Bishop Akanjuna of Kigezi is well qualified for his ministry

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Bishop Akanjuna of Kigezi is well qualified for his ministry

Another episode of conflict is brewing in Kigezi Diocese of the Church of Uganda. Through his lawyer, Mr. Nelson Habasa, a member of the Church, wrote to the Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda, on March 31, 2023, to demand that a Provincial Tribunal be constituted to hear an alleged ecclesiastical offence by the Bishop of Kigezi. Habasa alleged that Right Reverend Gaddie Akanjuna, who was consecrated Bishop of Kigezi on May 29, 2022, had wilfully violated Article 13(6) of the Provincial Constitution and Canons 3.6.2 and 3.7.22 of the Church of Uganda, by allegedly being nominated while lacking the requisite academic qualifications to serve as bishop in the Church of Uganda.  Habasa has now threatened to take the matter to the High Court of the Republic of Uganda. 


First things first. Bishop Akanjuna is a very well-educated man. A former schoolteacher, with a Grade III teaching certificate that he obtained in 1987, Akanjuna received a two-year pre-ordination education at Bishop Barham Divinity College in Kabale, which he completed in 1995.  He followed this with a diploma in theology from the Uganda Christian University in 1998, then a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Diploma in Education from the same university in 2004. In between his college and university learning, Akanjuna gained vast experience as a teacher, a priest in two parishes, and an archdeacon in three different areas in the diocese, culminating in his consecration as bishop nearly one year ago. 


So, on what basis does Mr. Habasa seek nullification of Bishop Akanjuna’s appointment? I do not pretend to be learned in the interpretation of the law. However, the charge against the bishop seems to be based on the sequence of his qualifications, not on his indisputably impressive academic and experiential preparation for his episcopate. Provincial Canon 3.7.22 requires that for one to serve as bishop, he must have either a bachelor’s degree in theology or divinity, or a first degree in any other discipline with a subsequent post graduate diploma in theology or divinity. 


Bishop Akanjuna obtained his diploma in theology before his degree and a second diploma. It is because of this subtle and, in my opinion, very inconsequential technicality that potentially disruptive charges have been brought against the Sixth Bishop of Kigezi. Evidently someone believes that a diploma prior to a degree is materially different from one obtained after the degree. Whatever difference there may be, I recommend that this charge be dismissed by the presiding ecclesiastical and secular judges when it comes before them. Bishop Akanjuna is formally very well qualified and very well prepared for the ministry to which he was called through appropriate nomination, selection, and consecration.


That said, I confess that I do not care much about academic certifications as requirements for serving as bishops in the Church of God. The requirement for college and university diplomas and degrees is a non-biblical tradition that has nothing to do with the essential qualifications for overseers, elders, or pastors. The Apostle Paul, who did more than anyone else to establish the Church, left very clear instructions on the qualifications for overseers (later called bishops). 


In 1 Timothy 3: 1-7 we read: “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” 


Paul repeated these instructions in his letter to Titus 1: 5-9, in which he referred to these leaders (bishops) as elders and added a great instruction that the elder must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Paul makes it clear that the overseer should make worship and study of the Bible the focal point of the Church. Detailed teaching of the Word, not just preaching and exhortation, was a central role of the overseer. It remains so today. 


It is instructive to note that Paul, a Jew from Tarsus, who was thoroughly fluent in Greek and was a legal scholar that had been tutored by Rabbi Gamaliel, never required the overseers (elders or bishops) to have academic qualifications. What mattered was that these men were Christians, with nothing in their behaviour or conduct that people could justifiably point accusing fingers at. That was the central qualification that defined many of the great men and women of the transformative East African Revival that remains the point of reference for the Church that we desire to see in Uganda. 


We need Church leaders who are genuine Christians, with the ability to lead, to bless and to encourage God’s children. We need overseers that do not have personal agendas but are there to serve the Lord with humility and focus on God’s flock. We need overseers who can boldly stand tall in a nation where, in the words of Isaiah 59:14, “justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.” 


We need leaders that can create a safe place in a dark world that is in the throes of evil. We need church leaders who, like the Apostle Paul, become bondservants of the Lord, serving “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.” 


In Acts 20:28, Paul distils the job description of an overseer (bishop) into one great sentence during his final speech to the Ephesian elders that he had invited to Miletus: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” It is a message that our leaders and all of us should heed. 



Whereas I do not yet know Bishop Akanjuna, everything I have heard about him from Christians that I respect and trust, is that he is a man that meets Pauline criteria for service as overseer (bishop) of the church in Kigezi Diocese. Members and friends of Kigezi Diocese who treasure the stability of the Church should rally behind our bishop, support his ministry, and exercise maximum restraint, showing love and a sincere desire for reconciliation in the church, all to the glory of God. Peace.


© Muniini K. Mulera







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