australia Archbishop Philip Aspinall said that Archbishop Rowan Williams had expressly asked that primates refrain from talking (read leaking) the report until he addresses it on Thursday.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said there have been a variety of responses to the report, and that she wishes to honor Williams' request not to discuss the contents publicly.

The group, which last met in December 2008, is charged with addressing questions arising from the Windsor Report, such as recommended bans on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.

In other business, the primates discussed a report from the Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC) working group. In an evening session, they addressed the issue of global warming.

Williams has repeatedly underscored theological education as a priority for the Anglican Communion. The primates endorsed a second phase of TEAC to "focus on resourcing and supporting theological educators," Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, spokesperson for the primates, told the media February 3. TEAC2 will "sustain and continue ongoing projects developed by TEAC1," such as supplying textbooks to Anglican theological institutions and the translation of educational materials.


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