Africa hails its first female Bishop!

Bishop Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya (image from http://allafrica.com)

In what i consider another historic milestone for African women, The Anglican Church of Southern Africa consecrated in late November 2012, Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, making her the first female Bishop in Africa. Although the Southern Africa Anglican Church has been a pioneer in ordaining women into the priesthood, the consecration into the Bishop-hood of Bishop Wamukoya is quite commendable, especially as the mother church of the Anglican denomination suffers controversy.

Fresco of Catacomb of Priscilla (image from http://vahva.wordpress.com)

In what has been a male leadership dominated institution for millenia, the role of women at the highest echelons of Christianity has remained a contentious issue for religious traditionalists and conservatives. The ordination of women into the orders of bishops, priests, deacons and leaders remains controversial in the leading Abrahamic traditions, although it is also argued by some that ordaining women in these leadership capacities, at least within the Church, is not new. Proponents point to historical evidence which suggests that the early church indeed ordained women – one at the basilica of St Prassede, and the others from the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. Archeologist, Dr. Dorothy Irvin provides compelling historical evidence that supports this claim (read more).

While the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches reject female ordination, some of the Protestant denominations have been advocates for female ordainment and indeed practice as such. The Anglican Church is one of the Protestant denominations that has been inclusive of female ordination as priests and deacons in modern times.

The Church of England, which is the official Christian church in England and lead of the Anglican Communion (international association of Anglican churches), has been facing the heat in very recent times with the General Synod set to have voted on ordaining female bishops. They’re already ordaining women as priests and deacons, so one figures hey this should be a clear green. Not really. On November 21st 2012, the Church voted against ordaining female bishops, owing the defeat to traditionalists within the church. With a majority of the votes in favour, the vote failed to pass for not having the 2/3 majority required.

Nevertheless, it’s enlightening to know that African churches (Anglican specifically) are making monumental progress in advocating for gender equality, in comparison to their Western counterparts. Their stride is indeed a model for change that other African churches should begin discussions on emulating.

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Love & Light

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