Timothy Neill, a prominent Anglican priest in Zimbabwe and vocal critic of the Mugabe government, has announced that he is cutting all links with the Anglican church in Zimbabwe at the beginning of July.

In an interview with Ecumenical News International, Neill also called on the international community to force Zimbabwe's controversial leader, President Robert Mugabe, out of office at the end of his current term next year. "To me, this man [Robert Mugabe] is a bully, and Zimbabweans need others to help us get the bully off us," Neill said. "It's like at school, you need the help of others to deal with a bully."

He added that the country was slowly drifting towards civil war. "The trouble with that is you don't recover afterwards. It will take years," said Neill.

The 47-year-old white Zimbabwean clergyman now intends to take up other work. While remaining an Anglican, he is cutting ties with the church in his own country as a protest over the recent election of Nolbert Kunonga, a 49-year-old black priest, as Bishop of Harare. Neill, who had also been a candidate for the position, said he did not recognize Kunonga as bishop because his nomination had violated Canon Law.

"My last service will be on the 1st of July," said Neill. "I have already told the diocese's standing committee. Thereafter I will pursue human rights work or leave the country." He said he would move out of St Luke's Church in Greendale, Harare, where he has ministered to an 800-member mainly black congregation since 1985.

He said he was moving into his parents' house in Kambanji, about 10 miles outside Harare. "It's very sad," the priest said. "At my last service, I am going to cry. You can imagine leaving after 16 years at the parish."

Neill was removed as vicar-general ...

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