ANGLICAN CHURCH OF SOUTHERN AFRICA ELECTS FIRST WOMAN TO BE A BISHOP
‘The election of Revd Ellinah Wamukoya as Bishop of Swaziland, the first woman to be a Bishop in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, is a great joy’ said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. ‘When it was announced that she had received the necessary votes, there was great rejoicing both that a person of undeniable skills and personal qualities had been chosen, and that it was Ellinah herself, who obviously commands considerable respect and affection across the Diocese of Swaziland.’
Revd Wamukoya was one of five nominated candidates. She obtained the necessary two-thirds majority among both clergy and laity in the twelfth ballot, as the electoral assembly met late into the evening of 18 July. ‘It is rather fitting that the Diocese of Swaziland should elect our first woman to be a Bishop, since it was here, 20 years ago, that, amidst both tears and joy, our Provincial Synod agreed that both the priesthood and episcopate should be open to both men and women’ the Archbishop noted. ‘We have waited a long time for this moment!’
With a Master’s degree in Town and Regional Planning, Revd Wamukoya, aged 61, was until recently the Town Clerk of Manzini Municipal Council, overseeing an organisation with some 380 employees, having previously served as the City Planner. She returned to Swaziland in 1990, having worked as a Planning Officer for the Government of Kenya from 1978 to 1990. She met her Kenyan husband, Okwaro Henry Wamukoya when, after completing a BA in Geography and African Languages at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, she furthered her studies in the Netherlands. The couple have three married adult children, and a fourth younger child.
Having long been active in the Anglican church, she was ordained in 2005, and has served as assistant priest, then priest-in-charge, at UNISWA (the University of Swaziland). Bringing her planning and people skills to bear, in the difficult financial situation of a country where so many live in considerable poverty, she helped her congregation develop a strategic plan, which has led to their numbers growing beyond staff and students to include also members of the surrounding community. In this, she has been a firm believer in developing lay ministry across the life of the church. ‘She is someone who will set a direction, both operational and spiritual, and develop a vision for the future’ said a friend, of her potential to provide leadership as a Bishop. ‘She is a restorer of hope, faith and love in the hearts of God’s followers, who has helped believers to connect to Christ, the church and their communities.’
Her election must now be confirmed by the Synod of Bishops. With further episcopal elections within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa due before the end of the year, it is expected that all the new bishops will be consecrated at a service early in 2013.
Revd Wamukoya is set to succeed the Rt Revd Meshak Mabuza, who retired at the end of 2011, as the fifth Bishop of Swaziland, the Diocese having been created in 1968. Both Diocese and country have faced difficult times recently, with the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa frequently calling for political reform, and for open dialogue between government and civil society to decide the nation’s future. ‘We ask for the prayers of all for Revd Ellinah and her family, as she prepares to take on this new and particularly challenging calling, to lead the Diocese of Swaziland into a new chapter’ said Dr Makgoba, ‘yet we are confident that wherever God calls, he also equips and provides.’
‘I am humbled by the trust and confidence placed on me by the people of Swaziland, a person like me of humble beginnings’ said Revd Wamukoya after the election. ‘My prayer is to be able to listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit in everything I do. My vision is to see that the people of God are restored and transformed, in order for them to be a church in mission, for, as it is said, “a church that does not reach out, passes out”.’
Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
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