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Provost Commits to Nairobi Cathedral’s Critical Voice

The new provost of All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi has pledged to maintain its role as a voice of conscience for Christians in Kenya, while also shifting to a more doctrinal focus through expository preaching.

The Rev. Canon Evans Omollo previously served as assistant provost to the Very Rev. Dr. Sammy Wainaina, who left the cathedral to become an adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Omollo presented a 10-point charge when he was installed as provost on July 9.

About expository preaching, the provost said: “As a result of prayer and careful evaluation of our trends in pulpit ministry and the growing needs for greater spiritual impact among the members, we shall adopt an expository preaching approach to our pulpit ministry to enhance deeper spiritual growth because God’s word has power to transform lives, as Hebrews 4:12 says.”

In addition to being the chief Anglican church of East Africa’s largest city, the cathedral is the primatial church for the Anglican Church of Kenya. Located in the city’s historic core, it is less than a block from the Kenyan parliament building, and its English Gothic style reveals its historic connections with British imperial rule. Kenya became independent in 1963, and the Anglican Church of Kenya an autonomous Anglican province seven years later.

The cathedral has deep associations with the Kenyan church’s willingness to challenge the government’s abuse of power and failure to safeguard human rights.

TLC correspondent Jesse Masai provided background to the cathedral’s political engagement in a story he wrote in February 2022:

By 1982, Kenya was a one-party state, and dissent increasingly moved underground. All Saints’ provost, the Very Rev. Peter Njenga, however, spoke out against the brutal demolition of unauthorized slums in the city’s Muoroto district in May 1990.

“Clerical leadership at All Saints’ Cathedral provided a strategic platform for national discourse in [Kenya’s] unfolding democratization process,” remembered the Rt. Rev. Joseph Wandera, currently the Bishop of Mumias. “The engagement of the clergymen took the form of sermons, publications, the stimulus of critical national debate, and the provision of refuge for political activists.”

In February 1992, a group of women whose sons had been seized by the government as political prisoners began gathering in Uhuru Park. Led by Professor Wangari Maathai, who would later become the first Kenyan to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the women engaged in hunger strikes, while large supportive crowds gathered for prayer, public addresses, and the singing of freedom songs.

When police tried to disperse the protesting mothers with batons and tear gas, they famously stripped themselves naked and shook their breasts at the cops. The lawmen fled in fear, responding to social taboos that deem a mother’s stripping in anger as a powerful curse. The police returned a few days later and the women fled into the cathedral, which offered them sanctuary for three days, while police occupied the grounds, ready to arrest them.

“Hardliners in the ruling party, Kanu, started calling it the ‘Church of Politics of Kenya,’” Tom Osanjo wrote in an article for Religion Unplugged. Osanjo quoted Omollo as saying he is a student of the political theology of the late Archbishop David Gitari, who led the Kenyan church from 1997 to 2002.

“Gitari’s entire political theology was that the church should not keep quiet when political actors do things wrongly,” Omollo said. “In fact, even our Lord Jesus Christ would not have kept quiet in such a situation.”

The provost also attributed his political concerns to his childhood, when his father fell afoul of President Daniel arap Moi’s administration.

“After his detention without trial by the Moi regime following the 1982 attempted coup, life plunged us into economic hardship as my mother had to relocate and start life from scratch in the village,” Omollo said in Osanjo’s report. “That was an awful turnaround of events, and the scars remain fresh to date. I am a firstborn in a family of six — three boys and three girls, and that order of birth placed leadership roles on me at a very tender age. I became a ‘deputy parent’ at a very tender age, navigating the contours of parenting way before I founded my own family.”

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