Association of Concerned Africa Scholars Review (previously: Bulletin)
ACAS Bulletin 79: Special Issue on Zimbabwe Crisis


Methodism and Socio-political Action in Zimbabwe: 2000-2007



By
June 2008


Is there no balm in Gilead?
Are there no doctors there?
Why, then, have my people not been healed? (Jeremiah 8:22)

This paper examines the performance of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe during the past eight years of Robert Mugabe’s regime and proposes a new paradigm for forming a faith community that confronts dictatorship in Zimbabwe. It calls for a responsible theology of involvement by the ordinary Christians that begins with the grounding of new members in a faith that sees the world as the arena of their faith in God and who consequently can stand and be victorious against oppression by the state.

The Reign of Chaos

The Day of the Lord—Sunday, February 13, 2000 will be carved in the memory of most Zimbabweans as a day when all pretext of democratic governance came collapsing like a deck of cards. Two days before, the Robert Mugabe regime had conducted a referendum on a new constitution that was government sponsored. The government expected that the people were going to vote Yes to this proposed constitution. The government, which had never lost an election since the granting of political independence in 1980, was sure of victory and hoped to use this plebiscite as a litmus test of what would happen few months down the line when the parliamentary elections scheduled for June the same year took place.

On February 13 the voting ended and the counting of the ballot boxes took place. The humiliating defeat of the regime1 was announced on Tuesday February 15. This was the genesis of a nightmare that has gripped most Zimbabweans to the present day. From then on, many left the motherland and became sojourners in foreign lands where they continue to live as immigrants and outlaws. Others have lost their lives trying to confront the dictatorship. The theology proposed in this presentation is born out of a socio-political context that is characterized by immense suffering, pain and hopelessness on the part of the ordinary citizens and oppression perpetrated by the ruling elite. Most of the population is unemployed; a large percentage of the population is now living in the Diaspora. Those who remain spend most of the time searching for food, the shops are empty, the butcheries have no meat, petrol is scarce, and electricity and water come intermittently. Zimbabweans live in a polarized context desperately in need of justice, truth telling and healing. I propose a theology that empowers ordinary citizens in general and ordinary Christians in particular to engage in the fight for a life that is lived in its fullness.

The Crushing of Dissenting Voices

While other forms of resistance to the undemocratic forces have been crushed, the church as a mass organization remains with some space that can be used to forge a strong resistance movement. The sad truth is that the church has dismally failed to capitalize on this provision and instead has used its freedom to proclaim a theology that is heavenly oriented. The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, like other mainline churches, has stressed that it will not offer any public official statement concerning the “political situation” in the country.2 According the presiding bishop of the Methodist Church, what is going on is not a justice issue but “just a political one,” and to criticize the trampling of human rights and the rampant oppression is synonymous with criticizing the government.3 As a solution the church decided only to “speak out when necessary” through the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. The consequence of this stance has been a conspicuous silence by the ZCC on the current crisis in Zimbabwe save its participation in a government sponsored Church initiative on the Zimbabwe We Want document. 4 Besides that document, only the Roman Catholic Church has spoken prophetically on the situation prevailing in the country.5

The Church’s Response to the Zimbabwean Crisis

The silence of the Methodist Church has been so deafening and so systematic that even those who try to speak out at conferences and synods have their voices muzzled by the leadership or they have been marginalized in various ways.6 Two ministers who dared to become involved in the struggle for human rights and justice were the Rev. Graham Shaw and Bishop Levee Kadenge, who confronted this dictatorship without moral support from the church. The Rev. Graham Shaw, a missionary to Zimbabwe, was born and raised in Zimbabwe but immigrated to the United Kingdom to avoid conscription to the Rhodesian forces that were fighting against majority rule. He returned after his studies and was subsequently stationed in Harare where he distinguished himself as a good administrator and ecumenist. He was superintendent for Trinity circuit during the time of transition when more middle class Africans were moving into former white neighborhoods and churches. Graham handled this transition well and was posted to Bulawayo to where he became the superintendent and served at Hillside Methodist Church from 1994-2003. It is during this period in Bulawayo that the regime began stripping those with double citizenship of their rights to vote and to hold dual citizenship. The farmers were also persecuted at this time and Graham Shaw spoke out against the regime, and spearheaded the Bulawayo chapter of Zimbabwe National Pastor’s Conference. Together with other pastors from across denominational divides in Bulawayo, Shaw worked to mount resistance against the removal of the poor people and the demolition of their homes by the regime during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. Operation Murambatsvina was condemned as a violation of human rights and a crime against humanity by many international organizations. The bishop of the Methodist church decided to move Shaw against his will out of Bulawayo to Harare. But Shaw chose to remain and struggle among the people of Bulawayo. He took the less popular route, and stepped down from circuit ministry, later moving back to the United Kingdom where he continues to serve God and humanity.

