Bishop John Simalenga RIP
We received the sad news of the sudden death of Bishop John Simalenga – Bishop of South Western Tanganyika yesterday. Revd Dr Dickson Chilongani, Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Tanzania. writes:
Our beloved bishop John Simalenga passed away this morning 24th November 2013 at 5.00 am at his house after suffering for a short while. John sensed that he had malaria last night after feeling a fever. When he went to the diocesan dispensary, he was diagnosed with malaria, but also his sugar level and blood pressure were quite high. After receiving treatment, he was released to go home and rest. He died early morning.
His funeral will be on Thursday November 28 and we remember him in our prayers.
Revd Dr Phil Groves pays tribute to Bishop John – a long term friend of Continuing Indaba
Bishop John participated in the first theological hub meeting of Continuing Indaba in Limuru, Kenya in February 2009. The meeting was facilitated by Prof Mombo and Prof Galgalo of the University and attended by theologians from Kenya and Tanzania including Bishop Moses of Mbeere. We met at the invitation of Archbishop Nzimbi.
We remember Bishop John’s analysis of the Anglican Communion. He taught us that the fractures and divides visible in the leaves and the branches, are usually a problem in the roots. The divides in the Anglican Communion are not just between provinces, but in the lives of our dioceses and parishes. They are solved not by treating the leaves but by examining the roots of the problems.
Bishop Simalenga knew division in his own diocese. He was first elected bishop in 1998 but his election was contested by a significant party within the diocese who raised a rabble severely beating him, abusing Canon Mtingele and others perceived to be on his side. The violence led to a standoff and the bishops appointing a white former missionary to the role. The effect was to paper over the conflict but not to remove the sense of division. The White bishop retired in 2008 and again Bishop Simalenga was elected – indeed he was consecrated on the way to the Lambeth Conference.
On his return to the Diocese he sought to transform the conflict and to seek out the reasons for the divisions within the diocese, building relationships and enabling fresh starts.
Following on from the Limuru Conference we invited Bishop John to London and to Edinburgh to assist in the design of the Continuing Indaba Pilot Conversations. His contribution in design was significant and was always the sense that reconciliation needed to be localised. It is this legacy that is being lived out. The enthusiasm for Continuing Indaba in many dioceses within the Communion has been lived out in dioceses, deaneries and parishes as well as between them. The event of reconciliation in Mbeere, the new way of being church in Saldanha Bay and the Diocesan Indaba in New York are all in line with his vision of transformation.
Bishop John worked with Alice Mogwe at the Convenors meeting for the Ho, Mbeere, Saldanha Bay Pilot conversation and with Cecelia at the facilitators training. However, he was unable to meet the ongoing commitments to the conversations due to pressure of work in Tanzania. He maintained a close eye on Continuing Indaba and was a firm believer in the models he had helped to shape.
We will miss Bishop John as a friend and as a fellow traveller. We pray for him, his family and for the Diocese of South Western Tanganyika.