Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Kenyan archbishop will 'keep stand' against same-sex unions

Eliud Wabukala of Bungoma, who becomes the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya in July, will not likely reverse his predecessor’s opposition to same-sex unions.

This is the view of bishops and church leaders who spoke to Ecumenical News International after Wabukala was on April 24 elected to replace Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, who retires on June 30.

"We know there are challenges of building bridges among our communities, reconciling and healing the people. That's basically what I will do," said Wabukala, adding he would ensure that God's word is preached, taught and lived out.

"I want to thank the electoral college for a very peaceful election and for maintaining the dignity of this church," he told journalists after his election.

In an interview with Canada's Anglican Journal published on April 26, Nzimbi had said, "When we talk about same-sex unions, it is to us a big challenge because missionaries, when they came here, taught us that we can't change the word of God … We never knew that something that we're hearing now would happen."

Bishop Bill Atwood of the All Saints Diocese, Nairobi, said, "The new archbishop is faithful to word of God. I am sure he will continue to be faithful to the world of God.".

The Anglican Church of Kenya has in recent years been at loggerheads within the 77-million member Worldwide Anglican Communion over same sex relationships, especially with the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, who have different views on the issue.

Wabukala is 58 years old, and other bishops said he is humble, well educated and experienced. He was elected by the 158-member electoral college at the All Saints Cathedral in the country capital, Nairobi, and he becomes Kenya's fifth Anglican archbishop.

"It has been a very peaceful and democratic election. We did not have any incidents. We thank God we have an archbishop," Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa told Ecumenical News International after the election. "We are quite sure, he is going to make great strides in evangelising the people of Kenya and the world."

Kenyans expect the new leader to steer one of the country's most powerful churches, in which there are more than 2.5 million Anglicans among the country's 39 million people. His election comes as at a time when church leaders acknowledge the country is deeply divided along political and ethnic lines.

"You cannot say the conflict is out there because these are the same people who come to congregate in the church. We want to see the Anglican Church taking the lead," said Southern Nyanza Bishop James Ochiel.

A graduate of Canada's Wycliffe College, Uganda's Makerere University and St. Paul's College in Limuru, Kenya, Wabukala became the Bishop of Bungoma in 1996, where he has served for 13 years. He was also the chairperson of the National Council of Churches of Kenya until August 2008.
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Source (AJ)

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