Bishop Levee Kadenge, a former lecturer at the United Theological College, decided to confront the regime when it became clear that the abuses against ordinary citizens were becoming extreme. He participated in the formation of the Christian Alliance (CA), in February 2006 in Bulawayo, an ecumenical body of church leaders and Christians who were disillusioned with the weak protest and the cozy relationship between the regime and the mainline church leaders.7 Kadenge was elected leader of the Alliance. The Alliance scored a major breakthrough in the Zimbabwean political landscape when it sponsored a conference that brought together all the opposition forces in Zimbabwe under the banner of a “Save Zimbabwe” National Convention.8 Politicians and civil organizations that had never worked together before met and agreed to join forces to end the dictatorship. At the convention, Kadenge stated, “Our message to the President of Zimbabwe is that as a child of God, who professes to be a Christian, we love him. He and the ruling Zanu PF party, which he leads, should now stop treating fellow Zimbabweans, of all colours, as enemies to be destroyed.”9 The regime countered this major success by sponsoring its own initiative through the mainline churches; the regime intelligence played a major role in the drafting of the document that came out as it later emerged.10 The church leadership became more uncomfortable with Kadenge’s leadership position in an organization that was perceived to be against the government. He was conveniently edged out of full time ministry within the church and given the permission to serve the sectors—a euphemism for engaging in politics outside the church!11

What exactly were the rest of the Methodist congregations preoccupied with country-wide during this intensification of human rights abuses and declining life expectancy? What was the central theme running through the Methodist meetings and what was the prayer focus during and after the bloody elections that took place? What did Methodist leaders say during and after Operation Murambatsvina left hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes, and during the time when farmers were violently chased from their farms leading to the collapse of the agricultural industry? Where was the Methodist church when opposition leaders and judges in were thrashed in public? What was the Methodist Church’s message to the world at large concerning the crisis at hand?

The Methodists have a geographically extensive network of churches that cover all parts of the country; it is quite representative of all the tribes and races of the country, and membership is drawn from across the political divide. Thus during the crackdown on ordinary citizens and on members suspected of even belonging to the opposition political parties, many within the Methodist family country-wide were directly affected.

Toilets, Tithes and Benches

Interestingly, the focus of the Methodist community was not on the life and death issues facing the ordinary Christians and the ordinary citizens of the country. While the country was going through its worst phase as far as justice, peace and human rights are concerned, the Methodist church in Zimbabwe was busy concentrating on praying for the completion of the building of toilets and the intensification of collecting funds through tithe payments.12 The Handbook, or prayer manual, is how all the Methodists circuits compile in a prayer format what they consider to be their achievements and their concerns for the following year.13 A perusal at the prayer manual shows that within the last eight years, the church paid very little attention to the crisis, and when it did so, generally only cautiously worded language that avoided any critique of the government. The prayer manual instead reveals that the revolutionary Christ, who came to be the liberator of the captives and announced good news to the poor, is impotent within the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

An analysis of the prayers offered from 2000 to 2007 supports the above conclusion. The year 2000 was the bloodiest in political campaigning, when the regime unleashed a reign of terror on all who were suspected to be supporting the opposition. At this time there were five administrative districts of the Methodist church with a total of 49 circuits with a total number of 1535 churches/preaching points. The Prayer manual for the year 2000 reveals that not even a single circuit both in rural and in urban areas raise any prayer concerns about the evil and repression engulfing the entire country. None expressed thanks for God’s protection during the most difficult times of the country’s history and none record a prayer request for change politically and economically.

