By Mark Michael
The Rt. Rev. Stephen Kaziimba, Bishop of Mityana, was elected on Wednesday as the 9th archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda by a synod of the House of Bishops at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe. Kaziimba, 57, will succeed the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, who has served as archbishop for eight years and has been a leading voice in the GAFCON movement. Archbishop Ntagali announced last August that he intended to retire when he turns 65 in March, 2020.
Kaziimba has served as bishop of Mityana, a small city in central Uganda, for nearly eleven years. He was previously a parish priest and cathedral provost in the diocese of Mokonu, near the national capital, Kampala. His ministry in Mityana has focused on church development and helping the laity to use their gifts for ministry, and he is the author of a book, Empowering the Laity, published in 2015. He also oversaw the recent reconstruction of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Mityana, and was praised by local residents as “results oriented,” “focused,” and “hard-working.”
A widely admired preacher, Bishop Kaziimba also serves as the chair of the Church of Uganda’s Board of Household and Community Transformation and the Interreligious Council of Uganda’s Committee for HIV and Public Health.
Bishop Kaziimba grew up in poverty, and was raised by his mother in a Kampala suburb. He says that his conversion to Christ at the age of 22 transformed his life. A biography provided by the Diocese of Mityana notes, “1st January 1984, Stephen made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as his savior and lord. His thirst and vacuum for a father was quenched when he was introduced to God the Father and to a big family of God’s children (John 1:12). His hope was revived and since then, his zeal is to make Christ known by word and example. He always says ‘God has raised me from a hut to a state house, from nowhere to somewhere, from nobody to somebody, from grass to grace, and from shame to fame for the Gospel.”
Kaziimba and his wife, Margaret, have four sons. They have also served as foster parents to sixteen more children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He studied at Uganda Christian University in Mokonu, and received the master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Western Theological Seminary, an ecumenical seminary of the Reformed Church in America. Other prominent graduates of Western, which is in Holland, Michigan, include Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Seminary, and Robert Schuller, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral.
The archbishop of the Church of Uganda is elected by the House of Bishops, and all candidates must be at least 50 year old. Of the church’s 38 bishops, 33 were eligible for election. The Independent of Kampala reports that other leading contenders for the post included Bishop Sheldon Mwesigwa of Ankole Diocese, Bishop Samuel George Bogere Egesa of Bukedi Diocese, and Bishop Alfred Olwa of Lango Diocese. The archbishop may serve no longer than 10 years and not past the age of 65. The archbishop, by canon, also serves as diocesan bishop of Kampala.
The Rt. Rev. Edison Irigei, the Dean (senior bishop) of the Church of Uganda, who chaired the election synod, said, “We thank God for His clear voice and direction among us for who shall be our next leader. We also ask all Christians to pray for this season of transition, especially for the archbishop and archbishop-elect who are bidding farewell in their dioceses, and for the archbishop-elect to be prepared to receive the mantle of spiritual authority as archbishop.”
Archbishop Ntagali will devote the remaining five months of his tenure to a farewell tour of each of the dioceses under his spiritual care. The signature accomplishments of his tenure include the establishment of three new dioceses and the construction of Church House, the provincial headquarters building in Kampala. He will formally retire and will hand over his pastoral staff to Bishop Kaziimba at a special service of investiture scheduled for March 1, 2020 in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe.
Under Ntagali’s leadership, the Church of Uganda has played a central role in GAFCON, a traditionalist renewal movement centered in the Global South. GAFCON is viewed by some of its members as an eventual replacement for the Canterbury-centered Anglican Communion. In January, 2018, Ntagali announced that the Church of Uganda’s bishops would not attend the Lambeth Conference scheduled for the summer of 2020 because of dissatisfaction with the Communion’s discipline of more progressive provinces. “Unless godly order is restored within the Anglican Communion,” Ntagali said, “we shall not attend other meetings invited by Canterbury.”
The church has also declined to send delegates to the last two meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council. Ntagali attended the 2016 Primates’ Meeting, the gathering of the chief bishops of each Anglican province convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, he walked out of the meeting after his motion to expel Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Canadian Archbishop Fred Hiltz from the gathering was rejected. Ntagali boycotted the most recent meeting of the group, in 2017.
After the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the Church of Uganda announced that it “broke fellowship,” with the Episcopal Church. It has also refused to receive funds from The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, though it does continue to partner with more conservative dioceses and parishes.
Ntagali’s predecessor, Archbishop Henry Orombi, consecrated the Rev. John Guernsey to serve as bishop for 26 congregations that left the Episcopal Church in 2003. After the Anglican Church in North America was formed in 2009, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda declared itself to be in full communion with it, and transferred the clergy and churches under its care to the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in North America. Guernsey now serves as bishop of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.
Kaziimba has not spoken extensively about Anglican Communion affairs. He did, however, serve as Ntagali’s representative at the 2015 meeting of the Global South Primates, which heavily criticized the Episcopal Church’s decision to allow same-sex marriages.