The Church of the Province of Central Africa has revoked the priest's licence of Zimbabwean Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, following his decision to pull the Anglican diocese of Harare out of the regional division of the denomination.
The refusal by Kunonga and his supporters to accept the decision of the church has resulted in a fierce conflict involving riot police as different sides have tried to get into churches in Harare and other towns.
"Dr Kunonga, having severed his allegiance and cast aside his canonical obedience to be bound by the laws of the province, which includes the diocese of Harare, has ceased to be a member of the diocese, and is no longer the bishop of the diocese," said a statement signed by 14 bishops in the Anglican province. "His licence as a clergyman in the Anglican Communion is automatically revoked."
The bishops released their statement following a special synod they held on 20 December in Zambia to deliberate on Kunonga's decision to pull out the diocese. They said that all priests aligned to Kunonga were also to have their licences revoked for supporting his actions.
Tensions came to the boil after followers of Kunonga, who is a strong supporter of President Robert Mugabe, insisted on holding services in Harare churches on Sunday even after the ruling of the Anglican leaders in the area that he is no longer a cleric in the church.
Kunonga decided in September 2007 to pull the diocese out of the Central Africa province, which groups churches in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi, after he accused it of failing to censure some bishops sympathetic to homosexual clergy. He has been attempting since September to place the diocese under jurisdiction of the Anglican church in Kenya.
The Central African bishops said they want all priests in Harare diocese to confirm their allegiance to Bishop Sebastan Bakare, who has been appointed to replace Kunonga on a temporary basis.
"The faction of priests known to support Dr Kunonga in his action, in whichever diocese they may be, has chosen to step outside the province and the diocese. Their licences have been revoked as they are no longer members of the diocese and the province," said the statement.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]