Female voices on steady trajectory to rule the altar

By , People Daily Digital
Friday, October 15th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
ODM leader Raila Odinga with the head of ACK archbishop Jakson ole Sapit and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu during the consecration of Bishop Rose Okeno at Butere Girls grounds, yesterday. Photo/PD/Emmanuel Wanson

The elevation of a woman, Bishop Rose Okeno, to the See of Butere is either a beginning or a continuation of a silent revolution that is happening in sections of the structured church and particularly the Anglican Church of Kenya. May be her installation will accelerate what is already going on. 

Bishop Okeno may have not been the first woman to be installed as a Bishop in the country or to be at the top leadership of the church.

Further afield, within the Anglican Communion, there are many female Bishops appointed to lead it. Indeed, the list is getting longer.

From North America, there are female bishops in Canada, the United States and Brazil. Same to Cuba.

The number of female bishops in the Anglican Communion is increasing in Europe with the seat of the Anglican Church- the United Kingdom, leading the pack.

In Oceania, both Australia and New Zealand have ordained females as bishops.  Even in Asia, South India has a female bishop. 

In Africa, the Anglican Church has probably been slow in joining this trend. The liberal South African Church led the path with female bishop in that country and then the See of Swaziland followed.

In Kenya the See of Bondo controversially installed Bishop Emily Onyango earlier this year.

Then came Bishop Okeno who took over the seat vacated by her predecessor. The Church in South Sudan falls under this group of pioneers.

To focus on the top seat in the diocese probably misses the point. Women have simply emerged as a silent army in the ranks of the church.

The pulpit may still be dominated by voices in suits, but female voices rule the pews.

Mothers’ Union is a powerful movement with their colorful uniform and ever present in church functions.

In fact, hardly any function will succeed if this army in blue and white, with matching headscarf, did not show up. 

Their male counterparts, the Kenya Anglican Men’s Association, pale in comparison.

Hard as they try, it is still not easy to notice their blue suits and red ties in official functions.

Their leaders appeal for men to show up, but the frequency of such appeals suggest that the appeals usually land on deaf ears.

Across the rank of church leadership, the number of these women is increasing.

More are being ordained lay readers, are taking up preaching functions as priests, and now filling the rank of Canons.

Lower the ladder, they are the predominant faces in cell groups – small gatherings in local communities by believers to reflect on their faith.

Probably this rise of women in the Anglican church leadership is the clearest indication that the Anglican Church in Africa could be in safe hands if the trend continues.

The devotion and commitment of these women to their faith-oriented tasks is infectious.

Of course, there have been female evangelists in the charismatic wing of the church.

But these have operated as individuals, without clear structures and tend to fizzle out with the age of the female evangelist, or whenever their interests change.

But the movement in the Anglican Church speaks of the rise of this army in an organised institutions, with systems and structures that may be relied upon to provide continuity and direction.

Mothers being the primary units of nurturing families, these leaders in dresses could draw even more women, and their children to the communion. 

It is not disputable that the church in the West is facing its most lean time in the history of its evolution since the days of Peter the Apostle.

This Western church has always been led by men – they were the theologians, the preachers, the evangelists, and the missionaries.

They kept women out of their leadership ranks, heeding Evangelist Paul’s mantra that confined women to support roles.

The male -led African church is following its western predecessor in Kenya, mixing religion and politics to an extent that the boundaries are getting blurred.

The female evangelists from the charismatic wing have not been any different.

But may be the women leaders in the structured Church will make a difference. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University