News of the early retirement of Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi has taken many people by surprise. While presiding over the consecration of Rt Rev.Nathan Ahimbisibwe as the first bishop of the newly created South Ankole diocese, Orombi revealed that he would be stepping down as archbishop this year, one year before his official retirement.

Orombi, who later told journalists that he is retiring to make his “own programme and go where [I] want”, replaced Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo as Archbishop Church of Uganda on January 25, 2004.  He was expected to serve a 10-year non-renewable term at the helm of Church of Uganda, but he opted to bring forward his retirement.

Orombi legacy

Aged 62, Orombi is still three years short of retirement according to Church of Uganda regulations. The prelate will best be remembered for his passionate promotion of interdenominational unity. He surprised many Anglicans in 2005 when he preached at Kampala Pentecostal church (now Watoto church). At the time, Anglicans and Pentecostals didn’t quite see eye-to-eye, but Orombi rose above that.

Last year, Orombi organised a meeting of the House of Bishops and Pentecostal pastors at Lweza, which turned out to be a moment of repentance. Dozens of Pentecostal pastors apologised for their unfounded attacks on the Anglican Church, while the bishops also repented for calling Pentecostals splinter groups. A pacifist, Orombi also pushed for harmony in the church. His role in resolving the thorny issue on the consecration of a new bishop of Muhabura diocese that had seen his predecessor dragged to court stands out. Disputes in Kinkiizi [where Christians opposed the election of Canon Bernard Bagaba as bishop], Madi and Masindi were also quelled at his behest.

Above all, Orombi will be remembered for his unwavering anti-gay stance. In June 2008, he was among the chief conveners of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. GAFCON is a breakaway group, which disagreed with the Church of England on the issue of consecration of gay bishops. Little wonder Orombi’s retirement has been welcomed by pro-gay activists who are hoping that the next archbishop pushes a different agenda, or at least doesn’t openly campaign against homosexuality.

Orombi, however, has said that the anti-gay stance he espoused isn’t a personal cause.
“[My successor] doesn’t need any advice because he has been part of the church. I am sure he will continue to stand by the Biblical understanding of sexuality,” he said.

That said, the archbishop has been criticised in some quarters for being silent about government’s excesses. During his reign, Orombi left his subordinates like Bishop Zac Niringiye, retired Bishop Elia Paul Luzinda and Kityo Luwarira to speak out against government excesses. This made him look like a government stooge in the eyes of many people. He often reserved his criticism of government to Christian umbrella bodies such as the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) and the Interreligious Council of Uganda.

High, low moments

During a recent press conference, Orombi cited his pastoral visits to all parts of the country, including areas that “had never seen the archbishop” as one of his highlights. This was significant because, unlike the Catholic Church which has autonomous archdioceses, the Church of Uganda archbishop has national jurisdiction over all the dioceses. Under his reign, Orombi said he had by January 2012 consecrated 24 bishops, which comprise the bulk of the current 36-member House of Bishops.

The long awaited construction of the Church House also started under his reign, having stalled for 45 years. Work on the 16-floor building, estimated to cost $16.3m (Shs 40.75bn), finally started in January 2011. Orombi also talked about the construction of a new 4,000-seater cathedral at All Saints cathedral Nakasero. The Shs 26bn-facility is likely to be completed this year. The church’s burgeoning congregation currently squeezes itself in a 700-seater structure.

But it wasn’t all rosy for Orombi. Cases of dissent in the church distressed him to the core. For instance, during the consecration of Dan Zoreka as Bishop of Kinkiizi diocese in Kanungu, Orombi said he was confronted by members of the congregation who attempted to chase him away. This was because of the bitter split in the diocese after the House of Bishops had cancelled Bernard Bagaba’s election and replaced him with Zoreka.  Orombi also recalled visits to Pabo IDP camp in Gulu and the Barlonyo massacre site in Lango as tear-jerking experiences.

What next?

Orombi said the election of his successor will be made on June 22, 2012 by the House of Bishops. The new archbishop will be enthroned in December 2012. Twenty-nine bishops qualify to be elected archbishop. According to the Church of Uganda constitution, to be elected archbishop, one has to be 50 years and above. Besides, there is an unwritten rule that calls for regional rotation among the four regions of the country. Going by that, it is believed that the next archbishop might come from western Uganda, which has so far produced only Uganda’s first archbishop.

