No women bishops in Uganda, yet

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There is no change in the Church of Uganda’s policy on women bishops, senior church leaders tell Anglican.Ink after a flurry of news reports stated the consecration of a woman bishop for the East African church was imminent.

News reports in Uganda and in the west reported the primate of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stephen Kaziimba announced the church was now ready for women bishops during an Easter Sunday sermon at All Saints Cathedral in Namirembe on 16 April 2022.

Asked after the service whether women could be trusted with high office in the church, Archbishop Kaziimba said: “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.”

However, the archbishop did not say that a woman would soon be consecrated as a bishop, nor was Uganda going to violate the GAFCON moratorium on women bishops. 

The Church of Uganda was among the first Anglican provinces to ordain women to the priesthood and diaconate, and its canons and constitutions have long permitted women to stand for election as bishop.

Archbishop Kaziimba has long supported women in positions of authority in the church, and follows in the footsteps of his predecessor Stanley Ntagali, who in 2014 said he supported ordaining women to the episcopate. In a provincial press release from that year he was quoted as saying: “​​In Uganda, we have women priests and Archdeacons, and many of them work for the church in various capacities,”and “have ordained women since the 1980’s, so we have qualified women who could be elected Bishop.”

A senior church leader in Uganda told Anglican.Ink the “context” of Archbishop’s Kaziimba’s “statement was in relation to the account of the women being the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and the first evangelists of his resurrection. He noted the positive impact of the big number of women serving in senior positions throughout the government, including Vice President, Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister, etc. He also noted the significant contribution of women serving in ordained ministry in the Church of Uganda, including the Provost of All Saints’ Cathedral.” 

“In light of the fact that the Church of Uganda’s Constitution and Canons permit women as well as men to be elected and consecrated as a Bishop, he was just stating the obvious conclusion that one day he would expect there to be a woman bishop in Uganda.”

Our source added: “There is nothing new here. There are no female candidates currently nominated. There are no plans to consecrate a woman in the near future. Women are eligible to be nominated for bishop if they meet the qualifications. This was not a big announcement. Nothing has changed.”

On 12 Sept 2021 the first woman diocesan bishop was consecrated by a GAFCON province. The Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Jackson Ole Sapit consecrated the Rt. Rev. Rose Okeno as the fourth bishop of Butere. She followed the Rt. Rev. Elizabeth Onyango who was consecrated as assistant bishop of Bondo in January 2021. The first woman GAFCON bishop was the Rt. Rev. Elizabeth Awut Ngor, who was consecrated as assistant bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek on 31 Dec 2016 by the Most Daniel Deng Bol, Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.

Following Bishop Awut Ngor’s consecration the GAFCON primates agreed in 2018 upon a moratorium on further consecrations of women bishops. However a spokesman for the GAFCON secretariat told Anglican.Ink last year the moratorium had expired in 2019. This claim has been disputed, however, by one GAFCON leader who told AI they had reaffirmed the moratorium at their 2019 meeting.