Change name for the Church of Uganda

Prof Timothy Wangusa

What you need to know:

  • There is some church name almost under every letter of the alphabet.

In this column last Sunday, February 19, ‘yours truly’ here humbly but seriously proposed (being an entitled Commonwealth citizen) that King Charles III of the United Kingdom and its Dominions should dissolve Anglicanism, as it has finally and absurdly outplayed itself. 

The article reminded its esteemed readers about the egocentric and eccentric beginnings of Anglicanism under King Henry VIII (1491-1547) in 1533 and its political consolidation under the reigns of his daughter Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and her successor King James I (1603-1625). 

It is my humble ‘and bounden duty’ to now propose that the Church of Uganda should soonest consider changing its name – to ‘Protestant Church of Uganda’ – so as to resonate with its recent resolve to sever ties with the Church of England on account of the latter’s compromised and unacceptable stand on same-sex ‘marriages’.

In thus recommending change of name for the church to which I belong, I happen to be one who is not amused by the notion that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. My rejoinder to this notion is that ‘if a rose changes its smell, someone should change its name’.  In this case, the Church of Uganda is changing its smell from ‘Canterbury-scent’ to ‘Uga-fragrance’ – thereby necessitating change of name.

And this would not be the first time that what has evolved into the Church of Uganda would be changing its name. From the founding of the protestant church in Uganda in 1877 by the CMS (Church Missionary Society) missionaries, it has variously gone by the names of: Native Anglican Church (of all my schooldays in late 1940s through 1950s); before that, Diocese of Uganda (1899); Province of Uganda and Ruanda-[B]urundi (1961); and Church of Uganda (1980, with Rwanda and Burundi forming a separate Anglican province). 

Of course, one easy way of coining a new name for the Church of Uganda would be to produce a mere variation on one of the existing over-abundance of non-Roman Catholic churches whose labels one meets all over this country of impressive religiosity. 

There is some church name almost under every letter of the alphabet! All ending in the word ‘church’, they include: Apostolic, Baptist, Charismatic, Deliverance, Evangelical, Full Gospel, Gospel Fire, Heaven on Earth, Interior Transformation, Jeshi la Wakovu, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheran, Latter Day Rain, Makerere Community, Methodist, Miracle Centre, Namirembe Fellowship, Pentecostal Fire, Presbyterian, Redeemed of the Lord Evangelistic, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventist, Trinitarian, Unitarian, United Christian Centre, Victory, Youth for Christ, Zion Evangelical Charismatic…etc. etc.

Ideally, every church anywhere around the globe should simply be known as the church in that particular place. That is to say, ‘The church in your/their house’ (as in Roman 16:5), ‘The church in Judea’, ‘The cwwhurch in Samaria’, ‘The church in Antioch’, ‘The church in Rome’, ‘The church in Canterbury’, ‘The church in Rubaga’,  ‘The church in Namirembe, ‘The church in Najjanankumbi’, ‘The church in Namungoona’, ‘The church in Katwe’, ‘The church in Kisenyi’, ‘The church in Kivvulu’, ‘The church in Katanga Valley’, ‘The church in my house’… ‘…in Kayanja’s…Bugembe’s …Kakande’s…Mbonye’s…Sserwada’s…Bujingo’s house’…

That way, we would minimise or even completely eliminate the often unsavoury ‘sectist’ or cultist content behind many church names. In making this claim, I am not forgetful of the one major denominational divide between the Roman Catholic Church, on the one hand, and the Protestant Churches since the Reformation, on the other hand. This major divide is evidently here to stay ‘till Jesus comes back’, as the common saying goes.

But I also happen to know that the Church of Uganda is not a stranger to the use of the word ‘protestant’ in its operations. Right next door to its seat on Namirembe Hill is Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB), which it jointly established in 1957 with the Seventh Day Adventist Uganda Union. Let ‘Church of Uganda’ now become ‘Protestant Church of Uganda’.

Prof Timothy Wangusa is a poet and novelist.