Zimbabwe Orphanage Crisis in Wake of Church’s Gay Schism
Zimbabwe’s top Anglican bishop says an excommunicated church leader close to the country’s president has taken over an orphanage housing 80 children as part of a schism over gay marriage.
Bishop Chad Gandiya, leader of the mainstream Anglican group, said Tuesday that the breakaway leader also has seized mission schools and priests’ homes on the church premises near Murewa, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of the capital, Harare.
Worshippers now congregate instead under the shade of trees beside a dirt road.
Bishop Nolbert Kunonga was excommunicated four years ago after he was accused of inciting violence in sermons supporting longtime President Robert Mugabe’s party. Kunonga, though, still has the protection of police loyal to Mugabe, and already has taken over the main Harare cathedral and church bank accounts.
Kunonga insists he split from the Anglican church because of its position on gay marriage. However, the reverend who was forced to leave the mission church near Murewa insists it was not marrying gay couples.
Leaders of the global Anglican Communion have condemned gay relationships as a violation of Scripture. However, the Anglican Communion is loosely organized without one authoritative leader such as a pope, so some individual provinces have decided on their own that they should move toward accepting same-gender unions. In 2003, the U.S. Episcopal Church caused an uproar in the worldwide fellowship by consecrating its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of the state of New Hampshire.
Sister Dorothy, one of the three nuns in charge of the care of orphans at the Shearly Cripps home near Murewa, told The Associated Press local officials and followers of Kunonga told the orphanage staff they were under orders to leave because they "support homosexuality."
"We refused to listen to Kunonga but he says this place now belongs to him," said the elderly sister, who has served at the home for three decades.