By Joan Akello
Archbishop Ntagali takes office at trying moment
He sat between two men of God. They have been in his position. Faced with a tougher job, under close scrutiny of a bigger congregation, the new Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, looked relaxed and only shifted occasionally in his seat during his enthroned on Sunday, Dec. 16. The 57-year old sat between his mentor, retired Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo, and his predecessor, immediate-past Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi. After signing a few documents as the new archbishop, he said something that left Orombi in quiet laughter and smiles.
Over 30,000 people flocked St. Paul Cathedral, Namirembe to witness the enthronement. President Yoweri Museveni, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, ambassadors, chief justice, Catholic Cardinal Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, Pastor Joseph Serwadda, head of the Pentecostal Churches, the Metropolitan YonaLwanga, and a representative of the Mufti of Uganda attended.
An archbishop can serve only for 10 years and no more. He, it is still a man’s job, can only serve until their 65th birthday. Then he must retire, even if he has served less than his ten-year term.
Ntagali will be 65 in 2020 and, therefore, will serve only for eight years. Orombi served for nine year, and surprised his congregation when he announced that he was leaving before his tenure expired to focus on preaching the Gospel.
Orombi will be recalled for inheriting a conflicted diocese and reconciling it, developing infrastructure at the Provincial Offices in Namirembe, launching the Decade of Mission, and streamlining provincial operations. An official statement praised him for engaging with youth around the country, holding civic campaigns to eliminate child and human sacrifice, and launching the long-awaited construction of Church House on Kampala Road in the heart of the Central Business District of Kampala city.
In six years, Orombi traversed the country, clocking 175,000kms, a feat none of his six predecessors ever did.
Up to 25 of his 35 bishops in the House were new and he also extended an olive branch to the Pentecostal pastors. In July last year, 32 of these pastors met with bishops and their wives at Lweza Conference Centre to seek forgiveness from each other. Orombi would meet the pastors every first Monday of the month at Namirembe Guest House for prayer. This act, he said, was “to kill the fires of tension between the Anglican and Pentecostal clerics”.
Christians expect Archbishop Ntagali to keep a vibrant church, complete Church House, oversee Uganda Christian University, grow the youth ministry,and fight corruption, domestic violence, rampant divorce and homosexuality.
At his enthronement, President Museveni urged him and other the clergy to use the pulpit and preach against HIV/Aids and the promotion of homosexuality.
“If there are some homosexuals, we shall not kill or persecute them but there should be no promotion of homosexuality. We cannot accept promotion of homosexuality as if it is a good thing,” Museveni said to thunderous applause from the congregation. Museveni is under pressure from parliament which wants to pass a draconian Anti-homosexual law that prescribes death for certain offenders and donors who are threatening to cut aid if the Bill is passed. Museveni, who says homosexuality has been tolerated for centuries in Africa, is walking a tight rope with his message of “keep your sex confidential and no one will bother you”.
“I have been married to Janet for the last 39 years but I have never kissed her in public or before my children,” he told the congregation.
Ntagali’s predecessor, Orombi, put up a fight against the gays in 2010 and suspended Uganda Provincial Church from participating in the activities of the Global Anglican Community in Europe and America when it enthroned a gay bishop.
Now that he is out, people are waiting to see whether Ntagali will exert the same influence against Canterbury and America. For his part, Orombi told The Independent that unity for the Anglican community will not be easy.
Ntagali says his vision is to have a vibrant church too. But his challenges are many. He must fight rampant succession wrangles and the election of bishops, mobilise funds for the Church House and other projects like existing technical and vocational institutions, and revive church structures for the youth, and consider empowerment of women in the church.
Archbishop Nkoyoyo said although there are challenges on Ntagali’s path, “God will lead him since he is still young and I have worked with him for more than 15 years.”
The Anglican Communion is the world’s third largest family of churches, after the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. It has 85 million members spread throughout 165 countries. The Church of Uganda is the second largest Province among the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion, with more than 11 million members, which is a little more than one-third the population of Uganda.
The Archbishop is the senior leader of the entire Church of Uganda and the chief spokesman for the Church. As Archbishop, he participates in global leadership meetings.
Phoebe, Orombi’s wife said, “We have closed the chapter of ordained ministry but continue to serve till we meet the Lord face to face.”
Ntagali is the eighth archbishop after Leslie Brown, a British missionary ,the first Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire (1961-1966), Archbishop Erica Sabiti (1966 – 1974) ,Archbishop Janani Luwum (1974 – 1977) who was martyred in 1977 and Archbishop Silvanus Wani (1977 – 1983).
Others are Archbishop Yona Okoth (1983 – 1995) Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi- Nkoyoyo (1995 – 2004) and Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi (2004 – 2012).