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Zimbabwe gets first woman priest, more than 12 000 km away in New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND – Nyasha Gumbeze has journeyed more than 12,000 kilometres to be accepted in a role she says she was born to do. 

Nyasha Gumbeze
Nyasha Gumbeze

When the Lynfield Community Church minister was first ordained by the Anglican Church in New Zealand four years ago she was breaking new ground as a female Zimbabwean minister.

It was upon discovering women were not accepted as Anglican ministers in Zimbabwe that Ms Gumbeze made the decision to leave her family behind to fulfil her calling.

“When I grew up I had never seen a woman priest but it never crossed my mind that there were professions that women weren’t allowed to do,” she says.

“For someone who is so strong on social issues it bothered me. I thought this was an injustice – if I would like this and I believe God wants me to do this, who are these men to tell me I can’t?”

She moved to Auckland with her husband and young son 10 years ago but her mother and siblings still remain in Zimbabwe.

“They know what I’m doing and, of course, they think it’s brave and courageous. Even other Zimbabwean women look at it as groundbreaking.”

Ms Gumbeze took over the interdenominational and multicultural congregation at Lynfield Community Church in February this year. It is the small Lynfield church’s inclusiveness which first drew her to the parish.Nyasha Gumbeze

“That’s what I’ve always desired in a church, where we can grow the face of Auckland because that’s what the face of Auckland is like, where you’ve got everyone of all cultures. I want to be able to look in five years to see I have been able to grow a church that will be able to grow its own leaders.”

Growing up surrounded by poverty and suffering she always had a desire to do something to help other people. She hopes to influence change in the Zimbabwean Anglican Church’s stance on female clergy from her Lynfield parish.

“Going back to Zimbabwe as a woman priest they could not accept me so every once in a while I say what I think. They are missing out if they leave out the voice of women in the building of the church. I think women bring some very powerful insights, emotion and passion to the table.”

In Africa, it is the women and children who fill the churches, she says.

“Who leads the church? The men. But the churches are built by the women and they need the opportunity to lead as well.”

The Anglican Bishop of Auckland Ross Bay says the New Zealand Anglican Church has ordained women since 1977.

“It is part of our normative experience here now. Many of our parishes are led by women clergy. Nyasha’s presence has offered a new and enriching contribution to our multicultural experience within the Auckland Anglican Church.” Fairfax NZ News

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