Wednesday, 14 February 2018

South Sudan has a female bishop

George Conger reported on 3 February: First woman bishop for GAFCON province

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan has consecrated its first female bishop. Anglican Ink has learned that on 31 December 2016, the Most Rev Daniel Deng Bul, primate of South Sudan and Archbishop of Juba consecrated the Rt. Rev. Elizabeth Awut Ngor as assistant bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek.

Archbishop Deng, who retired last month, upon the election of his successor, the Most Rev. Justin told Radio Good News: “It was in my dream to ordain a woman as bishop in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan before I leave”.

Rumors of a female bishop in South Sudan arose early last year, but queries to the provincial secretary and Archbishop Deng were not answered. The website of the Anglican Consultative Council does not show an assistant bishop for Rumbek and no mention of Bishop Awut’s consecration has been made on the Anglican Communion News Service. However, group photos taken at last month’s meeting of the South Sudan House of Bishops showed one bishop in a skirt holding a handbag. Subsequent queries identified her as Bishop Elizabeth.

Bishop Elizabeth becomes the third African female bishop, following the Rt. Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, who was elected bishop of the Diocese of Swaziland on 18 July 2012 and ordained and installed on 10 November 2012. Her appointment was closely followed by the election, on 12 October 2012 of Margaret Vertue as bishop of the Diocese of False Bay. She was consecrated and installed on 19 January 2013.

Bishop Elizabeth also becomes the first female GAFCON bishop. The GAFCON primates had asked the Churches of Uganda and Kenya to hold back from electing women bishops until GAFCON was of one mind on the issue. With the election of Bishop Elizabeth, pressure will mount for the East African churches to follow suit

GAFCON has issued: A Statement on the Consecration of a Female Bishop in South Sudan

From the beginning of the Gafcon movement there have been a variety of understandings among our members on the question of consecrating women to the episcopate. Recognising that this issue poses a threat to the unity we prize, the Primates agreed in 2014 to do what was within their power to affect a voluntary moratorium on the consecration of women to the episcopate. They then set up the Task Force on Women in the Episcopate, chaired by Bishop Samson Mwaluda which presented a report to the 2017 Gafcon Primates Council.

In discussion at this Council, the Primate of South Sudan, Archbishop Deng Bul (who had not been present when the moratorium was agreed) shared with us that his personal decision to consecrate a female bishop was an extraordinary action taken in the midst of civil unrest in a part of his country where most of the men were engaged in armed conflict.

The Gafcon Primates chose to not allow this anomaly to change the course followed since 2014. The Task Force was asked to continue to provide theological resources, and the Provinces were urged to continue the study of Scripture, to consult with one another and to pray that God will lead us to a common mind. The voluntary moratorium remained in place.

In accordance with these decisions, the Task Forces’ Report, which can be read here, is now being discussed at the regional level in advance of the April Gafcon Primates Council and the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem this June. Our hope is that the newly elected Primate of South Sudan will join us in these discussions as we seek to find a common mind, looking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Peter Jensen, General Secretary
February 2018

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 4:39pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Does the Church of Nigeria allow Women to become Bishops? I don't know. Anyway Great! Perhaps the cracks are beginning to appear in Gafcon. I don't mean to be rude about them, but the fact that they've got the word gaff in their title does reflect what the organisation is. Anyway great news for South Sudan.

Posted by: Christopher Rees on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 5:53pm GMT

Oh, come on, Peter Jensen.

Don't hold back.

Do tell us all what GAFCON thinks the "faith once delivered to the saints" holds on this issue!


Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 6:12pm GMT

The Catholic Radio Network reported on this consecration on Jan. 2, 2017. Many are now reporting that the consecration was "secret", but CNR somehow got the story shortly after the event.

Posted by: Richard on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 7:00pm GMT

Knock in the eye for GAFCON secretary, jensen.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 9:11pm GMT

I trust Bishop Elizabeth will be invited to Jerusalem this June to receive a standing ovation from all GAFCON representatives.

