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May 04, 2011

Anglican Group Offers Support in Harare, Zimbabwe

There are places in the Anglican Communion characterized in part by high levels of stress and hardship.  Those are exactly the places where the steering committee for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC 2) wants to hold their meetings.


Established by the Anglican Consultative Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury, TEAC is made up of representatives from different regions of the Communion. TEAC’s purpose is advocacy, support and networking for theological education across the Communion as a means of being in communion and strengthening common life.


The Committee’s first meeting was in Canterbury. Its second meeting took place in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe in mid-February, 2011.  A modern city in sub-Saharan Africa, Harare enjoys an ideal climate and “pleasant atmosphere” according to its official website; however, the Anglican Church in Harare is experiencing persecution and turmoil.


Bishop Chad Gandiya is a member of TEAC and leads the Anglican Church in Harare. His predecessor, Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, was excommunicated in 2008 after splitting from the church in Central Africa in 2007 and naming himself “Archbishop”. Days before the TEAC’s February  meeting in Harare, an Anglican priest was murdered for matters that Bishop Chad believes are related to the church formed by the excommunicated bishop.  Bishop Chad is quoted as saying that the people of the Anglican Church in Harare are “an endangered species”.


The Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Seminary of the Southwest’s academic dean and professor of New Testament and TEAC member, says “We hoped that by meeting in Harare we would show support for the church there. Besides just meeting, we wanted to work with the people in the local context and do what we all do—teach—and work in the parishes.”


TEAC members met for two days with the clergy of the Diocese of Harare and some from the Province of Central Africa. They discussed worship, collaborative ministry, Anglican identity and history, Psalms of Lament, reading the Bible, revelatory meals in the Gospel of John, mission, Anglican Communion, and friendship and connection in the Communion. The committee members lectured, worked in small groups and conducted an exercise on corporate reading of the psalms.


On Sunday, they went out into the diocese to preach. Because all the diocesan properties were confiscated by the renegade Bishop Kanonga, including the Cathedral, church buildings rectories, and diocesan center, congregations are meeting in parks, community centers and other public places.


Kittredge went to St. Faith’s Church, Budiriro, southwest of Harare, which meets in the local community center. “I preached on Jesus’ radical teaching made more concrete and even more challenging in the political turmoil of Zimbabwe,” Kittredge said. 


“Despite danger and deprivation, the parishes are thriving and growing, and the clergy are faithful and dedicated to their people and to the Gospel,” Kittredge said. “They wait and pray. The hymn that the clergy spontaneously sang at a number of points during the days of teaching was ‘Christians, seek not yet repose, pray and watch, watch and pray.’ This anthem has become a source of strength during their struggle.”


TEAC has organized a conference for Theological College Principals at Canterbury this summer, organized an event for women in theological education, and is publishing a series of booklets based on the Anglican Way Statements for reading and discussion.