The outgoing archbishop hails from West Nile (northern Uganda) while his predecessor, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo, hailed from Buganda. Nkoyoyo’s predecessor, Yona Okoth, hailed from Eastern Uganda.

However, Orombi says the church doesn’t consider rotation when choosing its archbishops. He noted that northern Uganda has produced more archbishops than any other region.
Indeed three out of the six Ugandan archbishops have hailed from northern Uganda. They are: Janani Luwum, Silvanus Wani and Orombi. Others are, Eric Sabiiti (West), Okoth (East) and Nkoyooyo (Central.)

Past Archibishops

Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo (1995-2004)

He replaced Yona Okoth and was the first and only Muganda archbishop. Formerly a mechanic, he rose through the ranks to become archbishop. Before his appointment, Nkoyoyo was the first Bishop of Mukono diocese. He retired in 2004 and was replaced by Orombi.

Yona Okoth (1984-1995)

He is the only archbishop hailing from eastern Uganda.

Silvanus Wani (1977-1984)

Wani became archbishop in 1977, replacing Luwum who had been murdered by the Amin government. Some people say Wani’s appointment was an attempt to end hostility with Amin, considering he was also from West Nile. Wani was born in the present-day Koboko district. He was ordained in 1942 by the African inland mission. He once served as chief chaplain in the Uganda Armed Forces.

Janan Jakaliya Luwum (1974-1977)

He was Uganda’s second indigenous archbishop. He replaced Sabiiti. Born in 1922, Kitgum, Luwum was killed on February 16, 1977 alongside ministers Erinayo Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi. He was 55. Independent accounts showed that the trio was killed and later an accident was faked to explain their death.

Luwum trained as a teacher at Boroboro Teacher Training College before joining priesthood. He served as a priest in Gulu, West Nile and Mbale before he was consecrated bishop of Northern Uganda in 1961, a position he held until 1974 when he became archbishop of Church of Uganda. As archbishop, Luwum was at the forefront of criticising the excesses of the Amin regime.

Eric Sabiiti (1966-1974)

He was the first Ugandan archbishop and the only primate from western Uganda. Some people say his roots in western Uganda influenced his election at the time. Western Uganda was the hub of the East African revival movement, which made it the epicentre of religion in Uganda.

Leslie Brown (1963-1965)

He served as archbishop for two years, having previously served as bishop of Uganda since 1952. Leslie was born on June 10, 1912. He was named archbishop of the province of Uganda in 1963. He served for two years until 1965 when he returned to England where he became Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Oxford and, in 1966, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. He died on December 27, 1999.

Bishop Alfred Tucker (1897-1911)

It was after him that the present Uganda Christian University, Mukono, was named. The university started as a Theological institution called Bishop Tucker Theological College in 1913. This was a year before his death. Even after the change of name when the college turned into a university in 1997, the theology faculty is still named Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology.

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0 #1 Chelangat Susan 2012-02-01 15:34
I thank God for the life of our Archbishop. Indeed its good to leave when the flock still loves and yarn for the word. That's how Jesus served, while the disciplines still needed more of the spiritual food is when he left unexpectedly. And so is our lives today live a legacy and don't stay until u people start remembering u of the bad side of u instead of the good.

Personally I felt like there is no other Archbishop like Orombi but am asking God to forgive and make me believe others too have a calling to serve and indeed Orombi's life have change many, me inclusive. May the good Lord continue using him after all retirement is not being tired.

God bless u Archbishop and family live to see many descendants.

Thank you
Yours in the Lord

Chelangat Susan
Sebei Diocese
0 #2 Denis Twinamatsiko 2012-02-02 18:13
Well done Archbishop Luke Orombi, May the Almighty God continue using you throughout your time on this Earth. I personally remember enjoying your wonderful sermon at Nsibirwa Hall ground at Makerere University when you came to attend a crusade.

May the Almighty God guide you and team when time comes for choosing your successor. These are hard times which need Men of great substance!!!God bless.

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