Only in the following year, 2001 did a single circuit – Kwekwe – record a prayer of thanks referencing the political situation: “…We thank God for the prevailing peace and the spirit of renewed fellowship among Christians after the June Parliamentary Elections.”14 In 2002 a new development emerged during the height of the farm invasions: Karoi circuit, situated in the district where most farmers suffered most, broke the silence with: “We pray for peace, tolerance, and willingness to forgive one another.”15 Chinhoyi Circuit in the neighboring district recorded: “We pray for peace during the coming presidential elections.”16

By 2003 the Zimbabwe crisis was deepening and more circuits were beginning to voice their concern as shown by the prayer requests. The crisis was now hurting even the direct financial operations of the church. Kadoma circuit offered the most distinct naming of the problem that occurred so far: “thanking God for giving us hope during trying times of political turmoil and the severe food shortages.”17 Kwenda circuit, while “Thank[ing] God for enabling us to work through the difficult times of drought and economic hardship,”18 made no mention of the political impasse gripping the country. Great Zimbabwe circuit, situated in Masvingo province, referred to the crisis in a thanksgiving prayer for “for the gift of life and the support [God] gave us in the economic and political difficulties.”19

By 2004 Karoi circuit was back on record again this time with an unusually explicit, hard hitting prayer. “We pray for those who have been driven from their homes and deprived of their property, those who are hungry and for the rains…”20 Because Karoi was among the most affected by the farm invasions, this prayer suggests their patience was running out with the system. Gwayi circuit, located in one of the economically depressed farming areas of Matebeleland province, whose membership is predominantly Ndebele and votes for the opposition, thanked God for “his wonderful mercies that he continued to care and guide us in the difficult economic situation.”21 This same thanksgiving prayer repeated the following year.

Bulawayo A. circuit, situated in the second largest city of Zimbabwe, among the Ndebele ethnic group that, like Gwayi, is an opposition politics stronghold, for the first time in 2004 prayed for “God’s intervention in our country’s economic hardship.”22 Gweru circuit covers the urban part of the third largest city in the country located in the Midlands province, and draws its membership from both Ndebele and Karanga ethnic groups. When the opposition 2004 won all of its parliamentary seats, Gweru circuit’s prayers only mentioned their desire for “resilience of the church during these trying times.”23

By 2004 no prayer concerns came out of Harare the capital city, which has the highest concentration of Methodists in any one city. It was only in 2005 with the impending parliamentary elections that Harare’s Mufakose circuit pleaded with God for “peaceful March 2005 General elections.”24 Harare boasts two Methodist administrative districts and is the home of the Connexional office with Connexional staff and bishops serving in various circuits scattered across the breadth of the capital city. Besides Mufakose the whole of Harare was deafeningly silent in 2004 about the whole social, economical and political meltdown gripping the country. Only one out of a total of 19 circuits in the two Harare districts with a record number of 222 churches and preaching points voiced any concern regarding the social and political situation dogging the country as a whole. This lack of mention of the crisis occurred in spite of the fact that the city of Harare itself has been enduring a major water and electricity crisis and is administered by a government-appointed commission. This commission was put in place in order to thwart the democratically elected council, led and dominated by the opposition. The church has remained mum.

In the run-up to the elections of 2005, Buhera circuit in rural Mashonaland East, the home area of the leader of the main opposition party where some gruesome political murders took place during the 2002 elections voiced gratitude for surviving yet another turbulent election campaign time. It was as if they were heaving a sigh of relief when they thanked God “for the spirit of working together enabling us to pass through the time of political disturbances.”25

By 2006 the Methodist church had increased the number of its administrative districts from 5 into 9, thus increasing the number of full time bishops in charge of the geographical areas now covering virtually all the corners of Zimbabwe. These nine bishops sit at the powerful Bishop’s Council, advising the bishop about the welfare of the church, and are automatic members of the only statutory committee in the church, the Standing Committee that has grown so powerfully over the years to usurp even the work of annual Conference.

