The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, was expected in Harare, Zimbabwe, this weekend for a major service Sunday at the City Sports Centre with Anglicans from the Church of the Province of Central Africa under Bishop Chad Gandiya.
Williams is expected to meet with President Robert Mugabe on Monday in what most see as a bid to end an acrimonious and at times violent rift among Zimbabwean Anglicans that started in 2007 when Harare Bishop Nolbert Kunonga resigned from the church saying homosexual priests and congregants had gained influence.
Kunonga, who is close to Mr. Mugabe and has the backing of police, continues to control church properties, excluding the Gandiya-led congregation. Thus the archbishop cannot not lead the Sunday service in the Anglican Cathedral on Africa Unity Square.
Williams, the spiritual head of Anglicans worldwide, wrote to Mr. Mugabe earlier this year urging him to halt "the continuing bullying, harassment and persecution" of Anglicans who did not support Kunonga, the excommunicated former bishop.
The archbishop's office said Friday that a response from Mr. Mugabe was still awaited. But his staff voiced optimism, noting that the president has not rebuffed the archbishop's request. On Monday, Williams will travel to Mutare before heading on to Zambia.
Kunonga spokesman Bishop Alfred Munyanyi said the faction was not invited to meet with Williams though they would have liked to speak with him.
Having said this, Munyani charged that the archbishop’s purpose in seeking to meet with the President is to promote homosexuality, echoing Kunonga's accusations.
Bishop Gandiya told that he wanted to quash rumors circulating in Harare that those who show up for the Sunday service will be beaten or arrested. He urged members of his congregation to come out to worship with the archbishop, as all is set for the visit.