Wednesday 22 November 2023



Two United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe members have filed a High Court petition against their leader, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa over their opposing views on homosexuality and to compel him to retire.

The petitioners, Mr Peter Musuka of the Chisipite Circuit in Harare East District of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference and Mr Kelvin Chitowo of the Chinzanga Circuit in the Mutoko–Mudzi District under the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference, are the first and second applicants, respectively.

According to High Court documents, the two applicants submitted a court application on November 9, under case number HCH7292/23 through their legal representatives, Hofisi & Partners Commercial Attorneys. The application seeks two declaratory orders and a prohibitory interdict.

In their founding affidavit, jointly signed by Mr Musuka and Mr Chitowo, the two church members request that the High Court declares the bishop’s continued tenure illegal. They allege that he is in violation of paragraph 408 of the church’s Book of Discipline, which serves as the church’s constitution, mandating a bishop’s retirement upon reaching the age of 68 years.

In their second declaratory order, the applicants seek a High Court ruling that grants their local churches a limited right to disaffiliate, up to December 31, as per the newly- introduced paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline, which was inserted through the 2019 addendum.

The paragraph allows a local church to vote to disaffiliate or leave the church by December 31, if it disagrees with the practice of homosexuality.

The two applicants maintain that their local churches have the right to vote on disaffiliation due to concerns surrounding homosexuality, with a deadline of December 31. They assert that Bishop Nhiwatiwa is obstructing this right and allege that the deadline is rapidly approaching.

Through the prohibitory interdict, the applicants are seeking a High Court order restraining Bishop Nhiwatiwa from impeding their local churches and other United Methodist churches in Zimbabwe from exercising their right to disaffiliate. They demand that he refrain from interfering with the disaffiliation vote or process.

Mr Musuka asserts that the bishop is currently 74 years old, having been appointed in 2004 when he was 55.

He contends that Bishop Nhiwatiwa is unlawfully holding onto his position. According to paragraph 408(1) of the Book of Discipline, which governs mandatory retirement, the bishop should have retired.

Mr Musuka claims in one of his statements that “the true reason respondent (the bishop) is not retiring is that he is backing homosexuality to appease his church superiors in the Western world, particularly in the United States of America.”

On disaffiliation, Mr Musuka submitted: “It is not a secret that in the United Methodist Church there is documented disagreement over the practice of homosexuality in the church. Many like me are against it while there are some in other (United Methodist) churches particularly in the western world such as the United States who support the practice”.

The difference in opinion gave rise to two main factions within the United Methodist Church, namely the traditionalists or conservative faction and the liberal or Continuing United Methodist Church faction. The traditionalists are against homosexuality.

They are against the intended amendment of the church’s Book of Discipline to accommodate the practice of homosexuality by those who identify themselves as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer). On the other hand, the liberal supports the practice of homosexuality.

Church members in Zimbabwe are reportedly worried that after December 31, homosexuality will be accepted as normal in the church.

“I am of the firm belief that homosexuality is morally wrong. It is against public interest. It is also illegal in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe. Promoting it in Zimbabwe amounts to supporting violation of the law,” argued Mr Musuka. Herald


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