Judging from the 2006 minutes of both the Bishops Council and the Standing Committee, it is evident that the socio-economic situation prevailing in the country was not a serious cause for concern. Now with more voices and eyes on the ground one might have hoped that the church was going to shake the foundations and make a major difference as far as the aspect of socio-political involvement was concerned, but alas the same preoccupation evident in the circuit prayers characterized the preoccupation of the district leaders as well.

In 2006 the pattern of expression in the recorded prayers that emphasized economic (not political) woes continued. For example, in the eastern province of Manicaland, Mutare circuit gave a prayer of thanks for “the divine enablement and guidance throughout the economic challenges.”26 Chihota circuit nearby also offered a thanksgiving prayer to God for “seeing us through the year during the harsh economic conditions.”27 Chikangwe circuit joined the bandwagon by offering a thanksgiving prayer and thanking God “for sustaining us through the past year amidst serious economic hardships.”28[emphasis mine] This obsession with thanksgiving prayers for the “economic situation” can be interpreted in two ways. First these prayers are a convenient way of facing the crisis without mentioning the dirty word “politics” which the Methodists leaders have done all they could to avoid. It is less harmful to talk of the crisis engulfing the nation as purely an economic one—which is a government propaganda line that blaming the crisis on perceived enemies of the State and on sanctions imposed by some Western countries on the regime for violating human rights.

The second interpretation is slightly different from the above although sharing some of its attributes. These prayers must be seen in light of the deepening crisis that was now affecting mostly the poor to the extent that it was becoming increasingly difficult even for the ministers to raise their salaries from their congregations.29 Since most circuits were by this time having a hard time raising enough to cover their budget, every passing year with books still in black was a cause for celebration. In other words, when they were giving thanks, they were not thanking God for the sake of the people out there who were enduring so much, but for the sole purpose of surviving yet another tough year of raising levies for the district and the Connexional office. The thanksgiving prayers in this regard are selfishly done—they have very little or nothing at all to do with the social and economic crisis hitting the poor out there but everything to do with keeping the circuit alive.

The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe began the year 2007 with double the number of circuits it had in the year 2000 when the country’s political crisis began to crystallize. From a mere 49 Circuits in 2000 now there were 101, with a total of 1616 local churches/ preaching points. What is telling about these innocent statistics is that while dictatorship was on full throttle, the church was growing and more personnel was being deployed around the whole country. The negative aspect of this growth is that even with such an increase in the number of circuits and preaching places, and the number of personnel on the ground very few critical voices have been heard from the Methodist clergy concerning the struggle for life.

Out of a total of these 101 circuits only 7 record prayers that showed concern beyond the preoccupation with administrative and tithing issues. Only two begin really to come out and name the crisis bedeviling the country as a matter of life and death. One can tell from the prayers that these circuits were experiencing a high death rate from within their flock and the ministers were beginning to feel the pinch as they spent more days at the cemeteries than they spent at the hospital welcoming new babies to the world.

Ndolwane circuit, situated right at the border with Botswana, spoke out about their troubles and prayed for “our circuit to remain focused on Jesus irregardless of the high death rate, economic hardship and social instability.”30 The subtext of these prayers tells a tale of the ravaging scourge of Aids and hunger claiming people in this arid region of the country, albeit in language that avoids explicit naming of the problems. It is a prayer of desperation, a prayer of a people who do not know what the future holds and who are at the edges of despair as they seek to keep faith and focus.

Silobela circuit offered a longer than usual prayer, marked by some lamentation as they also faced the prevalence of death and hardship in their doorsteps. Although it is a thanksgiving prayer, it is characterized by the foreboding sense of depression. They thank God for “His guidance, care, and concern which has led us [through] the year, in spite of the very harsh economic conditions in the country to which members of the church are not [exception(sic)] (exempted) and the general chorus of death which has become the order of the day.”31(emphasis mine)

Finally, Highlands Circuit in the city of Mutare broke ranks with the rest of the Methodist community and tackled the taboo subject that has not featured before in these prayers, though it is the number one killer disease of so many Christians. They came face to face with God and their own human frailty and gave thanks to God for enabling them to be “… able to pay school fees for orphans in our circuit, …for effective leadership development of HIV/AIDS programs.”32 What a refreshingly frank prayer in the midst of a dry wilderness!

