Williams backs Zimbabwe's Anglicans
The Archbishop of Canterbury praised worshippers in Zimbabwe for being courageous in the face of a bitter dispute between mainstream Anglicans and a breakaway group.
During a pastoral visit to central Africa, Dr Rowan Williams said that Anglican worshippers are constantly "tortured by uncertainty and risk of attack" and have endured "mindless and Godless assaults," in the African country.
Zimbabwe's Anglican Church has been divided since 2007 when Nolbert Kunonga, the former bishop of Harare, the capital of the country, split from the Anglican province of central Africa citing opposition to the ordination of gay priests.
Kunonga has since declared himself Archbishop of Harare in place of the bishop recognised by the rest of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Chad Gandiya, and has seized church property including the cathedral.
The schism in the church has left mainstream Anglicans without places of worship and they have experienced intimidation and alleged threats of violence, according to reports.
During a sermon given to 15,000 worshippers at a sports stadium in the capital, Dr Williams said: "You know very well, dear brothers and sisters, what it means to have doors locked in your faces by those who claim the name of Christians and Anglicans.
"You know how those who by their greed and violence have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals of this country. But you also know what Jesus' parable teaches us so powerfully - that the will of God to invite people to his feast is so strong that it can triumph even over these mindless and Godless assaults."
The spiritual leader said the worshippers had been "active and courageous" in recent years, adding: "In your faith and endurance, you have kept your eyes on that open door when the doors of your own churches have been shut against you. You have discovered that it is not the buildings that make a true church but the spiritual foundations on which your lives are built."
Kunonga, who has been excommunicated, and his supporters demonstrated outside Harare's main cathedral against Dr Williams's visit, according to reports.
Dr Williams is expected to meet Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as part of his trip to Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia.