- Associated Press - Sunday, October 9, 2011

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A breakaway Anglican bishop and his supporters demonstrated Sunday outside Harare’s main cathedral against a visit by the worldwide head of the Anglican church to Zimbabwe.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is visiting Zimbabwe amid a bitter dispute between the breakaway Anglican bishop and mainstream Anglican church worshippers.

Archbishop Williams was scheduled to hold a service at a city stadium Sunday afternoon.

Breakaway Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga, a loyalist of longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe, was excommunicated in 2007 by the main Anglican Province of Central Africa and the worldwide head of the church. He was accused of inciting violence in sermons supporting Mr. Mugabe’s party.

Mr. Kunonga insists he split from the Anglican church because of its position on gay marriage.

Leaders of the global Anglican Communion have condemned gay relationships as a violation of Scripture. However, the Anglican Communion is loosely organized without one authoritative leader such as a pope, so some individual provinces have decided on their own that they should move toward accepting same-gender unions.

Mr. Mugabe is a bitter critic of homosexuality.

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been divided since Mr. Kunonga’s excommunication. He has taken over the main cathedral, schools and the church’s bank accounts.

The schism in the church has left mainstream Anglicans without places of worship, and they have experienced intimidation and alleged threats of violence.

Last month, Mr. Kunonga took over Shearly Cripps orphanage, which is home to at least 80 children and named after its founder, an Anglo-American missionary who died in 1952.

A flawed ruling in August by Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court allowed Mr. Kunonga to retain control of Anglican properties until a court appeal by the mainstream Anglican church is resolved. That ruling was made by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who, like Mr. Kunonga, is an open supporter of Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

“The property belongs to us because of the court judgments, Mugabe was not there in courts when we won,” Mr. Kunonga said when asked whether the ruling was politically motivated.

Mr. Kunonga led the demonstrations Sunday because he said Archbishop Williams’ visit to Zimbabwe is a “crusade for gays.”

“This is a demonstration against homosexuality. I told people to come and demonstrate if they wanted,” Mr. Kunonga said. “Rowan Williams erred by accepting homosexuality and that has broken up the church all over.”

The archbishop is expected to meet Mr. Mugabe on Monday to discuss an end to the disruptions.

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