Searching for a New Paradigm

The foregoing survey of prayer requests from 2000 to 2007 makes it quite evident that the official church leadership has not been prophetic enough regarding the crisis in Zimbabwe new ways of being Christian should be explored. A theology of involvement that prioritizes critical involvement of ordinary Christians over and above the official leaders is preferred. Several approaches can be utilized in an effort to help ordinary Christians engage the socio-economic and political context in which their faith is lived and exercised. Proposed here are just two routes that can help the church recover its prophetic role and in turn empower ordinary Christians to live victoriously against any repressive system. The first route is to make a distinction between the concept of politics and that of justice. Whereas many African Christians are not comfortable with engaging in politics, it would be of tremendous help to articulate the biblical concept of justice as part and parcel of a Christian obligation. God’s requirement that all live justly and walk humbly before the Lord must be emphasized as a central teaching in the lives of ordinary Christians. Justice is not politics but is a central concept in the life of the Christian.

The second route must be a re-interpretation and a recovery in a contextualized form of the core Christian doctrines. The lack of sociopolitical involvement can be better understood through the lack of some strong and vibrant understanding of the basic Christian doctrines.33 At present the liturgies, together with the major doctrines of the Church, are not articulated in such a way that they can challenge and empower the ordinary Christian to employ them to confront, engage, resist and face the injustice in society.34 Most of the doctrines are crafted in such a way that they prepare the Christian to get ready to go to heaven someday when they die. Moreover, these doctrines are not explicit enough on how the Christians should engage the world and its evil forces, especially the type dominant in Zimbabwe, which are not spiritual but tend to have a socio- economic and political character.

Several examples can be cited here of powerful church doctrines that if translated to every day experiences of the people, can goad people into making the reign of God a reality on earth. An anchoring of these church doctrines in the everyday lives of people has the potential to empower ordinary Christians to see the connection between faith and the rough life outside the church. Moreover, the doctrines can help the church to see a strong connection between the inseparability of the will of God in heaven and what takes place daily on earth.

But even before the doctrines are re-interpreted and taught to the Christian community, an emphasis must be laid to all new members joining the Christian community that the arena of their new found faith is the world not Heaven! This means that God’s love for the earth is as intense as God’s love for heaven. The Gospel of John states clearly that God so loved the world, not the heavens! If then, as Jesus taught his disciples to pray for God’s will to be implemented on earth (Mathew 6:10) exactly the same way it is in heaven, then it also means that God’s concern for the earth is too deep to be ignored by Christians while they are here on earth.

What is clear from the prayer of Jesus is that God’s concern is very much on earth where the socio-economic madness is taking place. God is concerned about what the people eat here and how they are governed here. God is very much concerned about what they buy and how much it cost. God is even concerned about the rights and dignity of all human beings—those from the ruling party as much as God is concerned about the lives of those who are in the opposition parties. God’s concern according to the prayer is that both those who govern and the governed must make sure that God’s will happens every day the same way it happens in heaven.

If the will of God is thwarted in this life, then it can be concluded that those who do nothing are fighting God. They have to account for why they failed God in failing to create and cultivate an environment where God’s will happens on earth as it happens in heaven. With this in mind one would have thought the church in Zimbabwe in general and the Methodists in particular will spend most of its energy preparing the Christians to bring about that reign of God here on earth than it spends on toilets and tithes.

The sad reality though is that the church is busy preparing ordinary Christians for departure for heaven. Many of the Christians are not or are very little concerned with the will of God happening here. They just want the religion that will make them feel good about heaven—even though their earthly performance is dismal! It is easy to tell the focus and preoccupation of the ordinary Christians in Zimbabwe. Beyond the scholarly analysis of the Handbook it is not hard to tell what the preoccupation of the Zimbabwean church is. One has to just see the posters and hear the most topical sermons in the church to learn where the church’s heart is.

