The issue of ordination and consecration of female priests and bishops has been a touchy one in the Anglican and Catholic churches.
This contentious debate continued at the just ended All African Bishops Conference in Entebbe.
Currently 28 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion ordain women as priests and 17 have removed all barriers to women serving as bishops but only four of the provinces have so far done so, the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican churches of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
In Africa, Burundi, Indian Ocean, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, West Africa and Sudan have permitted the ordination of women as priests, while in Nigeria and Central Africa, women can only be ordained to the level of a deacon.
The observer caught up with some African bishops and sought their views on the ordination and consecration of women as priests and bishops.
Chad Nicholas Gandiya; Bishop of Harare, Zimbabwe
If a province wants to consecrate a woman as a bishop, that is their prerogative and if a province takes a decision, no other province should tell them what to do.
There are some provinces that argue against the ordination of female priests, justifying it on theological grounds but those who support it also claim theological backing which again makes it complex. In Zimbabwe it’s not acceptable but there are some of us who agree with the consecration.
Those who oppose it say that Christ was male and the disciples were all male, which is not consistent with the biblical teachings in Genesis that talk about the creation of both male and female which to me grants equal status to both sexes.
Nicholas Okoh; Archbishop of Nigeria
If you count one, you must be in position to count two, so if you have a female priest you should be in position to have a female bishop because it is a priest who graduates into a bishop. We have not ordained women yet but we have made them serve at other lower positions in the church.
This has been done to avoid some unpredictable consequences, Nigeria being multi-cultural. And there were attempts to legalise the ordination of females as priests but the issue was defeated. It will only be considered when everyone is on board, so we still need a consensus on this issue.
Ian Ernest; Archbishop of Indian Ocean Province
It depends on the provinces, it’s them to decide. But with the consecration, I feel that women are already in the ministry and my church accepts that and we even ordain them as priests.
You know the Anglican Church is a communion with a comprehensive culture so we don’t need to abandon each other and in our province we are not against the teachings of the Bible that clearly shows that God created both male and female.
Godfrey Tawonezvi; Bishop of Masvingo, Zimbabwe
I don’t support the ordination of women as priests or as bishops because that is not the tradition of our church. Even when you look at Jesus’ disciples, they were all male, but secularly women are free to be given positions of leadership if they have the required capabilities. Well, for those churches that have done it, I have no authority to stop them but still I think it is theologically wrong.
Jo Seoka; Bishop of Pretoria
We have female priests and as a matter of fact we intend to make them bishops if the time comes. The reason we do this is because they are part of the church and we are from the same image of God. But different provinces do it differently.
Doc Loomis; Anglican missionary bishop
I think it’s an issue of leadership, the Bible is clear: the head of the church is supposed to be a man, although some people dispute this. In the Anglican Church, the head is the bishop, so you can’t make a female a head. And the Bible says that man should be above woman, and this teaching has been consistent since the time of Jesus Christ. Just go and read Ephesians, 1Timothy and 1 Peter.
Godfrey Mhogolo; Bishop of Central Tanganyika, Tanzania
All that is fine, but it also depends on the provinces that do it (ordain women) because there are those that don’t, basing on cultural aspects which is quite complex. But still the mindset factor also deters people from ordaining ladies as priests, which is unrealistic because the service of God is for both male and female.
Johnson Gakumba; Bishop of Northern Uganda Diocese
There is no problem with the ordination of women as bishops, but still the issue can be about numbers of women and men because when you look at the ratio in our church it doesn’t really translate well. And different provinces have different perceptions about women.
Peter Njagi Njoka; Bishop of Nairobi, Kenya
Time will tell. But if a certain church has allowed the ordination of females as priests, then there is no limit to them becoming bishops. But that issue is not yet on the table in Kenya. If it comes, then we shall be glad to discuss it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Rev Canon Aaron Mwesigye; former Provincial Secretary, Church of Uganda
There is no problem with ordaining women as priests and even making them bishops because God created both man and woman.
So those who are against the consecration of females base it on culture which varies. And refusing to ordain females makes them second class citizens in the house of God. But women are even more consistent when it comes to sensitive issues compared to men.
Jackson Matovu, Bishop of Central Buganda
Here in Uganda, we don’t have problems ordaining women as priests and as a matter of fact we have female canons. So it depends on the way different provinces regard the female gender in relation to their traditions. So if the issue of consecrating females as bishops comes on board in Uganda, we shall discuss it as a province.