First female Anglican bishop for Africa elected

By ACNS staff
Posted Jul 19, 2012

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Southern Africa July 18 made history by electing the first female Anglican bishop on the continent.

The Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, 61, became the bishop-elect of Swaziland and the first woman bishop in any of the 12 Anglican provinces in Africa. It is thought she is only the second bishop elected in a mainline church on the continent.

Her election comes as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa — which also includes Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Lesotho — commemorates 20 years since the ordination of women to the priesthood as presbyters and bishops. The 1992 synod was, coincidentally, held in Swaziland.

Wamukoya was not initially a candidate, but after seven rounds of elections yielding no results, fresh nominations were invited from the Elective Assembly. She subsequently received the required two-thirds majority in both houses of laity and clergy.

The assembly was described by one observer as a “particularly spirit-filled atmosphere” and there is said to be much excitement in the diocese over her election. Founded in 1968, the Diocese of Swaziland comprises of three archdeaconries: Eastern Swaziland, Southern Swaziland and Western Swaziland. Her predecessor is the Rt. Rev. Meshack Mabuza, who became bishop of Swaziland in 2002.

Wamukoya is currently chaplain at the University of Swaziland and St. Michael’s High School in Manzini, Swaziland. She also serves as chief executive officer of the City Council in Manzini.

The election has to be confirmed by the members of the Synod of Bishops. When that happens, Wambukoya will become the 24th non-retired female bishop of the Anglican Communion. The member Churches that have appointed or elected women bishops to date are Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Australia; Canada; The Episcopal Church, Cuba and now Southern Africa.

As there are several other dioceses of Anglican Church of Southern Africa electing bishops before the end of the year, it is likely there will be one big consecration service for them all, early next year.

Celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in Southern Africa will be held in September 2012 on the margins of the Provincial Standing Committee meeting, with the Episcopal Church’s Bishop Barbara Harris as a special guest.


Comments (23)

  1. Thomas Vocca says:

    This news makes me want to dance!

  2. Lovette Tucker says:

    Congratulations and welcome to the community of progressive believers. We are eagerly anticipating this action in the anglican diocese of the western, developed nations of the world.

    1. Thomas Vocca says:

      Like the C of E? 🙂

  3. Bill Cruse says:

    The Holy Spirit is revealing to us all, and we are listening. My heart is dancing and grateful.

  4. Tim Yeager says:


  5. Swaziland is in a “long term relationship” (companion diocese) with the Episcopal diocese of Iowa. We are so proud!

  6. Lynn Marini says:

    This is cause for great joy & thanksgiving. There is now a foot in the door of the Anglican Church. No doubt they may go through similar commotion we went through with the election of +Gene Robinson. We have become , in my opinion, a stronger Church. Growth is never without its growing pains. Blessing on Bp. Elect Wambukoya and her Diocese. The Spirit is alive and moving.

  7. Harriet B. Linville says:

    Blessings to Bp. -elect Wamukoya and to the Diocese of Swaziland.

  8. Hugh Magee says:

    Wonderful news!
    Here in the companion diocese of Brechin (Scotland), we are all delighted.

  9. Anne Warrington Wilson says:

    This is wonderful news! I wish the Bishop elect the blessing of health and support for a long, effective episcopate.

  10. Maria Forman says:

    This is great news, I am so happy for her, I know the Holy Spirit is working through her. Many Blessings to the new Bishop elect. Maria R.Forman, All Saint’s Episcopal Church, Redding, Ca

  11. Joan Desilets says:

    What a wonderful day for women and young girls who need positive role models in their lives. The Lord works in wonderful ways. Blessings to all in Africa.

  12. Kevin Sanders says:

    I recall reading, when Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as presiding bishop, that Desmond Tutu’s reaction was “Oh, goody!”. My reaction to this news is much the same. I must say that it came as a surprise, as it seems that Swaziland has had female clergy a relatively short time. But it is small surprise because, as an Iowan, I know the faith, courage and generous spirits of our good friends in the diocese of Swaziland. I wish them well as they go on from this new beginning!

  13. V. Tupper Morehead, MD, MDiv, TSSF says:

    The Holy Spirit is NOT static! May God give you peace……….-T-

    1. martha knight says:

      The holy spirit is definitely dancing! Thanks be to God.

  14. The Rev. Phil Reinheimer says:

    Hope we get information on how/when we could go there for consecration celebration!

  15. Tom Morson says:

    The reformation continues . Glory Be.

  16. Elizabeth Bishop says:

    We rejoice with you in this great news.

  17. Jeffrey Parker says:

    A monumental step forward.

  18. Bishop Alan Scarfe says:

    The whole Diocese of Iowa rejoices with our Companion Diocese of over thirty years as we share in this moment. Bishop Mabuza invited me to share in the first ordinations of women priests in Swaziland together with a team of visitors from Iowa including the Reverend Barbara Schlachter, one of our own early Episcopal priests who was the preacher for the day. We followed this up with inviting three women priests from Swaziland to join us at Convention celebrating 30 years of women’s ordination in 2006. Last year I spent my sabbatical in the Diocese and served with the Rev Ellinah for the whole of Holy Week at the University Chaplaincy. She is a wonderful choice, and clearly being nominated at a later ballot, a modern day Ambrose of the Spirit’s making.

  19. Marge Christie says:

    What wonderful news — the clear acceptance of women in leadership in yet another province of the Anglican Communion — and a clear call for rejoicing!

  20. Cher Stone says:

    South Africa is once again the liberating capitol of the Spirit. Thank you!

  21. Mervyn E. Singh says:

    The Parish of Woodlands, Montclair with Yellowwood Park ( in the Diocese of Natal) recieved this news with great joy. We wish Bishop Elect Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya Gods richest blessings and we pray for her and her family.

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