Sunday June 15 2014

A proposal to renew the Church of Uganda for the 21st Century

By Harold Acemah

The Church of Uganda has grown by leaps and bounds since the diocese of Uganda was carved out of the diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa in 1897, the same year Dr Albert Cook founded Mengo Hospital. To God be the glory!

In 1926, the diocese of Upper Nile was created with its headquarters in Buwalasi and the first Anglican Bishop in East Africa, the Rt. Rev. Balya, was consecrated in 1947.
In 1960, two years before independence, four new dioceses were created, namely Namirembe, West Buganda, Ankole-Kigezi, Ruwenzori and Ruanda-Urundi (later Rwanda-Burundi). As a young boy in Junior 2, I was confirmed in 1960 by the Rt. Rev. Keith Russell, Bishop of the Upper Nile Diocese.

In 1961, the diocese of Upper Nile was divided into the dioceses of Mbale, Northern Uganda and Soroti, but of greater significance a new province of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi was inaugurated that year. Then Bishop of Namirembe, the Rt. Rev. Leslie Brown was enthroned as the first Archbishop of the new province.
In 1963, the Church of Uganda hosted a meeting of the All African Conference of Churches in Kampala.

In 1966, the Most Rev. Erica Sabiti was enthroned as the first Ugandan Archbishop of the province and a new diocese of Burundi and Rwanda was created the same year.

In 1969, the diocese of Northern Uganda was divided into two, Northern Uganda diocese based at Gulu and the Madi and West Nile diocese with Arua as its headquarters.

In 1974, the Most Rev. Janani Luwum was enthroned during a turbulent period in Uganda’s history as the third Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. On February 16, 1977, during the year when the Church was preparing to celebrate its centenary, tragedy of monumental proportions struck! Archbishop Janani Luwum was martyred by evil men for standing up very bravely for the cause of justice and truth in Uganda. He bore witness to the risen Jesus Christ like a Saint; I am sure he is in heaven worshipping and praising our LORD at the throne of the Almighty. His agony reminds me of St. Stephen.

Archbishop Janani Luwum was succeeded by the Most. Rev. Silvanus Wani who was the first Anglican priest to be ordained in the West Nile region in the 1940s; he was consecrated in 1969 as the first Bishop of the Madi and West Nile diocese.

In 1983, the Most Rev. Yona Okoth became Archbishop and he was followed by the Most Rev. Livingstone Mpalanyi-Nkoyoyo in 1995. In May 1998, prior to the Lambeth conference of that year, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion visited Uganda. The Uganda Christian University, Mukono, was inaugurated during that visit.

On January 25, 2004, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi was enthroned as Archbishop and he was succeeded by the current Archbishop, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali who was enthroned on December 16, 2012.

Which way forward?
When the province of the Church of Uganda was established in 1961, the population of Uganda was only 6 million; today the population of Uganda is estimated to be 35 million, of which about 85 per cent are Christians.

Against this background, I would like to humbly propose the creation of four new provinces of the Church of Uganda to enable the Church to fulfill its spiritual, prophetic and pastoral mission through holistic teaching, evangelism, discipleship and healing.

The new provinces would be as follows: the province of Buganda; the province of Eastern Uganda; the province of Northern Uganda and the province of Western Uganda. Each province would be led by an Archbishop elected by the House of Bishops.

The House of Bishops would also elect from among the four Archbishops a Primate for the Anglican Church in Uganda. The provincial secretariat would become a national secretariat for the four provinces.

It is my belief that the above proposal will spur a renewal, revival and growth in the Church of Uganda in the 21st Century and offer new opportunities for the spread of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On a related matter, I was intrigued, but glad to learn from the media that there was no government of Uganda representative at the Church of Uganda shrine at Namugongo on Martyrs’ Day, June 3, 2014. Whether by commission or omission, it was indeed appropriate that the holy event was not desecrated by agents of a regime which routinely violates the Ten Commandments of our Lord and the human rights of Ugandans; men whose words and deeds grieve the Holy Spirit of our God. It was just as well they kept their distance.

I pray that the Church of Uganda will henceforth not invite or accord special recognition to ungodly and self-condemned men at its functions. The Church must, on principle, reject donations from the corrupt and decadent regime which has plundered and squandered the God-given resources of the people of Uganda with impunity for decades.
May the LORD have mercy!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat.