By Kirk Petersen
The Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) has authorized the ordination of women, subject to the preferences of each diocese, Anglican Communion News Service reports. Of the 42 autonomous provinces in the Anglican Communion, the traditionally Anglo-Catholic CPCA was the largest that heretofore prohibited ordaining women under all circumstances, and the only one in Africa.
That statement comes with an important caveat, because the Church of Nigeria allows the ordination of women only as deacons, and only in limited roles, reserving the priesthood for men. Nigeria is second only to the Church of England in nominal membership — but Nigeria ranks first in terms of Anglicans who actually attend church.
The only remaining provinces that do not ordain women are Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Melanesia — which combined have far fewer Anglicans than Central Africa. These comparisons are drawn from Wikipedia’s entries on Anglican membership and ordination practices — which in turn are largely based on data from seven or more years ago.
Many of Anglicanism’s most theologically conservative provinces now ordain women to the priesthood, including Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, and others. Many of them do not elevate women to the episcopacy — a restriction technically required by the GAFCON movement — but there are female bishops in Kenya and South Sudan.
The province includes 15 dioceses in four countries: Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In addition to approving women’s ordination, the provincial synod in early November voted to subdivide two of Malawi’s dioceses, increasing the number of dioceses in that country from four to seven. The province also voted to split itself into three national provinces, for Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The standalone diocese of Botswana would decide which of the three provinces to join.
The provincial secretary, Bishop William Mchombo, told ACNS that the proposal for new provinces will be developed and submitted to the Anglican Communion Standing Committee.
The Primate of Central Africa is Archbishop Albert Chama of Lusaka, Zambia. The province is headquartered in Mzuzu, Malawi.
The synod’s closing Eucharist was followed by the planting of trees in the precincts of the Diocese of Southern Malawi’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. The planting of trees to mark significant events is promoted by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and has become a common feature in the Anglican churches of southern Africa.