20 October 2010

Meeting a brave bishop from Zimbabwe

Bishop Chad Gandiya with Patrick Comerford and Linda Chambers of USPG (Photograph: Orla Ryan)

Patrick Comerford

It has been a busy week, with a Harvest Thanksgiving Eucharist in Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, the annual general meeting of the members and directors of USPG Ireland on Monday, and the annual meeting of the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synods yesterday [Tuesday] and today [Wednesday].

USPG Ireland (the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel – Anglicans in World Mission) is the oldest mission agency in the Anglican Communion, and USPG had stalls at many of the diocesan synods meeting this week. The annual general meeting of USPG this week was chaired by Bishop Michael Burros of Cashel and Ossory, and Bishop Michael Doe from USPG in London was present.

Last week, the Right Revd Dr Chad Gandiya, Bishop of Harare, was in Ireland as a guest of USPG Ireland, speaking at the Armagh Diocesan Synod, meeting the Archbishop of Dublin, preaching at the Community Eucharist in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and speaking at a public meeting later that evening.

I first got to know Bishop Chad when he was Regional Desk Officer for Africa and the Indian Ocean at the USPG office in London, and his decision to return to Zimbabwe during these difficult times has been a brave and heroic decision.

Bishop Chad studied theology in Harare, Nottingham and Michigan, and has sent two periods totalling eight years on the staff of Bishop Gaul Theological College – a theological college in Zimbabwe that takes its name from Bishop Billy Gaul, an early SPG missionary from Ireland. He has also been on the staff of Michigan University, where he was chaplain, and the United College of the Ascension in Birmingham, where I took a course in 1996.

He returned to Zimbabwe last year and was consecrated Bishop of Harare in a four-hour ceremony in the City Sports Centre on 26 July. His consecration intensified the reassertion by the [Anglican] Church of the Province of Central Africa of its authority in the Diocese of Harare. Three years ago, the former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, attempted to force the Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe to withdraw from the Province. Taking this as a personal schismatic departure, the province responded by declaring the see vacant.

Bishop Chad told us of the difficulties created by Bishop Kunonga continuing reliance on the support of the tyrannical and despotic government of President Robert Mugabe, and described how Anglicans have been beaten by police and forced to worship in other venues, often in the open, despite court rulings on churches and church premises, and the support of the legitimate Anglican Church in Zimbabwe expressed by the Lambeth Conference in 2008 and by Anglicans worldwide.

Bishop Kunonga has formed a new church entity, calling it the Anglican Province of Zimbabwe. He has declared himself archbishop of his own church, and has appointed his own three bishops.

Bishop Chad is the son of a priest – his father, the Revd David Gandiya, who is now retired, served in both the Diocese of Manicaland and the Diocese of Mashonaland. His bravery in returning to Zimbabwe is a refreshing challenge to us all.

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