The Bishop’s Diploma

Mr Muniini K. Mulera

What you need to know:

  • While I have read a differing opinion by the petitioners’ lawyer, I am in full agreement with Tumusingize.
  • Akanjuna meets the academic requirements and his election as bishop was proper.

Dear Tingasiga:
 The Bishop’s Diploma would be a good title of a book about the conflict between the church as an organisation on the one hand, and Christianity on the other; between formalism on the one hand, and the Spirit-driven movement for which numerous people have been martyred since our Lord’s death and resurrection 1993 years ago.

It would be a book that examines human laws that have cast aside the Word of God, even as their champions have claimed to be preachers of the Gospel. From time to time, these human-made church laws have been a source of conflicts that have undermined the central mission of the Church.

A case in point is the dispute over the Rt Rev Gaddie Akanjuna’s academic qualification to serve as bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kigezi. A group of Christians from Kigezi petitioned against the election of Akanjuna as bishop last year. Notwithstanding his consecration as bishop on May 29, 2022, the petitioners pressed ahead with their effort to dethrone him. They lodged their petition with the Church of Uganda, with a threat of taking the matter to the secular High Court of Uganda if Akanjuna was not relieved of his episcopal appointment.

To be elected bishop, the Church of Uganda Constitution requires one to be a holder of a bachelor’s degree in theology or a first degree in any other field with an additional diploma in theology. Addressing the same requirement, the Church of Uganda Canon 3.6.2 is consistent with the Constitution’s requirement of an “additional diploma”. However, Canon 3.7.22 requires that for one to serve as bishop, he must have either a bachelor’s degree in theology or divinity, or a first degree in any other discipline with a subsequent post graduate diploma in theology or divinity.

It is the interpretation of the meaning of “additional” versus “postgraduate” that appears to be at the core of the legal debate. Akanjuna obtained a diploma in theology from the Uganda Christian University in 1998, then a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Diploma in Education from the same university in 2004. To my layman’s eyes, he met the Church of Uganda’s requirements for election as bishop. His opponents insist that he does not have a postgraduate diploma. They argue that a diploma obtained before a degree cannot be considered additional, and “certainly not postgraduate.” So, they have resurrected the debate, triggering a heated exchange of words on social media.

For his part, Barnabas Tumusingize, a former provincial chancellor of the Church of Uganda, who provided legal advice at the time of Akanjuna’s election, reiterated his opinion that Akanjuna’s academic credentials qualified him for election as bishop. He presented his opinion in a written piece that was persuasively argued.

Tumusingize, who is a managing partner at S & L (Sebalu and Lule) Advocates and Legal Consultants, is a highly learned and internationally respected member of his profession. He has a reputation to protect. So, we can safely assume that he does not offer his opinions fwaa! While I have read a differing opinion by the petitioners’ lawyer, I am in full agreement with Tumusingize. Akanjuna meets the academic requirements and his election as bishop was proper.

That said, I find this tiresome subject rather sad. I was tempted to make no further comment, having written my opinion on the matter in this column on Tuesday April 18 this year. I mean, really, how does a Christian leader’s secular diploma become a divisive issue in a branch of the Church that was the epicentre of the East African Revival Movement?

As I write this, I am thinking of Uganda’s Archbishop Janani Luwum, Bishop Festo Kivengere, Rebel for Christ Julaina Mufuko, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, America’s Martin Luther King Jr, and very many others who suffered for the Gospel in the 20th century. I am thinking of the 11 disciples of the Lord plus Mathias who suffered greatly for the Gospel, with some killed because of their faith. I am thinking of James, the brother of Jesus, and Stephen and others who were stoned to death because of their faith. I am thinking of the Apostle Paul whose evangelism among the Gentiles was characterised by sacrifice and personal suffering that makes the arguments about a modern bishop’s diploma painfully petty. Most of these martyrs and planters of the Church all over the world were without academic titles.

I believe that Akanjuna’s election was ordained by God. I am reliably informed that Akanjuna was initially not one of the candidates under consideration by the diocesan team charged with nominating candidates for bishop. One gentleman who had campaigned hard for the position had been eliminated quickly. The preferred candidate had also been voted down following discovery of a disqualifying blot on his life.

Then the Lord literally presented Akanjuna to the committee. His nomination was a great surprise to him. To say that he was chosen by God is not an exaggeration. The more I learn about Bishop Akanjuna and listen to his sermons, the more I thank the Lord for giving the Diocese of Kigezi another Christian leader who possesses the qualifications that matter.

The Apostle Paul was unequivocal in laying these down in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. I believe that is why the Devil is fighting back using the flimsiest argument, for he cannot identify any disqualifying character flaw or doctrinal inconsistency to use against the bishop of Kigezi.
My worry is not about the small number of people who are fighting Bishop Akanjuna, but about the reaction of well-meaning Christians who are offended by this irritant. I have read some vitriolic responses to the petitioners that betray anger and intolerance that plays into Satan’s hands.

In his letter to the Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul wrote: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 

How we respond to the troublemakers will be a positive or negative testimony to the world.  In Ephesians 4: 31-32, Paul teaches us what we must do in this situation. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” 

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