The topics that feature most in crusades, revival meetings and all night prayer meetings where hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people gather have more to do with tithing, fasting, prayer, giving, the Holy Spirit, healing and speaking in tongues. Rarely does one find topics that address the African crisis issues such as Aids, Justice, Forgiveness, Tribalism, Economic Justice, Rape, Poverty, Human Rights and Political Violence, Hunger, Immigration, Life in the Diaspora, etc.

Had the ordinary Christians understood the moral obligation of preparing the community of faith to be partners with God in making sure God’s will begins to happen in every village and every city in Zimbabwe then the country would not be in such a deep crisis. Even the definition of sin would be different from the one that dominates the Zimbabwean religious landscape. Unfortunately, many Christians in Zimbabwe are still content with the knowledge that soon they will be singing with angels in heaven and doing God’s will in heaven even though they have not engaged socially and politically.

The question then is how can this will of God can be known and done on earth. For Christians the person and life of Jesus as attested in the Scriptures reveal the will of God on earth just as God has it happening in heaven. Our purpose on earth is revealed and fulfilled in Jesus’ short but pregnant life on earth among us. What the church teaches about Christ must not be a spiritualized version of Christ, but teach the life and person of Christ who suffered with the poor, who ate with sinners, who lifted up the lowly, who cared abut those who were hungry and not just prayed for them but gave them real bread and also healed the sick. Such a Christ is the one who attended funerals and also asked tough questions about why people had to go through so much in life.

The fact that we are created in the image of God and yet we are also products of our social and political environments can be a catalyst in helping Christians to learn that they have a critical role to play in shaping their political contexts. Christianity in Zimbabwe is at the present time struggling with the implications of such an understanding that place human beings at the center stage of changing their own political environments. The Christians are yet to understand that for positive change to occur in Zimbabwe, they as human beings have to take center stage—the Christians have to be part and parcel of the change that they pray for. What this means is that the grace of God that brings transformation in their lives and in their communities is not a cheap grace. Instead it is a grace that demands some sacrifices on the part of those who want to see God’s will happening here on earth as it is happening in heaven.

The other doctrine that has a potential of bridging the gap between faith and daily life for ordinary Christians is the doctrine of the reign of God (kingdom of God). It is this doctrine that Christians can employ as the model for our resistance and critique to any ideology and powers that be. With some critical understanding of this doctrine then it becomes clear that when Christians criticize any ideology it is not because they are trying to be politicians but because they are informed by their Christian understanding of God’s reign which is predicated on love and forgiveness. The Christians are to be always suspicious of any powers be on the basis of their understanding God’s intention for governance and leadership. What is especially clear from Christ’s teaching is that power should be exercised for serving others not for domination and self aggrandizement. The doctrine speaks to those Christians who are in influential positions in Zimbabwe and clearly challenges them to govern God’s people not as masters driving slaves at the plantations but as fellow servants of God entrusted by God to shepherd God’s people.

The depth of our common people’s pain and suffering shows that the socio-political and economic situation has reached critical levels and requires each and every citizen with a conscience to act decisively in bringing about change. The churches are therefore called upon by their very reason of existence to act as critical voices of all who are oppressed, marginalized and are brutalized by a system that cares only for the few who are well connected with the ruling class. The present levels of such immoral economic decline can not be sustained long without the people losing patience with the system that destroy their lives.

About the Author

Jimmy G. Dube, PhD. United Theological College, Harare, Zimbabwe, jamessiyaya@yahoo.com