Posted by: shamus on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 10:22pm GMT

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, the Churches of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Sudan (and now both Sudan and South Sudan) made early decisions to ordain women as an act of faithfulness to scripture. Earlier than the CofE. The rise to senior positions was slow and slowed further by the rising influence of Western conservatives especially in Uganda. Kenya had an advocate in Ester Mombo who got women onto higher degrees and so influence.
In Sudan the bishops in that region were forced out of their dioceses with death threats. A woman bishop was the only possibility. Do pray for peace in South Sudan and Sudan.
GAFCON seem more interested in their internal politics than reconciliation in South Sudan.
Internally GAFCON has to cope with the fact that provinces such as Uganda have said that women in leadership is Biblical and so not up for negotiation, while in Nigeria it is un-Biblical and so not up for negotiation. The ACNA is divided.
You can handle division if you have 'good disagreement' but not if you have confessionalism. In the end GAFCON will have to decide. So far they have said women in leadership is a 'second order' issue, but people like Peter Jensen have argued it is a 'first order' issue for years. It is hard to square the circle.
For me the priority is to pray for Bishop Ngor who has the task of proclaiming Jesus to communities where everyone has lost a relative and countless women have been raped as part of war. Please pray for her.

Posted by: Phil Groves on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 at 11:13pm GMT

Part of me would like to rejoice at seeing GAFCON hoist by their own petard but ultimately I just have sadness that they are following the well-trodden path of churches that try to enforce agreement where there is not consensus - division after division after division. Where I can rejoice is in the boldness of Archbishop Justin Deng. A step taken in faith, like the consecration of Bishop Elizabeth, may be a catalyst for change. As Phil Groves suggests I will pray for her.

Posted by: Jo on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 8:07am GMT

This is extraordinary news and glad to see the Anglican Communion is still capable of surprises in an over-connected internet age when we assume everything everyone does is instantly reported.

Bishop Elizabeth is therefore the 57th woman to become a bishop in the Anglican Communion, and the forthcoming consecrations of Anne Dyer (Aberdeen and Orkney, Scotland), Marinez Santos Bassotto (Amazon, Brazil) and Sonia Roulston (Newcastle, Australia) will take the total number to 70 by May this year.

Posted by: Peter S on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 11:08am GMT

I know it's petty snarking, but it is a little hard to take seriously people who want to give the impression of being intellectual giants capable of the deep theological insights for our times, but who also struggle with basic English.

You put moratoriums in effect, not into affect. Apostrophes denoting possession by singular entities go before the "s", but if you're struggling with English you might get confused if it's a singular entity containing multiple people ("the Task Forces’ Report"). Similarly, "a variety of understandings" is singular (one variety, multiple understandings, the clue being in the singular "a") and therefore it's "there HAS been a variety of understandings". These errors are flatly wrong.

With slightly more wriggle room for debate, there should also be a comma before "which presented" in "They then set up the Task Force on Women in the Episcopate, chaired by Bishop Samson Mwaluda which presented"; alternatively, there should be no comma before "chaired". The basis for the historic taboo on splitting infinitives is nonsense, but you might think that conservatives would see it as worth continuing. But whatever you think of the wisdom or otherwise of splitting infinitives, "The Gafcon Primates chose to not allow this anomaly" is hideous: "chose not to allow" is just better in every way.

Yes, on one level this is petty. But on another level it isn't: dashing stuff off without re-reading it, full of errors and stylistic infelicities, is what you expect of the comments below the line on blogs, not on serious statements by large religious organisations. Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking, and reveals the authors as not being willing to do the work to back up their ideas.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 11:14am GMT

"Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking, and reveals the authors as not being willing to do the work to back up their ideas."

