West Buganda Diocese synod rejects proposal to have only native bishops  

West Buganda Diocesan Bishop Henry Katumba-Tamale (6th right) and some members of the synod recently. PHOTO | RICHARD KYANJO

The West Buganda Diocesan synod has rejected a proposal to elect the bishop from only native priests from the Masaka sub region.

Mr Stephen Mugerwa, a member of the diocesan synod, had fronted the idea during an extraordinary synod sitting at the weekend, saying a native bishop can motivate the priests to serve the Church better since he already knows their challenges and needs.

“I think we should have a clause in the diocesan constitution which is under review that, in situations where we have two contenders for the seat of bishop, a priest born and brought up in West Buganda Diocese should be favoured,” he said.

But Mr Mugerwa’s proposal was out rightly rejected by other synod members, saying there are set guidelines followed during the election of bishops that should not be overridden by selfish interests.

Mr Moses Nsereko, the diocesan head of laity, argued that there was no scientific evidence showing that native bishops transform their dioceses, insisting that development has no connection to one's origin.

“It will be illogical to put in our diocesan constitution that only natives of West Buganda should become bishops here. As a diocese, we just select two nominees and it is the House of Bishops that has the powers to elect the bishop, and he can come from any part of the province as long as they find him capable of performing  the responsibilities assigned to him,” he said.

He advised Christians, who are already agitating for a native bishop to engage in productive work that takes the diocese forward rather than debating “an issue whose time has not yet come”.

This debate comes three years to the retirement of the current bishop Henry Katumba- Tamale.

Bishop Katumba- Tamale, who assumed office in 2016, will be retiring on March 28, 2025 as the 6th bishop of West Buganda Diocese after clocking the mandatory 65 years. However, the initial processes to choose his successor will kick off in 2024.

Among the possible successors according to insiders is Rev Canon Moses Kayemba, the diocesan secretary and Rev Canon Patrick Ssimbwa, the Archdeacon of Masaka Archdeaconry.

Canon Kayemba was previously the Parish Priest Namasuba Parish in Namirembe Diocese while Canon Ssimbwa was Parish Priest Kimwanyi Parish in West Buganda Diocese.   

The same agitation to have a native bishop also emerged in 2016 when the then bishop, Godfrey Makumbi, died in office after serving only four years, but the House of Bishops in its wisdom chose Bishop Katumba-Tamale from Namirembe Diocese to take up the mantle.

On his part, Bishop Katumba –Tamale urged members of the synod to act professionally and religiously follow all processes leading to the election of a new bishop as enshrined in the Provisional Constitution.

“The constitution of the Church of Uganda is very clear, I cannot serve beyond 65 years and this means, I am already preparing my exit .So, the synod has a duty to ensure a smooth process that will save the diocese from having a leadership vacuum,” the prelate said  

The synod comprises the bishop, assistant bishop, immediate retired bishop, diocesan chancellor, diocesan secretary, provost, archdeacons and all representatives from the 111 parishes.

Rt Rev Katumba-Tamale in his six years in office so far, has been credited for superintending many development projects including the ongoing construction of Church Plaza in Masaka City and promotion of coffee growing in all parishes in the diocese as a sustainable income-generating project for the Church.

West Buganda Diocese, the first Church Of Uganda’s administrative unit to be formed outside Kampala, was carved out of Namirembe Diocese in1960. The diocese oversees nine districts of the Masaka sub region with over 500 churches.

The diocese has since its inception been governed by six bishops and none of them is a native of Masaka.

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