DAR ES SALAAM: Tanzanian Anglican Church is opposed to women, gays as bishops
By Tom Mosoba
Tanzania's Anglican Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa yesterday hinted that the local church would oppose the mother church's approval in England of the ordination of women and gay members as bishops.
Archbishop Mokiwa said he had written an official letter to the global head of the Anglican Church, Dr Rowan Williams, to express his misgivings and demand that he provides leadership to prevent a potential break of the communion over the matter.
In a televised interview on state television yesterday, Archbisop Mokiwa said synod would soon meet to deliberate on the twin controversies before making its final stand official.
However, he said the Tanzanian synod had in the past voted 99.9 per cent to oppose this matter.
I am personally not opposed to women preachers among faithful and they have done our church proud, but when it comes to matters of the collar that is a different thing.
The archbishop was commenting on reports that the Anglican headquarters in Canterbury on Tuesday approved the thorny issue of ordaining women as bishops. It also approved recognition of gay clergy.
These two issues have threatened to split the Anglican faithful the world over down the middle, with some countries already forming a breakaway movement following more disagreements at a recent church meeting held in Israel.
They launched a conservative movement called Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (Foca) at the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gavcon) in Jerusalem last month.
Foca includes evangelical Anglican bishops from the United Kingdom and the United States as well as archbishops from South America, Australia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, who have threatened to completely cut ties with Dr Williams, accusing him of failing to act for the interest of a majority and keep the church united.
Archbishop Mokiwa said the announcement of the approvals had come at a difficult time for the Anglican faithful. "The church is deeply polarized, the decision has come at a very bad time and is like adding paraffin to already burning fire," he said.
On ordination of women, he said: "The problem is not the women but the Bible teaching is against the norm of making them put on the collar. It is an idea that is being forced on us due to gender and human rights otherwise among our followers we value women's contributions."
He said the church is undergoing a fundamental phase right now that could redefine its history, saying such deep divisions led to falling of churches in the past. "I however earnestly feel the Canterbury leadership should stand up and counted by acting to the interest of ensuring the church remains intact.
"I have already written a letter requesting for an appointment with the leadership (Dr Williams) to express my misgivings as the youngest of all the 38 archbishops," said Archbishop Mokiwa. He said all Bishops had not been consulted to make a binding decision.
He admitted that gay question was a big community problem that existed and needed urgent attention to prevent its negative and immoral influence on society.
"This is a big sin that will kill the society. It is affecting the youth and even those in leadership and high public offices. We need to confront it openly," he said and added: "It is also an issue within the Catholic, Lutheran and Islam faiths that however are quiet on it."
The Tanzanian church, he said, would not be affected financially if it cut ties with the mother church if no agreement was reached over the two issues.
"It is not about aid or financial support. I have not received any foreign funds as a church in Dar es Salaam as our faithful have enabled us run the church and spread the gospel without problems.
"We are therefore going to fight this war from within and I will not keep quiet to lead the youth in telling Canterbury to stand up and respond to this leadership challenge."
Archbishop Mokiwa who last week told The Citizen that he would not wish for the church to break, said members should not lose hope and fight from inside to bring desired changes.
"I am appealing for calm among our faithful as the church prepares to respond to this problem. It is what I can now describe as a face to face war with the devil," he said of the 77 million strong Anglican faithful worldwide.
He noted that most Tanzanian Bishops were currently in Britain where they attended the churches Bishops meeting and were expected back soon. The final straw could come during the general Lambeth conference later in the year.
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