HARARE (AFP) — Axed Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga, an ally of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, has formed a splinter church after his ousting in a dispute over homosexuality, a state weekly reported Sunday.
"History has been made," The Sunday Mail quoted Kunonga as telling his supporters in the capital.
"We have formed our own province. It has been painful and sorrowful but out of that came the joy of our province."
He said the new entity would be known as the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe, with five dioceses in and around Harare.
Kunonga, a vocal backer of Mugabe's controversial land reforms, attempted to pull his Harare diocese out of the Anglican Church's Province of Central Africa over its stance on homosexuality.
He fell out with the province, comprising Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, for failing to condemn the ordination of gay bishops.
"There is no bishop in the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe whom I can clearly say has sympathised, indulged or compromised in homosexuality and we follow the scriptures. We refuse to embrace homosexuality," the Sunday Mail quoted him as saying.
Following his decision to quit the province, the Anglican church withdrew his licence and appointed Sebastian Bakare as bishop.
But Kunonga insisted he was the legitimate head of the diocese, splitting it in two factions that have in recent weeks engaged in fisticuffs in a dispute over church property.
Last week, police were called in to oversee the Kunonga and Bakare factions worship in different rooms of the main Harare cathedral.
Kunonga, who has officiated at various state functions and at Mugabe's swearing-in in 2002, has praised the much-maligned Zimbabwean leader as "a true son of God".
He is on the list of Mugabe allies banned from travelling to the United States under sanctions imposed after 2002 presidential elections widely denounced as rigged.
Mugabe, a Catholic, is also known for an anti-gay stance, having once referred to gays and lesbians as "worse than pigs and dogs." He has called Kunonga "my spiritual father".
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