Malawi welcomes new head of Anglican church

Blantyre, Malawi, Nov. 9 (Newstime Africa) – Malawi’s one million Anglicans have welcomed the election the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the bishop of Durham. “It’s exciting news for Anglicans in Malawi,” said Bishop Brighton Malasa, the chairman of the Anglican church in Malawi and the head of the Diocese of Upper Shire. “I have interacted with the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby personally; he is a good man, a humble person, so cool, I think he himself must be most humbled by this appointment.”

Justin Welby new Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop Malasa said the global Anglican communion is excited because the 56-year-old prelate is new as bishop. The former oil executive is only a year old as head of the Church of England’s fourth most senior post. “Others are calling it ‘risk taking’ to have such a fresh face to head the global church but that’s how God works,” said Malasa in a telephone interview from his base in the eastern district of Zomba.

He said the church was “orphaned” after Rowan Williams announced his retirement after ten years at the helm of the church. Williams officially steps down as Archbishop of Canterbury in December. “The archbishop is a symbol of unity in the church,” said Malasa.

He said Welby comes during a crucial time “especially during this time when the church is going through various challenges”. He said the new Archbishop of Canterbury has to grapple with the controversy surrounding ordination of homosexuals and women as priests or bishops in the church, Malawi’s third largest after Catholics and Presbyterians.

The Malawi Anglican church was divided when a pro-gay British prelate, Nicholas Henderson, was appointed to head a diocese in the largely conservative southern African country. His appointment was reversed after protracted protests.

“He has actively demonstrated that he was not of sound faith – that’s what the Court of Confirmation decided,” Archbishop emeritus Bernard Malango, who was the head of the Anglican Church in central Africa, said of Henderson’s rejection.
Malawi has some of the world’s harshest homophobic laws. Under unnatural acts, gross indecency and carnal knowledge against the order of nature laws one can get up to 14 years in jail on conviction.

A magistrate handed down what he dubbed a ‘scary sentence’ of 14 years to Malawi’s first openly gay couple in May 2010 after keeping them in jail for five months without bail when they held a traditional engagement ceremony in December 2010. It had to take United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon intervention to force the late president Bingu wa Mutharika to order presidential pardon for Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza.(rt)


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