NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Amid celebrations in a predominantly Anglican area in western Kenya, the Rev. Rose Okeno was enthroned as bishop of the Butere Diocese on Sunday (Sept. 12).
Okeno, 54, was consecrated in a ceremony presided over by Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, the primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya, making her the primary lady to be a full Anglican bishop within the East African nation, the place the consecration of girls as bishops continues to be controversial.
“By the grace of God, I settle for to be your bishop,” the long-serving cleric stated in her cost after the consecration. “Our election because the fourth bishop of the diocese is a powerful affirmation that certainly God is doing a brand new factor within the historical past of the church.”
As bishop, Okeno will serve a rural inhabitants the place the vast majority of the trustworthy are small-scale farmers and merchants. She was elected on July 20 by a majority of a 23-member school of delegates, beating two male contenders.
The brand new bishop has promised to stay trustworthy to the reality, guiding individuals to have a good time advantage and shun vice. She additionally vowed to serve the disenfranchised and marginalized in her diocese.
“We’ll search to stay trustworthy to the reality, denounce all evil that subverts justice and the welfare of these we serve,” stated Okeno, whereas promising to advocate for the rights of ladies and youngsters and the empowerment of girls and different deprived individuals.
“We will name out those that use positions of affect, even throughout the church, to hurt the weak.”
Ole Sapit praised Okeno’s braveness for placing herself ahead as a contender for bishop of Butere and profitable. Like in lots of areas of Kenya, she is going to lead a patriarchal group the place most high management positions — even within the church — are held by males.
“I congratulate her for rising above cultural norms and … making historical past as the primary ACK (Anglican Church of Kenya) lady bishop,” stated the primate.
Her consecration drew celebration amongst spiritual and social leaders, with some saying such girls of braveness have been wanted in Kenya and worldwide for the time being.
“It’s occasions like these after we want such robust girls, girls who’re able to serve,” Charity Ngilu, an Anglican who’s the governor of Kitui County, was quoted within the press as saying.
Nonetheless, the cleric’s enthronement has defied a 2018 moratorium of the World Anglican Future Convention, often called GAFCON, on ordination of girls. Whereas assembly in Entebbe, Uganda, the GAFCON archbishops resolved to halt the consecration of girls into the episcopate till such a time when a consensus is reached. Within the meantime, the conservative motion was to uphold the historic apply of consecrating males solely.
However Kenya and Uganda, based on stories, had pushed for the consecration of girls bishops. Though the 2 provinces had not consecrated any since then, Kenya produced two fast ordinations this yr.
On Jan. 20, the Anglican Church of Kenya ordained the Rev. Emily Onyango, a 59-year-old scholar and researcher, as an assistant bishop of Bondo, a diocese on the sting of Lake Victoria. Months later, Okeno was elected.
Whereas the church in Kenya might look like defying the moratorium, some Anglican clerics say it depends upon the diocesan synods.
“The GAFCON moratorium continues to be in drive, but it surely’s not binding. We’re in a free fellowship the place, when one diocese takes an motion, the opposite doesn’t should do the identical. Even with this, we nonetheless declare to be collectively. It’s unity in variety,” stated retired Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa.
In Africa, Anglican girls bishops stay uncommon. Okeno might be the fifth, after Onyango — additionally a Kenyan. In 2016, the Rev. Elizabeth Awut Ngor was consecrated as an assistant bishop within the South Sudan diocese of Rumbek. The South African diocese of False Bay elected the Rev. Margaret Vertue bishop in October 2012 and consecrated her as bishop in 2013.
In 2012, Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya was ordained as bishop of Swaziland Diocese in southern Africa. Wamukoya died from COVID-19 in January this yr.