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Anglican Church Proposes Amendments on Bishops' Election Process, Retirement Age :: Uganda Radionetwork

Anglican Church Proposes Amendments on Bishops' Election Process, Retirement Age

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One of the issues presented for amendment is the retirement age of bishops. It is proposed that bishops should retire at 70 years, though some suggest extending it to 75.
29 May 2024 09:27
House of Bishops in a group photo with Minister Ruth Nankabirwa. (File Photo)
The Church of Uganda has silently initiated a process to amend its constitution regarding the election process for bishops, extend their retirement age, and harmonize several key governance issues.

Adams Sadiiki, the Church of Uganda Provincial Spokesperson, confirmed the development, noting that the process has started. 

"Yes, the provincial standing committee presented the matter and the process is underway," he stated without providing further details.

However, multiple sources privy to the matter from the provincial secretariat and various dioceses have indicated that approximately six areas within the constitution are under consideration for amendment. 

"One of the issues presented for amendment is the retirement age of bishops. It is proposed that bishops should retire at 70 years, though some suggest extending it to 75," the source noted, adding that the amendment also proposes that once elected, a bishop should serve for only 15 years.

According to the current Anglican Church constitution, a bishop is mandated to retire at the age of 65. However, some choose to retire earlier due to various factors. The question of the retirement age has been a subject of debate within the Anglican Church over the years, with both clergy and lay members sharing different views on the matter.

One of the lay leaders at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero, who preferred anonymity noted that this matter is coming at a critical time and is an overdue change for the Church. 

"Raising the retirement age is good. At 65 years old, someone is often at their prime as a bishop. These bishops retire and become redundant, sorry to say, yet the Church still needs them. Their longevity creates tension as they retire young, and keep influencing issues. Some also end up as burdens to the diocese," the lay leader noted.

However, a member of the clergy in the West Buganda Diocese pointed out that while extending the retirement age is beneficial, it should not be manipulated to the current bishops' advantage.

"Extending the retirement age is positive, but our bishops should refrain from amending the rules to benefit themselves, as this could lead to unrest. Any changes should apply to future bishops," he emphasized.

His concerns can be understood as they stem from the fact that the current West Buganda bishop is nearing retirement. If the constitution is amended to extend his tenure, it could exacerbate existing divisions within the diocese, which is currently undergoing intense internal processes and political tensions related to the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, there is also a suggestion to increase the minimum age for those aspiring to become bishops from the current 45 years to 50 years. 

URN has also learned that the proposed amendments address issues concerning how bishops are elected. The standing committee's recommendations aim to mitigate these challenges. 

One suggestion is for the province to nominate several individuals during the synod to oversee the election process and mitigate local influences that have historically caused disputes.

In recent years, the Church of Uganda has faced controversies surrounding bishop selection, leading to significant divisions within various dioceses. Instances in places like Kumi, Muhabura Diocese, Luweero, and Namirembe have seen factions of Christians rejecting nominated candidates and challenging elected bishops, sometimes resulting in legal disputes in civil courts—a practice criticized by church authorities. 

During the election of the Bishop of Namirembe, a group of individuals identifying as elders highlighted concerns about the bishop election process and noted that they needed to be sorted. Amos Mukasa, a lay faithful from Nabweru, supports the elders' viewpoint. 

"The election process needs thorough review starting from the synod procedures. The nomination process seems problematic; it resembles a political campaign rather than a spiritual office," Mukasa commented. 

The eligibility criteria for the position of bishop are detailed specifying that the nomination committee assesses candidates based on several factors. These include age, academic qualifications, pastoral ministry experience, spiritual dedication, personal integrity, and societal standing. 

Prospective candidates must be ordained priests with a minimum of ten years of pastoral ministry experience and be at least 45 years old. Additionally, candidates are required to hold a bachelor's degree in Theology or Divinity. Alternatively, they may possess a first degree in another field supplemented by a postgraduate diploma in Theology or Divinity. 

These requirements have also been a source of contention, and the provincial standing committee also wants several dioceses to submit proposals for potential revisions. 

Another contentious issue under consideration is the ownership and use of church land and property. According to sources, the amendments aim to centralize ownership at the provincial level. This would mean that all church land and property would be registered under the registered trustees of the Church of Uganda, represented by serving bishops, rather than being owned individually by dioceses. 

"All church property should be registered under the trusteeship of the Church of Uganda. Any sale of such property cannot be executed without the approval of the trustees. This measure is intended to safeguard church property across the province," a source familiar with the amendment proposal disclosed. 

This issue has been brought up before, with the provincial standing committee previously tabling it to the provincial assembly, where it faced rejection. Notably, it encountered resistance from dioceses such as Mukono, and Namirembe who wanted powers to manage property at the diocesan level. 

At the time of publishing this story, several dioceses such as Luweero have received the proposals, conducted synods, discussed the issues raised, and put forward suggestions. These suggestions are awaiting presentation at the upcoming provincial assembly. Meanwhile, other dioceses like West Buganda have initiated the process of convening synods to discuss the issues raised as well.

In Kampala Diocese, headquartered at All Saints, Nakasero, a special committee has been established to discuss the issue. This committee is expected to present its findings and views to the synod on June 16 of this year. Subsequently, the synod will discuss these findings and make final recommendations. 

Recommendations from the 39 dioceses that constitute the province will be collected and discussed during the provincial assembly. This assembly will bring together the Houses of Bishops, clergy, and laity, and is scheduled to convene later this year.