A bishop advocating tolerance

Trevor Grundy

Ordinary people are more concerned with the spread of poverty, disease and hunger than with individuals’ private sexual activities, says Musonda Mwamba, the Anglican Bishop of Botswana

With the Anglican Communion in a state of disarray, and facing a possible schism, caused by the consecration of women as bishops and the ordination of gay men and women as priests, the voice of Bishop Musonda Mwamba of Botswana is as refreshing as cool water in a dry place.

“The African provinces contain around 37 million people. They are not a monochrome body,” the bishop said in an interview with Global. “I do not think that the views held by some Church leaders in Nigeria and Uganda will spread to Botswana or South Africa. The conservative voice on homosexuality is best exemplified by Nigeria, which sees it as a threat to the Communion – a cancerous growth which needs to be removed.”

“The liberal voice in Africa is, I think, best exemplified by my own country,” he added. “[Botswana’s] strength and stability is built on a marriage between the modern and the traditional through the kgotla [the traditional village ‘circle’, or ‘assembly’] system, which admits everyone in society, into an environment where each and every voice is important.”

Born in Mansa, Zambia, Musonda Mwamba became Bishop of Botswana – part of the Province of Central Africa (Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) – in 2005.

A prominent churchman, lawyer and theologian, he is seen not only as a fastrising star in the Anglican firmament but also as a welcome voice of reason when it comes to dealing with explosive issues threatening Christian unity.

Musonda made a strong impression in 2007 with a powerful speech on the future of the Anglican Communion at an Ecclesiastical Law Society Conference in Liverpool. He declared then – and repeats now – that African churches and the Anglican Communion will never fade. “They belong to God and He will not allow his churches in Africa, or anywhere else, to crumble.”

Musonda has also made his feelings clear about dictatorship and corruption in various parts of Africa – especially neighbouring Zimbabwe. At a time when the self-imposed Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, was demanding that Christians in Zimbabwe disassociate themselves from those who tolerated homosexuals, Bishop Musonda let his own voice be heard on the subject. Not only did he call for Kunonga’s resignation, he emphasised his strongly held belief that the role of Christianity in Africa is to improve the lot of ordinary people and not to hunt homosexuals.

“Very few of us take the homosexual debate as a top priority,” he said. “Most African Anglicans want to get back to basics and concentrate on poverty, disease, injustice and the need for transparency in governments. I agree with Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who says that this is our number one priority.”

Asked about the health of the Anglican Church in Botswana today and whether it is experiencing the same sort of problems as the Church of England – a national decline in church attendance – the bishop replied: “It’s in good shape. Churches are full, and growing and we are addressing the real issues – hunger, disease, lack of employment for young people, gender, and the challenges of HIV and AIDS.”

About the author:

Trevor Grundy is a journalist who was based in East and Southern Africa.


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