Lake Malawi still has no bishop

from Signs of the Times, No. 27 - Oct 2007

Events at Lake Malawi continue to astonish. Two years after the Revd Nicholas Henderson was elected as their bishop the diocese remains without him. At the time the Archbishop of Central Africa, Bernard Malango, blocked the appointment on the ground that Mr Henderson had been Chairman of the MCU and therefore 'not of sound faith'. The clergy and laity refused to accept anyone else and have campaigned on the matter ever since.

Earlier this year his supporters in Malawi were accused of murdering a local priest. Canon Rodney Hunter, 73, was a prominent member of Forward in Faith. He died of cancer in November. In that part of Africa, as part of the legacy of pre-Christian religion, it is still customary for families to gather after a death to discuss who was to blame. Often witchcraft is suspected. On this occasion they decided to blame the supporters of Mr Henderson for murdering him.

Normally Europeans and North Americans do not take these accusations too seriously. However, these are unusual times and on 26th April The Times carried an article by Ruth Gledhill which began as follows:

Enemy of liberal Anglicans was poisoned

A British missionary was fatally poisoned after helping to prevent a London vicar from becoming a bishop in Central Africa, The Times has learnt.

Relatives of Canon Rodney Hunter, 73, believe that his food was contaminated by supporters of the Rev Nicholas Henderson in a battle between the liberal and conservative wings of the Anglican Church. In November Canon Hunter was found dead at his home in Nkhotakota, Malawi, with a strange black substance around his mouth. The day before his death he had complained of severe stomach pains, and postmortem examination has now shown that he was killed by three poisons.

The three poisons were, in fact, the standard drugs given to people with terminal cancer. There was no murder; the only outrage was that The Times had taken the story so seriously. If you wish to murder a Forward in Faith priest, the MCU has no specialist advice to offer.

Hopes were raised earlier this year when Archbishop Malango announced that he would retire as Archbishop on 8th September and as bishop of his diocese at the end of this year. A decision was made to appoint the bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba, as Dean of the province so that he could take over the Archbishop's duties in the Province of Central Africa. Bishop Mwamba is highly respected in the province. He visited Lake Malawi during the summer and it seemed that an orderly resolution was in sight.

Malango, however, had other ideas. The day before his retirement, on 7th September, he sacked Bishop Mwamba, thus depriving him of his authority to resolve the problems facing the diocese.

Mr Henderson's supporters are continuing to campaign and it is likely that next year, when Malango retires from his diocese, things will change again.

Bishop Mwamba is due to be one of the speakers at the MCU's annual conference from 8th to 11th July 2008.