Anglican Church To Install First Female African Bishop

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) will make history on Saturday, November 17 by consecrating the first woman bishop in any of the twelve Anglican provinces on the continent, and perhaps only the second in any mainline church.

The Rt. Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, age 61, was elected last July by clergy and laity in Swaziland, site of the 1992 conference at which women in the ACSA were given access to ordained ministry in the church. Bishop Wamukoya, formerly a bi-vocational University chaplain and city administrator, will be joined in the archdiocese by another woman bishop, the Rev. Margaret Vertue, who was elected to the Diocese of False Bay in October and will be consecrated in the new year.

Christianity in much of Africa, including its Anglican expression, has traditionally had much ambivalence toward women in ordained ministry and church leadership. Of the seven Anglican provinces out of thirty-eight that do not ordain women, three are in continental Africa. Another two African provinces ordain women only to the diaconate, restricting their access to the priesthood and the episcopacy. The ACSA, however, has maintained a more progressive practice with regard to women that reflects the generally more liberal South African approach to social issues.

The consecration service for Wamukoya will be presided over by current ACSA Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who holds the archiepiscopal seat most famously occupied from 1986 to 1996 by Nobel laureate and social justice activist Desmond Tutu.