Africa appoints first woman Anglican bishop

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 4:26am


While the Church of England wrings its hands over the appointment of women bishops, Africa's first woman Anglican bishop is determined to get on with the job without being hung up on the gender debate.

"All leaders are ordained by God," said Swazi primate Ellinah Wamukoya, 61, skimming over the issue that has brought her worldwide attention.

"It is not like any other post where you apply. Here God calls you and you respond to that call.

"If you do respond, your mind should be focused on what God says to the position to which He has called you. I have responded to the call of God."

But the timing of that call could hardly have been more dramatic or contentious.

Her enthronement as Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Swaziland came in the week the Anglicans' mother church, the Church of England, voted not to allow women bishops. Outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams described opposition to the move as "wilfully blind". Wamukoya's first task will be to oversee 42 reverends of the Church both spiritually and in financial management - no mean feat amid fears the Swazi Church is in economic turmoil.

But Wamukoya is aware her new role has far wider implications. Failure is certain to be leapt upon as evidence of women's unsuitability for the post.

"I know the whole world is looking up to me to see if I will deliver," she said.

She hopes her experience of running a political office as chief executive officer of the Manzini Municipality - Swaziland's financial hub - will hold her in good stead. But she must also tread a moral tightrope.

The Anglican Church in Africa remains highly conservative, with women excluded from decision-making on many issues.

But Gender Links Swaziland director Ncane Maziya hopes Wamukoya will provide inspiration to women aiming to take leadership positions.