Opportunities for the new Bishop of Kigezi Diocese

Author: Muniini K Mulera. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • Would it not have been better to consecrate our new bishop in a modest church service at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Rugarama, thus freeing all that money to serve the needy, the sick, the orphans, the elderly, the pregnant women, and all the disadvantaged children of God? 

Dear Tingasiga:
 The Right Reverend George Bagamuhunda, who has retired from the office of Bishop of Kigezi Diocese, has earned a reputation for promoting income generating and job creating economic development, expansion of diocesan material assets, reconciliation and peacebuilding, and acceleration of the Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme. When Bagamuhunda’s story is written, his biographer may well choose the title: “The Developmental Bishop,” for this is how he has been repeatedly referred to by many members of the Church in Kigyezi. Yet his biography should include a chapter about him as a preacher. 

Perhaps because he is not a demonstrative and passionate orator, it is easy to under-appreciate the power of his sermons.  I have been privileged to listen and learn from his solid sermons on several occasions. He is an intellectual type of preacher, one who does not seek to excite the congregation, but to give practical meaning to the Word of God.  Bagamuhunda always leaves me thinking and spiritually well-nourished. 

I am thrilled to learn that Bishop Akanjuna has identified mission and evangelism as the core of his episcopate. Evangelism and teaching are the central purpose of the Church. Without bringing people to the Cross of Jesus Christ for salvation and rebirth, and without grounding the born-again Christians in the Word of God, the Church remains a social club for religion and worldly material development, not a forum for spiritual growth and transformation. 
The Lord’s Great Commission to His disciples after His resurrection was not that they should go out and provide the people’s material needs or build temples and other show pieces of spectacular beauty and grandeur. To be sure, Christ did not order his disciples to go out and become rich men in society, complete with enviable mansions, and luxury transportation, or to exercise political power and influence. In Matthew 28: 19-20 we read that Jesus told the eleven disciples: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Whereas I have heard Akanjuna speak only once, at his consecration as archdeacon of Rukore in 2011, he has a reputation for Christ-centred leadership and teaching. So, we receive him as our new bishop with great hope and anticipation that he will build on the rich evangelical legacy of the East African Revival Movement that began almost 90 years ago. 
The success of a mission and evangelical agenda is largely determined by the character and visible lives of the leaders of the church. The Apostle Paul’s success was, to a large extent, the result of how he lived among the converts and leaders of the new churches he planted on his journeys. We pray that Bishop Akanjuna and his entire pastoral team will remember how church leaders like Ezekiel Balaba, Festo Kivengere, Abraham Zaaribugire, Wilson Komunda, James Katarikaawe, and many others lived during their stewardship of God’s church in Kigyezi.
At a minimum, the church leaders must not seek to be exalted. They should not be rulers, but servants of God’s people. They should obey Jesus Christ’s words in Matthew 20: 25-28 where He told His disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Christ’s words are not empty talk. They are central to effective and successful leadership. Which brings me to two questions that have exercised my mind in recent days. First, does the evident merger of the ruling National Resistance Movement with the Anglican Church in Kigyezi allow the bishop and other pastors to practice what the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained? The success of an episcopate will be measured by the choice that the bishop makes – to stand with the people or with those who rule them with oppression, injustice, corruption, coercion, and contempt. 
Second, how do we justify the glamorous extravagance of bidding farewell to a bishop and the consecration of his successor, complete with gifts of high-end cars, amid increasing poverty in the diocese? I estimate the minimum cost of the weekend celebration, including the two motor vehicles for the bishops, to have been Shs750 million (US$ 200,000). This excludes transport, food, and accommodation. 

Would it not have been better to consecrate our new bishop in a modest church service at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Rugarama, thus freeing all that money to serve the needy, the sick, the orphans, the elderly, the pregnant women, and all the disadvantaged children of God? Three days ago, the daughter of an elderly member of the church who needed urgent surgery for a serious condition told me that she was waiting to raise less than Shs400,000 (US$ 110) to get her father operated on at Rugarama Hospital. What if all that money had been used to create a Bishop George Bagamuhunda Foundation to provide free health care for the needy at Rugarama Hospital, right across the road from the site where the colourful ceremony was held? 

What if President Yoweri Museveni, instead of buying a brand-new car for our new bishop, had given that money to very needy Health Centre IVs like the ones at Mparo in Rukiga District or Muko in Rubanda District? 
Looking ahead, when Kigezi Diocese gets its next bishop in 2027, we should seriously consider a simpler and humbler event. Perhaps it should be a time of fasting, not of feasting; a time of worshipping, not of partisan political display; a time of prayer and supplication, not of pomp and circumstance; a moment of uplifting the poor and needy, not of loud display of extravagance.

I am humbled by the consecration of Paul and Barnabas. We read in Acts 13: 1-3 that while the prophets and teachers in Antioch were worshipping the Lord and fasting, ‘the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.’ 
There is no record of a party or big celebration in Antioch. Yet how powerful and successful their ministry was and continues to be!  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with Bishop Bagamuhunda and with Bishop Akanjuna and his pastoral team. 

 Muniini K. Mulera is Ugandan-Canadian social and political observer.     [email protected]