Kenya prepares for its first women bishop

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala has written to the bishops of the Anglican Church of Kenya asking that they approve amendments to the language of the church’s constitution erasing any doubts that women priests are eligible for election to the episcopate.

The Archbishop’s remarks come in the aftermath of the vote by General Synod last week to permit the consecration of women bishops – a move supported by the Kenyan Church.

In 1980 the ACK amended its constitution to permit women priests and the first were ordained in 1990. Women priests have stood for election as bishops in recent years in the Dioceses of Mumias and Kirinyaga, and one clergy woman is expected to stand for election as Bishop in Embu later this year. There are approximately 300 women clergy in the ACK including 10 canons and the church’s provincial secretary, Rosemary Mbogo

Archbishop Wabukala told the Sunday Nation the grammar of the constitution needed to be cleaned up. “In Clause Four, bishop is exclusively referred to as male while Clause Five on priests recognises that both men and women can be priests.”

He said the reason for the revisions was that “people in this country are so litigious. We can end up with an elected woman bishop and then someone moves to court to challenge such an election. There is need to reach a consensus among all the dioceses on the way forward. As a church, we really value the input and role of women leaders.”

The Bishop of Maseno West and Dean of the AKC, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Wasonga said the Kenyan church understood the ministry to be a functional office. “Ministry belongs to all who are baptised, be they men or women, and as such no one can deny the other an opportunity to serve in whatever capacity.”

“What is necessary is the calling and training for those positions. As we speak, deacons are both male and female. Everybody will find space in the church and the Bible continually affirms such roles in the ministry,” Bishop Wasonga said, adding that when the current Bishop of Embu retires at year’s end, “We may be lucky to get the first woman bishop there.”

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