The House of Laity of the Diocese of Lake Malawi has made an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury to assist them with the impasse over the election of their new bishop. Although The Rev. Nicholas Henderson was the choice of the diocese, Archbishop Malango has attempted to place a different person in the diocese as the bishop. The Rev. Trevor Mwamba of Botswana had brought them to resolution but then more pressure was brought upon the Diocese to accept Archbishop Malango's choice.
The letter as carried in Anglican Information follows:
The House of Laity
Diocese of Lake Malawi
16th November 2007
OPEN LETTER TO HIS GRACE THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
His Grace. The Archbishop of Canterbury,
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Rowan Williams.
Concerns of the Laity on the events in the Diocese of Lake Malawi and the conduct of our Bishops in the Province of Central Africa.
We greet you with peace and love. in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We, the Laity in the Diocese of Lake Malawi write to you in desperation to request your personal intervention in the impasse emanating from the controversy over the decision made by the Court of ConfIrmation to reject confirmation of a popularly elected Bishop-Elect over unsubstantiated allegations.
The Laity upon recommendation from the Registrar of the Province, Justice James Kalaile, that was indeed endorsed by the Archbishop of the Province of Central Africa (see Report by Justice Kalaile and letter from Bishop Malango, dated 17th October 2006) the Laity agreed that the issue be taken to the Provincial Court as Canon 26 (7 provides for. The Diocesan Synod resolved that the issue indeed be referred to the Provincial Court for review. Unfortunately for the Diocese for such a process to commence, a Provincial Synod resolution had to be made. This process was deliberately frustrated by our Episcopate in the Province by removing this issue from the Provincial Synod agenda, saying that the Episcopate had resolved that this issue as closed and could not be discussed, any more. This is despite the numerous calls by the laity to have dialogue with the Archbishop.
To add salt to injury, on 20th October, 2007 the newly appointed Dean of the Province. the Bishop of Northern Zambia, Rt. Rev. Albert Chama convened an emergency Diocesan Standing Committee (DSC) meeting. The way the meeting was conducted, both in content and procedure, left a lot of questions on the minds of the Delegates and the laity as a whole.
We still ask ourselves as to the main purpose of the DSC, as it was not clear whether it was to introduce himself as the new Dean of the Province, or to intimidate members of the DSC. We even think that he came to Malawi to destabilize the process of reconciliation that was already put in process by his predecessor, the Bishop of Botswana, Rt. Rev Trevor Mwamba. and deliberately wanting to push the Laity in the Diocese to the edge to instigate a reaction that may portray them negatively to play into his wicked trap. We indeed feel that he treated members of the DSC as if they were kindergarten kids, and not adults with whom he would be working with during his term as Dean of the Province and Bishop of our vacant See. Actually after the meeting, we were left with the feeling that the visit to Malawi had a hidden agenda, to fulfill plans hatched at the many clandestine meetings, by the ultraconservatives who were working to overturn the Diocesan Synod resolution and propose fresh elections even before establishing what went wrong with the last election because they are determined to stifle the issue for fear of the truth being exposed.
It is with deep regret that the Laity note that:
a) invitation to the meeting was by word of mouth and phone calls and not all legitimate members were contacted for the meeting;
b) the agenda of the meeting was not circulated to the Parishes and Archdeaconries, for members to consult with parish members before the date of the meeting. It was only during the meeting that it was announced that there was one agenda and that was to request the DSC to move forward to find a shepherd for the Diocese, by holding a fresh election for the Bishop of Diocese of Lake Malawi (DoLM). He even sent a condition that if the Diocese did not accept going for fresh elections then it risks being evicted from the Province.
We felt this was an unfairly presented subject as it was a matter which could not be decided by the delegates without consulting their Parishes at all levels. Furthermore it demonstrated lack of consideration for procedure, as the impromptu DSC had no agenda circulated in advance. Actually we are convinced that this approach was meant to intimidate and pressurize the Laity in the Diocese to succumb to the wishes of the powers that be, without proper thought of implications of such an action. We also find that such an action lacked the anointed responsibility of our Bishops to reconcile man to God which was preached in opening remarks. We totally agree that reconciliation is very important and that the Church should be seen as the "light and salt" of the world. But we are concerned that men of God are abusing their positions for selfish ends and this has to be discouraged.
We are weary that the discussion of this issue embarrasses our Bishops, because they wrongly and deliberately tarnished the Bishop-Elect's moral image in order for them to appoint someone they believe will push their agenda. However it is the wish of the Christians in the Diocese that our case should be forwarded to the Provincial Court for review as prescribed by Diocesan Synod. This is a canonical right and should be respected.
The Dean went on to justify his imposition saying that "the Church is not a political party which goes by the principle of majority rule", contradicting himself when he said that at the Court of Confirmation and Episcopal meetings resolutions are based on majority votes. Is this not a matter of double standards? Furthermore, we all know that history is the best teacher and we are doomed if we do not learn from our past mistakes. We cannot. as a Church, ignore the mistakes that were made and hope that such mistakes would not happen in future. We believe that if the case is reviewed, it will go down in our Church history books. and it would become a point of reference for future cases. Indeed if there would be need for changes in the Canons the changes would be evidence-based that would be studied and debated.
The Laity are disappointed that as our bishops are playing the game of divide and rule, to destabilize the unity in the Diocese. Of even greater concern is the fact that even though Reverend Nicholas Henderson was wrongly labelled as homosexual, as was reported to the media by the Archbishop Bernard Malango, an accusation the Reverend Henderson has consistently denied, there has been no attempt by the archbishop to correct the information that he conveyed to the world, and apologize to Rev Henderson, for wrongly labelling him a homosexual and for the distress caused by the slander to an innocent child of God. The Bible calls on us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves and not to be false witnesses. Our Leaders are doing exactly that, dragging someone's name in mud and destroying his good reputation, and yet nobody is taking responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. When we are wrongly accused what would we wish for most from our accusers? Sure, a public apology is what we would value most so that our names could be cleared.
So you see your Grace, from the above sentiments that the laity are only insisting for a review of the decision of the Court of confirmation because they are convinced the process was full of injustice and are looking for the truth to be told. We do not subscribe to the thinking that there can be no democracy in the Church. When you dispense justice in the Church that is democracy because the Canons of the Church were framed by the Church, for the Church and these were framed to guide the Church. The Canons were put in place to guide the processes in the Church and the Spirit guided the Framers to be visionary and weary of some leaders who could abuse their powers. We believe that the confirmation process was not conducted fairly as it was characterized by lies, shady deals and fraudulent schemes, which need to be unveiled, so that the truth comes out.
As Christians, we are not just going to sit back with our hands folded, and be witnesses to corrupt tendencies in the Church. As responsible Christians and citizens of the Kingdom of God, we want the Church to pursue justice. Unfortunately, our leaders are not listening and actually their actions are pushing the Laity to act in desperation, which is very unfortunate and regrettable. The threats from the Dean of the Province will not cow us into submission but firmly we stand by the resolution that was made at the Diocesan Synod to refer the decision of the Court of Confirmation to the Provincial Court, as provided for in the Canons of the Province of Central Africa and as recommended by the Registrar of the Province of Central Africa
Due to the strong threat we have received from the Provincial administration, that the Diocese of Lake Malawi will be evicted from the Province of Central Africa, we beg for your personal intervention on this long standing issue.
We look forward to a favourable response to our humble request.
Yours in the Service of Christ Our Saviour
James R Kapala
Chairman, House of Laity
Emails to All Bishops.
To: All Parishes: DLM
Archbishop of York.