It doesn't. I have worked with people whose English is grammatically precise, but whose understanding of what to write was poor. I have had a boss who pointedly never spent time checking for typos and mistakes on the basis that in the time he spent doing that, he could write a second piece with considerable intellectual input instead.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 11:49am GMT

IO, I agree with your grammatical points, just not with your conclusion. Irritating as I find such mistakes, I am no longer surprised by finding them anywhere. I see them regularly in the Times and the Daily Telegraph. I see or hear them daily on the BBC. I used to proof-read history and theology doctoral theses for some pocket money, and would find this sort of thing regularly. My colleagues at (expensive, well-regarded) school (even in the English dept) regularly produce these sort of mistakes in reports for parents. Worse still, most of the parents wouldn't notice. As a 6th Form tutor, I even see the same in university prospectuses. I would hope for better, but sadly wouldn't expect it these days, regardless of the intellectual capabilities of the author. Also, Peter Jensen is Australian!

Posted by: NJ on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 1:36pm GMT

Interested Observer: as a former copy editor, I have to disagree with you. Several of the usages you cite are open to disagreement, even among people educated in England (see the weekly Times column 'The Pedant'.. GAFCON contains people educated in a number of countries, including those where English isn't the first language. Usages differ.

In any case, a large number of people with conditions like dyslexia are highly intelligent - their struggles with spelling, syntax and grammar don't negate the depth and breadth of their thinking.

As Phil rightly says, the priority here is to pray for Bp. Elizabeth. She has a very tough assignment in South Sudan, made worse by the isolation of her position and her status as an 'anomaly' in GAFCON. God give her grace and strength.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 2:07pm GMT

In his Apologia for the current controversy in South Sudan, the former archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen (GAFCON Sec.) speaks of the charism of Unity. With this prospect already in doubt because of the Province of South Sudan's ordination of a female bishop, Jensen's plans for an alternative 'Anglican Communion - based on the puritanical solidarity of the GAFCON leadership - seems already in danger of falling into further schismatic severance. Intentional schism only leads to further schism - as witness the ACNA problems about women bishops.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 10:11pm GMT

I'm down with Interested Observer's comments about the quality of writing in material produced by GAFCON. I'm including to believe it shows contempt not only for the language but for those consuming such material.

OTOH, I consider it on a par with the quality of theological penetration and analysis with which GAFCON leadership reads Scripture and presumes to tell the rest of us what it all *really* means.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 10:47pm GMT

Christopher Rees, I don't think that the Church of Nigeria even allows ordination of women tothe priesthood.

GAFCON's North American affiliate ACNA is on the verge of breaking apart over the issue of women's ordination; their own task force presented a study which neither side was satisfied with. It looks like the fissure may involve more than ACNA.

The bigger question is whether movements whose formation is essentially anti-something, and whose common cause is that opposition to one particular practice or issue, can long endure once the members realize they have different views on many other issues.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at 10:57pm GMT

Exactly, Daniel Berry. They don't care about getting it right, because they assume their audience won't know any better.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 16 February 2018 at 9:28am GMT

Jim Pratt. Thank you for saying about the Church of Nigeria. I agree with you about Gafcon.

Posted by: Christopher Rees on Friday, 16 February 2018 at 1:03pm GMT

From the description of circumstances, it sounds like Bishop Elizabeth has been ordained Bishop in a context comparable to that in which Florence Li Tim Oi was ordained priest. We will see if it takes as long for other Global South churches (yes, I know: that's broader than GAFCON; but many are still culturally much more open to men than women) to see Bishop Elizabeth as within the norm as it took the entire Communion to see Li Tim Oi as within the norm.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Friday, 16 February 2018 at 2:49pm GMT

"it sounds like Bishop Elizabeth has been ordained Bishop in a context comparable to that in which Florence Li Tim Oi was ordained priest."

Or indeed Ludmila Javorovà in the Roman communion.

Posted by: Geoff McL on Friday, 16 February 2018 at 11:11pm GMT

Geoff McL, I was not aware of Ludmila Javarova. Thank you.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Tuesday, 20 February 2018 at 4:59pm GMT
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