Africa’s First Female Bishop Dies from COVID-19

By Kirk Petersen

The Rt. Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya, who as the VI Bishop of Swaziland was the first woman to be consecrated as an Anglican bishop in Africa, died on January 19 from COVID-19, according to the Anglican Communion News Service. She was 69.

“In her Diocese, the Province of Southern Africa and the Anglican Communion, Bishop Ellinah was widely known for her advocacy of the integrity of creation,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

“She was truly the Green Bishop of the Anglican Communion, leading her young people and the diocese into dedicating themselves to address climate change as a Christian service,” said the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa, which has a companion relationship with the Diocese of Swaziland. “Other ministry goals that she steadfastly sought to hold the diocese to during her time included gender equality, the care for orphans, the most vulnerable among the Swazi population, and the encouragement of the diocese’s capacity to develop its own economic resources, such as expanding agriculture, or building hostels for students.”

In a message to the Diocese of Iowa, Scarfe said: “Bishop Ellinah was just recovering from hip surgery when she contracted the virus, and had seemingly weathered the initial effect of the virus, having a good night, just yesterday, conversing and laughing with the Anglican nurses that were involved in her hospital care. However, as has been a pattern with COVID-19, she took a swift turn for the worse, and died early this morning, January 19th.”

Bishop Wamukoya was elected in 2012 as Bishop of Swaziland in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, 20 years after the province first allowed women to become priests. The Diocese of Swaziland encompasses the country that has been known as Eswatini since changing its name in 2018. Eswatini is a bit larger than the state of Connecticut, bordered on three sides by South Africa and by Mozambique on the east.

In 2016, the BBC named Bishop Wamukoya one of the 100 most influential and inspirational women in the world.


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