On July 18, the diocese of Swaziland elected the first female Anglican bishop in Africa, 20 years after the Church of the Province of Southern Africa voted to ordain women.
The Rev. Ellinah Ntfombi Wamukoya, 61, succeeds Bishop Meshack Mabuza, who announced his retirement last year. Wamukoya will become the 24th active female bishop in the Anglican Communion, according to a report from the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS).
“(I’m) very humbled by the trust and confidence bestowed on me by the people of God,” Wamukoya told the Anglican Journal. “However, I am looking forward to the guidance of the Holy Spirit for guidance.” She expressed the hope that “through God’s help I will bring forward a restorative and transformative ministry in the lives of the people of God.” The Journal sought Wamukoya’s reaction via Facebook.
“There was great rejoicing when the outcome was released,” said a statement issued by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Church of Southern Africa. He described the election process as “rigorous and spirit-filled.”
The Province of Southern Africa also includes Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
Wamukoya is currently chaplain at the University of Swaziland and St. Michael’s High School in the town of Manzini, central Swaziland. She is also CEO of the City Council of Manzini. She was educated at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.
News reports in Africa have noted that Wamukoya is only the second woman to be elected bishop of a mainline church in Africa, which is home to more than 400 million Christians. In 2008, Rt. Rev. Joaquina Nhanala of Mozambique became the first female United Methodist bishop in Africa.
Anglicans on Twitter welcomed Wamukoya’s election (#female bishop). “How exciting, Africa is to have its first female Anglican bishop (currently a university chaplain as well),” wrote @HaworthFiona. “As an adopted Swazi proud that we have the 1st female African bishop,” wrote @DaveSaviours.
Founded in 1968, the diocese of Swaziland has companion relationships with the dioceses of Brechin (Scottish Episcopal Church), Iowa (The Episcopal Church in the United States), and Highveld (Anglican Church of Southern Africa).