Discord again rocks Anglican Church

A church service at St Agnes' Anglican Church in Chikanga, Mutare, ended abruptly on Sunday when some worshippers stormed out of the service. They were protesting the appointment of retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare as head of their troubled parish.

Sebastian Bakare

Sebastian Bakare

The Manicaland Bishop, Erick Ruwona yesterday confirmed that Bakare, a former bishop of Manicaland and Harare provinces, is in charge at St Agnes Anglican church.

Angry congregation members have accused Ruwona of arrogance and have labelled him a dictator who has failed the diocese.

This journalist is in possession of a copy of a letter from members of the congregation addressed to Ruwona dated 4 December 2016, in which they state that they are dissatisfied with events taking place at their church.

“We understand that retired Bishop Bakare will be holding the fort in the absence of Rev (Gilbert) Sambona and we inquire whether he is the right person to do so. He is retired!!!!!! In addition to this, he has become politically compromised, being the national convener of the so-called National Convergence Platform which he claims is politically neutral but is designed to bring together political players in the name of MDC, MDC-T, PDP, RDZ, ZAPU, ZIMPF, MAVAMBO, ZAPU, etc for a cause he knows best,” read part of the letter.

The letter further stated this if the above is not a convincing enough reason for Bakare’s compromised stance, the bishops should refer to an article that appeared on 29 July 2013 in which Bakare endorsed Morgan Tsvangirai for the presidency at the party’s rally in Sakubva and in which he equated Tsvangirai to the biblical Nehemiah who led his people to rebuild  the walls of Jerusalem.

Additional proof can also be found in an August 2016 interview in which Bakare is alleged to have said that ‘Mugabe has caused enough suffering’.

Bishop Ruwona confirmed that Bakare will indeed be leading the church. In an interview with this journalist he said: “It is true. Bishop Bakare is a licensed clergyman of the dioceses and entitled to hold services.”

Ruwona also confirmed that Sambona, who used to be in charge at the church, is presently under suspension over allegations of adultery.

The congregation have raised concerns over Ruwona’s order for re-registration of all church members at St Agnes church: “We are heavily consternated that St Agnes is implementing the process of ‘registering’ its members and that registration forms are going to be circulating very soon, this despite the fact that church registers already exist to verify who are bona fide members and who are not.”

In response to all this Ruwona said: “The Dioceses of Manicaland has requested all  congregations to provide statistics. This is an annual exercise undertaken to track church membership growth. Congregations need to update their statistics.”

However, some church members said the exercise was meant to flush out vocal people from the church.

It is also being alleged that Ruwona is refusing to hold vestry elections to usher in new leadership at this popular church.
The non-holding of elections has resulted in stubborn factions who are concerned by the reluctance of Ruwona to hold vestry elections.

A vestry is a committee, consisting of elected people, that run the day to day administration of the church.

They have also accused the Bishop of ‘protecting and siding’ with the current committee at the parish to stop the holding of proper vestry elections that should have taken place in March.

Members of this Anglican church who agreed to speak to this joutnalist on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said the manner in which Ruwona was discharging his duties as Bishop over the vestry elections was a serious cause for concern.

“We do not know why vestry elections are not being held at St Agnes. We believe that he is protecting the current committee and that he is not willing to listen to our concerns as a parish,” they said.

“Mai (Portia) Magada has taken charge of the church. She was never elected, but pushed herself and has virtually taken over the control of the church. Some members have raised concerns over this but, it seems the bishop is protecting her,” said the member.

Ashel Mutungura, spokesperson for the Diocese of Manicaland has gone on record describing the disgruntled worshippers as being loyal to former Bishop Elson Jakazi and who are out to cause confusion in the church.

Jakazi is a former bishop of the church who was fired by the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) for misconduct. A protracted court battle ensued between Jakazi and the CPCA resulting in him being ouster by the courts.

“Those calling for the vestry elections at St Agnes are Jakazi people. They refuse to join the church and they cause confusion. These are divisive people who do not even pay tithes and are only good at talking and causing confusion,” said Mutungura.

“All those that are calling for elections are criminals who are lying about the goings-on at the church. The reason why vestry elections were not held is that St Agnes did not produce  audited financial statements for the period 2013 to 2015,” he explained.

“They do not know the church rules, laws and regulations. They are ignorant and power hungry. It clearly states in the Acts of the Diocese, Chapter 10.3a that vestry elections will be held only after an audit is completed and endorsed,” Mutungura said.

“Members know the correct channels that exist to express unhappiness with something. All the operations at St Agnes are above board. Those with concerns should come forward and present them through proper procedures. The developments  at St Agnes are ‘a small issue’ being blown out of all proportion by people fighting for leadership positions.” concluded Mutungura

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