7:30 P.M. April 8, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa
Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa, who helped lead Zimbabwe to majority
rule, has died. He was 84.
The bishop died April 8 in his home in Borrowdale, a suburb of
Harare, Zimbabwe. He had been battling cancer.
Muzorewa was a trailblazer as one of the first African United
Methodist bishops, and he emerged as a national leader during his
country’s struggle toward full independence.
“He made a great contribution to Zimbabwe,” said retired Bishop
Herbert Skeete of Riverdale, N.Y., who worked with Muzorewa.
Muzorewa “was one of the 20th century’s great champions for the
liberation of people in Africa, especially his homeland of Zimbabwe,”
said Thomas Kemper, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of
“His struggle to loose the chains of colonialism distinguishes him in
a special way,” Kemper said. “He served both the church and his
emerging nation with a sense of purpose and determination at a time of
transition and uncertainty.”
Retired Bishop Emilio DeCarvalho of Luanda, Angola, remembered
Muzorewa as an advocate for ministry in Africa.
“He worked very hard with the other bishops for the strengthening of
The United Methodist Church in Africa. We are deeply sorry for his loss.
The church in Africa will miss him very much, and in Zimbabwe in
particular,” DeCarvalho said.
Retired Bishop Felton E. May described the bishop and former prime
minister as a “personification of Christ resurrection and power with a
life of being one of God’s sons.” Bishop May recalled Muzorewa quoting
the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a political rally at Old
Mutare, Zimbabwe:“We will live together as sisters and brothers or die
together as fools.”
“He avoided acts of social and political foolishness and demonstrated
what it meant to be a man of integrity,” said May. “May God’s
resurrection power firmly anchor him in the hearts of his global family
as God’s heavenly hosts shout ‘Hallelujah’ for his earthly journey and
his heavenly rest.”
Eldest of nine
Muzorewa would have been 85 on April 14. He was born the eldest of
nine children in Old Umtali, during the colonial era when his country
was known as Rhodesia. He was educated at Methodist schools in
Chinyadza, Old Mutare and Nyadire and became a schoolteacher in 1944.
That same year, he began to preach and became a lay evangelist. His
interest in ministry led him to the Theological School at Old Mutare
Ordained a deacon by Bishop Newell Booth and elder by Bishop Ralph
Dodge, Muzorewa joined the Rhodesia Annual Conference in 1956. After
graduating from Hartzell Theological School, he became assistant
conference director of evangelism and pastor of a 16-point circuit. He
continued his studies in 1958 at the Missouri School of Religion in
Columbia, Mo., followed by Central Methodist College and Scarritt
College, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, respectively.
He has honorary degrees from several colleges and a seminary.
Bishop Muzorewa says 'the world is ripe for harvest' and now is the time
to win people to Christ during a 2005 celebration celebrating his 60
years of ministry.
A UMNS file photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.
View in Photo Gallery
Muzorewa’s career in ministry included
serving as pastor and station chairperson at Old Mutare Mission. He
became conference director of youth in 1965, and then youth secretary of
the Christian Council and traveling secretary of the Student Christian
Movement the next year.
Advocate for independence
In 1968, Muzorewa was elected bishop and assigned to the Zimbabwe
Area by The United Methodist Church’s Africa Central Conference.
Skeete described his friend as a great supporter of The United
Methodist Church. “He was a valiant witness for the continent of Africa
in the Council of Bishops. This was at a time when there were few
African representatives in the Council of Bishops. He was highly
respected by his peers, especially those who had experienced ministry in
Muzorewa became a leading figure in his country’s struggle for
majority rule, serving as the head of the United African National
Council. During a time of violence and tension, Muzorewa was involved in
peace talks with Ian Smith, Rhodesia’s prime minister. In 1979, as the
country transitioned to majority rule, Muzorewa was elected prime
minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, but it was a role he held for less than a
year. Civil war raged in the country, and new elections were held in
1980 as the result of peace negotiations.
Robert Mugabe emerged as the victor in those elections and has
retained power ever since. In 1983, Muzorewa was detained for 10 months
without trial by the government, but later said he had forgiven those
Muzorewa described his experiences and Zimbabwe’s journey to
independence in his autobiography, “Rise Up and Walk.”
Said Kemper: “I pray that the spirit of the struggle for freedom he
embodied will remain alive in Zimbabwe.”
The bishop retired Sept. 1, 1992. The Bishop A.T. Muzorewa Evangelism
Foundation was launched in 2005 in Old Mutare, at a celebration of the
bishop’s 60 years in ministry.
Bishop Muzorewa, in white cassock and red stole, celebrates the 10th
anniversary of Africa University in 2002.
A UMNS file photo by Mike
View in Photo Gallery
At that celebration, Zimbabwe Bishop Eben
Nhiwatiwa described Muzorewa as “one of the greatest preachers our
church has ever had.”
Muzorewa himself exhorted his listeners to evangelize.
“In spite of the poor economy, the drought, the economic hardships,
go and evangelize. In the face of global terror, go and evangelize,” he
said, in a UMNS report of the event. “Make no apologies for evangelizing
because it is Jesus’ commandment and mission.”
Muzorewa’s wife Maggie, whom he married in 1951, died in July 2009.
They were the parents of five children and the grandparents of five
*Mudambanuki and Tanton are on staff at United Methodist
News media contact: Tafadzwa Mudambanuki or Tim Tanton, Nashville,
Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.