Notes

1. The No Vote won by a margin of 54.7 % which was unprecedented in Zimbabwe’s 20-year history. For further details and breakdown of votes see, David Blair, Degrees in Violence: Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe (London: Continuum, 2003)
2. The last official engagement of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe with justice issues happened at the 1998 Conference after the first foundation to the Zimbabwean crisis was laid when the government disbursed millions of unbudgeted funds to the War Veterans Association leading to the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar. The Methodist Conference spent some time reflecting on the implications of these payouts to the economic wellbeing of the country from an economic justice perspective. The proceedings in this conference are not only startling but show a church that is not only informed but concerned and engaged with the world: “…The unfair distribution of resources should be an issue for concern in Zimbabwe…As a church, we certainly cannot afford to stand aloof and be passive onlookers…As a Methodist church, we are an affected institution since the economy is not above our heads but a part and parcel of our lives… The state of the country must be the focus of our ministry… We are called upon to make resolutions about the directions we should take as a Church. (Conference Minutes 1998, p.11-12)
3. Bishop Simbarashe Sithole during a Question and Answer Session at the Harare East Synod of the Methodist Church, 11-13 April , 2007 Rest Haven, Harare. The paradox is that the very theme of the Synod was “Called to Serve” which it can be interpreted means serving the Church not the world for Methodists!
4. The Zimbabwe We Want document, though a noble project, was compromised by the process in which it was compiled and the accusation that the State had tampered with it. Before crafting the document the Bishops had an audience with the president who lectured them on what needed to be done to turn the crisis around.
5. For the robust Roman Catholic Church’s response to the crisis see God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed pastoral letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference, issued and read out in Catholic churches on Holy Thursday, 5, April 2007.
6. Serving the sectors is a convenient route for the church to deal with a thorn in the flesh since the minister then is semi-independent and his/ her views are no longer of the church’s views.
7. www.kubatana.net
8 For further details see Christian Alliance Voice: Christian Alliance Newsletter, Issue 2 August 2006.
9 Cited in Pius Wakatema, “Christian Alliance Leads the Save Zimbabwe Campaign,” September 10, 2006. www.kubatana.net.
10. See footnote 4 above.
11. The 2005 Conference proceedings reveal a stormy Ministerial session where Bishop Kadenge was asked to clarify what was his role in this Christian Alliance. Instead of celebrating his elevation to the leadership of the organization the Church was showing signs of discomfort with such a high visibility of its own clergy member among the enemies of the State.
12. An analysis of the proceedings of the Methodist Conferences from the year 2000 to year 2006 reveals a similar pattern of official disengagement from socio-political and economic issues even though the ordinary membership of the church is directly affected and deeply wounded by the crisis.
13. The Handbook is a kind of bragging book where individual ministers record what they consider their achievements for the past year in the circuit in the following form: “we thank God for” prayer and also record the focus for the coming year/s in the form of “we pray for” prayer request.
14. Kwekwe town had experienced one of the worst election disturbances with the house of the opposition candidate petrol bombed…..
15. Methodist Church in Zimbabwe: Handbook 2006.
16. Ibid., 2003.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid.
20. Op cit., 2004.
21. Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, Handbook 2004.
22. Methodist Church in Zimbabwe: Handbook, 2004.
23. Ibid.
24. Op cit.
25. One is left with question marks concerning the period being referred to because the 2005 Handbook came out before the 2005 March Parliamentary elections. Could it be that the circuit is referring to the disturbances during the campaign period before the elections?
26. Ibid., 2006.
27. Ibid., 2006.
28. Ibid.
29. It was in the 2006 Conference that a new centralized method of remunerating ministers was adopted by Conference to take care of the uneven stipends that ministers were getting especially those in rural circuits hard hit by drought and the economic decline.
30. Handbook 2007.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.
33. No work has been done yet in Zimbabwe to contextualize the major Christian doctrine, thus leaving it locked in sterile non African trappings.
34. A casual look at the Services of Baptism/ Confirmation and Reception into Full Membership reveals a preoccupation with the questions of one becoming a Christian so as to serve God within the church. There is nothing in the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe current liturgies that brings the theology of service to the world close to the ordinary Christians, in a similar level that the United Methodist Church liturgy does on Baptism where it is explicitly required that those who want to become of the Christian faith vow to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world,…accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. (The United Methodist Hymnal, The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville: Tennessee, 2001.)

Bibliography

Blair, David. Degrees in Violence: Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe. London: Continuum, 2003

Churches in Manicaland. The Truth Will Make You Free: A Compendium of Christian Social Teaching. Churches in Manicaland. September 2006.

Dube, Jimmy G. A Socio-Political Agenda for the 21st century Zimbabwean Church: Empowering the Excluded. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006.

