West African church consecrates a new bishop for The Gambia

James Odico consecrated 7th Bishop of the Diocese of Gambia on 24 Jan 2016 at St Mary’s Cathedral in Banjul

The Rev. Canon James Allen Yaw Odico has been consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Gambia at a ceremony held on 24 Jan 2016 at St Mary’s Cathedral in Banjul led by the Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, the Most Rev. Daniel Yinka Sarfo, Bishop of Kumasi and Archbishop of Ghana. Bishop Odico is the Seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Gambia, formerly known as the Diocese of Gambia and the Rio Pongas, and succeeds the Most Rev. Solomon Tilewa Johnson who died in office on 21 Jan 2014. He is the second Gambian to hold the post.

Born on 20 April 1952 in Banjul, then known as Bathhurst, Bishop Odico was reared in the Anglican Church and attended Catholic parochial schools as a child. Upon leaving school he worked as a clerk at the Methodist Bookshop in Banjul for three years before entering Immanuel College of Theology in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1974 where he earned a certificate in Christian Education and Youth Ministry. He served as a youth worker in the diocese from 1975 to 1978 before returning to the private sector where he worked in banking and the hotel industry, most recently serving as a manager at the Senegambia Beach Hotel. As a layman and later as a non-stipendiary deacon and then as priest, Bishop Odico was active in leadership of the YMCA of Gambia, the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, the Gambia Christian Council and several diocesan organizations and fellowships.

In 1999 he was ordained deacon and priest in 2002 was ordained priest for the diocese by Archbishop Johnson. He then trained for the ministry at the Western Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church of America in Holland, Michigan, and upon his return to Gambia in 2003 served as an associate at Christ Church, Serrekunda and in 2006 was appointed sub-canon of St Mary’s Cathedral in Banjul. From 2008 to 2015 he served as priest in charge of St Andrew’s Church in Lamin, and was installed as Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Banjul on 1 May 2015. Following the death of Archbishop Johnson he was appointed vicar-general of the diocese on 3 Feb 2014 for the Rt. Rev. Albert Gomez, Bishop of Guinea who exercised interim episcopal jurisdiction for the diocese.

At a special meeting of synod held at Christ Church, Serrekunda, on 20 Nov 2015 the new bishop was elected following the fourth ballot.

He is married to Marian Georgiana Efuah Odico and they have four children.

The Diocese of Gambia was inaugurated in 1935 as the Diocese of Gambia and Guinea covering the British colony of The Gambia, the French colonies of Senegal and Guinea, Portuguese Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands, and Spanish Guinea.  In 1985 the diocese was divided into the Diocese of Gambia and the Rio Pongas and the Diocese of Guinea. While retaining ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the former French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies, the Diocese of Guinea and the recently created Diocese of Cameroon support mission activity in Francophone Senegal, while Nigerian clergy serve a largely expatriate congregation in Equatorial Guinea.

A Muslim majority country, Christians are approximately 8 per cent of the population of The Gambia’s 1.9 million citizens. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in Gambia with 44,000 members or 2 per cent of the population, with the Anglicans, Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists and other Protestant groups and African independent churches making up the balance. The Anglican presence in the country is found primarily in the capital and the south and east of the country.

On 11 December 2015 Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced at a rally in Brufut: “In line with the country’s religious identity and values, I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state,” but stated Christians would not be compelled to live under Sharia law.

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