(ACNS) At a lawfully constituted Elective Assembly of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) in August 2009, at which the majority of electors present were from the Diocese of Lake Malawi, over two thirds of the voters were in favour of the Revd Francis Kaulanda being appointed bishop of that Diocese.
The ecclesiastical laws insist that despite a vote in favour of the appointment of a person as bishop notice of the recommendation has to be affixed to the Cathedral door and other churches and proclaimed during two consecutive Sundays to give everyone in the parishes the opportunity to lodge any objections. The grounds of the objections are specified in the church laws. No objections were forthcoming.
To ensure transparency and give a final chance to come forward with specified objections, a Court of Confirmation is convened consisting of the bishops of the CPCA (Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) or their commissaries. It is an Open Court to determine the eligibility of the recommended bishop. Anyone can appear to oppose the confirmation of the election of such person as a bishop of the Anglican Communion Worldwide. The confirmation can be held at any convenient place in any of the four countries mentioned above.
The Dean of the CPCA chose Lilongwe for the venue and gave notice accordingly. The court was lawfully convened on the 22nd September 2009. Various written objections had been lodged. The court called for the opposers to present themselves to give evidence.
The first witness was Mr Charles Wemba of Lingadzi Parish. Instead of giving evidence as he was entitled to he presented the court with an injunction order given in the High Court, Lilongwe, on 22nd September ”“ the date of the sitting of the confirmation Court. The order refers to an affidavit which was not served on the Defendant named as The Registered Trustees of the Church of the Province of Central Africa. The plaintiff is named as Charles Wemba and 149 others. It will be interesting to learn how the registrar/judge of the High Court came to be satisfied that there were 149 other plaintiffs and that they were all represented by Wemba. Giving false evidence to a court is a serious offence.
On being questioned Wemba stated he and his legal counsel were very familiar with the Canons (laws) of the Diocese. He explained the High Court action was brought against the CPCA trustees as they are responsible for the convening of the Court. It was pointed out they are not and not one trustee of the CPCA attends a Court of Confirmation. Wemba said he had not received an invitation to be present as an objector. It was pointed out the Canons do not provide invitations but allow objectors to appear before its Court of Confirmation. Wemba accepted that this was an Open Court and that he could in fact have presented his objections without the need for an injunction.
The injunction orders that the trustees of the CPCA and “others whatsoever” be restrained from confirming Bishop-Elect Francis Kaulanda “until the objections raised by the plaintiffs (Wemba and the 149 people he alleges he represents) are sufficiently disposed of in Open Court. As no objections are contained in the order the Court of Confirmation assumed they were the same as those contained in a letter of 17th August 2009 which cites Wemba as one of the objectors giving notice in terms of Canon 7.4 which sets the grounds available for objection. Wemba stated that the assumption was correct and he was aware of the letter written over a month prior to the present hearing.
The Court of Confirmation suggested that as Wemba was prepared to give evidence he should obtain a letter from his lawyer agreeing that the injunction be removed; that the Court of Confirmation is an “Open Court” which conforms with the wording of the injunction order; that Wemba and his witnesses could give evidence in respect of the written objections already with the Court of Confirmation; and that adopting this procedure would not be construed as contempt of court.
Wemba and one other left the venue to speak to their lawyer. They soon returned to state that no letter would be forthcoming and to ignore the injunction was contempt of court. He and his witnesses would therefore not give evidence and were then asked to leave.
At this point several persons came forward. They said they believed their names were put forward as supporting the objections whereas they did not and they requested their names to be removed from the list of plaintiffs. They were in favour of the election of Kaulanda as bishop. They submitted written statements to the Court of Confirmation.
The Court considered the situation and the objections in the letter of the 17th August. It also considered the considerable expense of convening the court. It took cognisance of the fact that Wemba and his witnesses had refused to give evidence before the Open Court as required by the High Court.
Furthermore it commented that strictly speaking the civil court had no jurisdiction over a pastoral ecumenical, ecclesiastical matter and had he wished to do so the Dean of the CPCA could have held the Court of Confirmation for instance in Botswana or Zambia because the CPCA is multi-national and the election of or the prevention of the election of an Anglican bishop is not within the domain of the civil court. The election, wherever it takes place, is the elevation of a priest to the World Wide Communion of bishops and is not the concern of only one diocese.
The Court of Confirmation resolved that:
1. If on the facts stated above the High Court of Malawi accepts that Wemba and company failed to take the opportunity to give evidence in an Open Court and that nevertheless the written objections were placed before the Court of Confirmation and sufficiently disposed of, then this Court confirms the election of Francis Kaulanda as the duly elected Bishop of Lake Malawi; but
2. If the High Court of Malawi disagrees with 1 above the Court of Confirmation hereby postpones the matter indefinitely while reserving its rights in every respect relating to this matter.
Diocese of Northern Malawi
In same Court, the issue related to the confirmation of the bishop-elect of Northern Malawi was deferred to a later date because the opposers were unable to appear before the Court.
Bishop Albert Chama Dean of the Province
Bishop William Mchombo Acting Provincial Secretary