Hatch, Nathan O, and John H. Wigger, eds. Methodism and the Shaping of the American Culture. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Hodgson, Peter C, and Robert H. King, eds. Christian Theology: An Introduction to Its Traditions and Tasks. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

Kamete, Amin Y. Governing the Poor in Harare, Zimbabwe: Shifting Perceptions and Changing Responses. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2002.

Kriger, Norma. Guerrilla Veterans in Post-War Zimbabwe: Symbolic and Violent Politics, 1980-1987. Cambridge: University Press, 2003.

Methodist Literature Dept. Methodist Church in Zimbabwe: Handbook 2000,2001, 2002, 2003, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007.

Schreiter, Robert. Constructing Local Theologies. New York: Orbis Books, 1997.

Thomas, Owen C. Introduction to Theology. Wilton CT: Morehouse Publishing, 1983.

Wink, Walter. Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Documents and Papers

Catholic Bishop’s Conference. God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed: Pastoral Letter by the Zimabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference on the Current Crisis of Our Country. 5 April, 2007.

Christian Alliance. CA Voice: Christian Alliance Newsletter. Issue 2, August 2006.

Churches of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe We Want: Towards a National Vision for Zimbabwe. 2007







1 Comment to “Methodism and Socio-political Action in Zimbabwe: 2000-2007”
Bishop I. Paul: January 27th, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Hello Dear!
Greetings in the name of Christ. Dear we are working independtly as a Methodist after year 1970. Actually we are Methodist group from year 1856. Now we are feeling that we need to contact and should be the part of International Methodist. If you could give me chance to visit you regarding this, I shall be very thankful. Me, my team and all Pakistani Methodist people have this hope. Or if you want to visit us, You are more than welcome.
God bless you, more.
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(Short) History of South Asia’s Methodist
A missionary from( US) William Tailor came Hindustan in 1856 in Likhnow (Udh Woro Helikhand for the earlier evangelism but he could not get any place for stay there and move to Brelly). When the civil war started in Brelly he decided to went back to Lucknow . He purchased the land in 1857 by the worth of 25 Million after the separation of Hindustan India and Pakistan the lands boundary was Lahore Pakistan to Madras in India and the other side was Queta Pakistan to Rangoon (Burma).
After civil war was stopped in 1858 there was peaceful environment in Brelly, then a next missionary came named James M. Thou burn in 1870.He was invited by William Tailor for conduction seminars and conferences for Methodists Christian revival. During this revival 0.5 million people accepted Jesus Christ as their savior by Methodist Missionaries. During his arrival in this region Kaanpur, Bombey, Puna, Kolkata, Sikanderabad , Madras, Bangolor Nagpur and the other cities God’s work spread abundantly. James M. Thou burn appointed three missionary in 1879 named John E. Robinson , William F. Old, Homersy Stans send to Burma ,Maylasia, Singapore, and Philippines . After the existence of Doomanar society in American City Bostan 1879.The first lady was ezbla thoburn , and the second one DR. Calara Souvan the third Mrs Louis S. Parker and the last Mrs William Taylor , Edwin W. Parker , Frank W. Warn are also became the part of this Mission. First Indian Bishop Jaswind Rao Chitamber was Ordain and in 1904 and 0.6 million people accepted Jesus Christ and baptized(People who were baptized by Methodist faith 1904 to 1964 were strong in Methodist faith during this era till 1970 because of Methodist missionaries existence there, after this missionaries went back and Methodists Church become weak because of lack in
leadership non existence and Methodist church could not reach to others like present in Pakistan, founder of Methodist Church John Wesley had vision that all world is my parish but Pakistan cut off from his parish after 1970. After this many bishops were appointed .The three metodist church were merged on one Methodist board (named the executive board of the Methodist Church ) 10th may 1939 Methodist Appiscopal Church,Methodist appiscopal south church,Methodist protestant church. The first Indian bishop jaswind rao were pass away in 1940. After the death of jaswind rao john w robinson came. And the same time in north india bishop klamet Daniel rocky .klamet daniel rocky wrote a book In 1st September 1959 in karachi on indus river conference. Book named was Education and principle of south Asia’s Methodist. According to this book after the partition Methodists lands will be taken over charge by the executive Board of the Methodist Church in India as well as Pakistan.

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