19 July 2012

Swaziland: First Female Anglican Bishop for Africa Elected in a 'Spirit-Filled' Atmosphere

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) yesterday made history by appointing the first female Anglican bishop on the continent.

The Revd Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, 61, became the bishop-elect of Swaziland and the first woman bishop in any of the 12 Anglican Provinces in Africa.

It is thought she is only the second bishop elected in a mainline church on the continent.

Her election comes as The Anglican Church of Southern Africa -- which also includes Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Lesotho -- commemorates 20 years since the ordination of women to the priesthood as presbyters and bishops. The 1992 synod was, coincidentally, held in Swaziland.

Revd Wamukoya was not initially a candidate, but after seven rounds of elections yielding no results, fresh nominations were invited from the Elective Assembly. She subsequently received the required 2/3 majority in both houses of laity and clergy.

The Assembly was described by one observer as a “particularly spirit-filled atmosphere” and there is said to be much excitement in the diocese over her election. Founded in 1968 the Diocese of Swaziland comprises of three archdeaconries: Eastern Swaziland, Southern Swaziland and Western Swaziland. Her predecessor was the Rt Rev Meshack Mabuza, who became bishop of Swaziland in 2002.

Revd Wamukoya is currently Chaplain at the University of Swaziland and St. Michael's High School in Manzini, Swaziland. She also serves as CEO of the City Council in Manzini.

The election has to be confirmed by the members of the Synod of Bishops. When that happens, Revd Wambukoya will  become the 24th non-retired female bishop of the Anglican Communion. The Member Churches that have appointed or elected women bishops to date are: Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Australia; Canada; The Episcopal Church, Cuba and now Southern Africa.

As there are several other dioceses of ACSA electing bishops before the end of the year, it is likely there will be one big consecration service for them all, early next year.

Celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in Southern Africa will be held in September 2012 on the margins of the Provincial Standing Committee meeting, with The Episcopal Church's Bishop Barbara Harris as a special guest.

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