The Anglican Church in Uganda is ready to ordain Female Bishops, a move that could usher in the most substantial change to the highest order of ministry in Uganda.
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, The Most Rev Dr Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, reiterated the call during the Easter Sunday Service at All Saints’ Cathedral, Kampala as he was reflecting on the role of women in the Church.
He recollected that women were the first people to see the risen Lord, which makes them the very first evangelists in biblical history.
He adds that women have put all their efforts right from the family ministry to several other roles, despite the obstacles that threatened their elevation.
Archbishop Kaziimba noted that in the secular world women have already shown potential in rising to all high offices and have served well, an indication that they can as well be trusted with high offices in the Church.
“The time is ripe, these females have served well everywhere they have been deployed. Personally, I am impressed by them. They can certainly make good bishops if it’s the will of God,” the Archbishop reaffirmed during a side interview at the end of the service.
He noted that the leadership of the Church of Uganda is not opposed to women bishops. although he expressed worry that there is a movement, which includes women, that put a moratorium on female bishops.
The words and thinking of the Archbishop on the issue have left many churchgoers happy with those in attendance clapping in support of the suggestion.
But, these must have been most welcomed by the three women priests who were behind the altar at that very moment including Rev. Canon Dr Rebecca Margaret Nyegenye, the provost of All Saints Cathedral, Kampala, one of the highest-ranking female priests in the Church of Uganda, says ordaining a female bishop is long overdue.
According to her, the Church has produced female clergy most of whom have exhibited the potential to take on the role.
The provost says that regardless of their gender, all ministers in God’s Church deserve to be given equal opportunities while deciding who to take any role in the Church so long as they meet the set requirements.
Many Anglican provinces across the world have already opened up to the women to be ordained bishops.
For instance, last year, the Anglican Church in Kenya approved Emily Awino Onyango was appointed Bishop in the Diocese of Bondo becoming the first female Anglican bishop in the east and central Africa.
Uganda Radio Network has reliably learnt that previously, several females including but not limited to Rev. Canon Janet Muhindo and Rev. Canon Suzan Olwa have over the years applied to become bishops but their names were not considered for the episcopate by the House of Bishops.
Eddie Kwizera Wagahungu, a Member of Parliament for Bukimbiri County and parishioner at all saint’s Cathedral, notes many Church leaders have for so long avoided the discussion of having a female Bishop.
To him, the pronouncement by the Archbishop is a good indicator reminding the House of Bishops that serving God is not limited only to men.
Victoria Kiko, another parishioner at All Saints Cathedral, also welcomed the idea of having a female Bishop noting that ladies have already shown potential in ministering and therefore accepting them to lead such an office has been long overdue.
The Archbishop’s remarks open a long debate that was ignited by the late Bishop Festo Kivengere of Kigezi Diocese who fought tooth and nail to have female ordained women as priests nearly a decade before their mother Church of England did.
Kivengere defied all odds and shut down the opposing voices from many conservative Christians, and the House of Bishops itself, to ordain the first four female deacons in 1972.
He crowned the fight in 1983 by ordaining the first women priests in Uganda- they were three of them. But the road remained rough for women clergy in ministry.
“Most women served on this rank for decades because women couldn’t be ordained. Rev Prudence Kaddu, for example, one of the first females to train in Theology, was commissioned on November 12, 1967, and ordained deacon in December 1978. But Kaddu has only ordained priest in 1990, 24 years after her training,” noted Rev Diana Nkesiga, one of the ladies who have risen through the ranks in Church service in an interview conducted ten years ago.
Writing for the Uganda Church Association newsletter in 2014, Rev Amos Kasibate noted that reasons used to oppose the ordination of women to the priesthood or their appointment as bishops are based on a particular interpretation of the Bible and orthodoxy or tradition.
“It was argued, for example, that Jesus’ Twelve Apostles were all men and that they are representative of ordained ministry in the Church. Some have used texts in the New Testament to suggest that women should not have authority as a priest or bishops. Another hindrance was fear that ordaining women as bishops would cause a split in the Church…” Rev Kasibate noted.