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Swaziland elects first women bishop for Africa: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2012 p 6 August 4, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Women Priests.
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The Diocese of Swaziland has elected Africa’s first Anglican woman bishop.  On 18 July 2012 the Diocesan Elective Assembly meeting in Mbabane elected the Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya as fifth bishop of the diocese.

Bishop-elect Wamukoya (61) will be the first female Anglican bishop in Africa and one of only two serving women bishops among the continent’s mainline churches – in 2008 the Rt. Rev. Joaquina Nhanala was elected the Methodist bishop of Mozambique.  The first woman bishop in Africa was the Rt. Rev. Purity Malinga, a Methodist bishop in South Africa.

Educated at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (now the University of Swaziland), the new bishop has exercised a bi-vocational ministry.  She serves as Anglican chaplain at the University of Swaziland and at St Michael’s High School in Manzini.  Bishop-elect Wamukoya is also the Town Clerk and CEO of the City Council of the town of Manzini and is a skilled and seasoned financial administrator and has also worked as a planning officer for the Government of Kenya.

Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who oversaw the election stated, “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.’

‘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 said. ‘We have waited a long time for this moment!’

“I am humbled by the trust and confidence placed on me by the people of Swaziland, a person like me of humble beginnings” said Mrs. 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’.”

The new bishop enters the stage at a difficult moment in the political and ecclesial life of Swaziland.  The diocese had been led by vicar-general since the resignation last year of her predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Meshack Mabuza.

Bishop Mabuza had been a sharp critic of King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa. King Mswati has ruled the landlocked mountain kingdom since 1986 and has been denounced by church and civil society leaders for mismanagement of the economy.  The king also has earned a public image as a profligate ruler unconcerned with his subjects’ poverty.

Last year Bishop Mabuza told the BBC “the answer [to Swaziland’s problems] really lies in regime change in terms of the traditional, feudalistic, archaic form of government,” and “has to be replaced with multi-party democratic rule.”

The Diocese of Swaziland has also been rocked by internal dissension. In 2011 Bishop Mabuza was investigated and cleared of charges that he had mismanaged money given to the diocese by its overseas partners, the Dioceses of Brechin and Iowa.

The financial misconduct charges were only part of the bishop’s worries. On the evening of 21 February 2011, traffic officers from the Lobamba police station stopped Bishop Mabuza while he was driving along the Manzini-Mbabane freeway. The Bishop failed a breathalyzer test and arrested him for driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Following his archiepiscopal visitation in January 2012, Archbishop Makoba released a pastoral letter stating that he believed the diocese was “in a healthy state in spite of all the challenges it went through. Bishop Mabuza must be congratulated and complimented for his effective leadership.”

Women clergy have stood for election as bishop in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa before, but Saturday’s election marks the first time a woman has been elected bishop since the ACSA synod voted to ordain women to all orders of ministry in 1992.

Of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion, 7 do not ordain women: Central Africa, Melanesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, and Tanzania.

Two provinces ordain women to the diaconate only, Congo and the Southern Cone while 26 provinces and the extra-provincial Church of Ceylon have ordained women to the priesthood: Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Central America, England, Hong Kong, North India, South India, Indian Ocean, Ireland, Japan, Jerusalem & the Middle East, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Scotland, the Sudan, Uganda, Wales, West Africa, and the West Indies. Southern Africa becomes the fifth province to elect a women bishop, joining the Episcopal Church, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has the extra-provincial diocese of Cuba.


1. Sugel - August 11, 2012

The election has to be confirmed by the members of the Synod of Bishops. When that happens, 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.

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