Female Cleric Elected Bishop of Butere Diocese in Kenya
Huge Challenge to Unity of GAFCON
The Diocese of Butere in the Anglican Church in Kenya has elected Archdeacon Rose Okeno to become its next diocesan bishop. If confirmed by the ACK House of Bishops, her consecration will severely test the unity of the twenty-seven member provinces of GAFCON. The Primates Council of GAFCON agreed in 2018 to not consecrate women as diocesan bishops until and unless a “common mind” had been reached on the innovation. The agreed moratorium has no expiration date. ACK Archbishop Ole Sapit was in office when the moratorium was agreed.
GAFCON is the acronym for the Global Anglican Future Conference. It was formed in 2008 as a means of unifying Anglican provinces that were resisting changes to received biblical doctrine and practice. The twenty-seven official provinces plus the Anglican Church in North America comprise more than 70% of all 90,000,000 Anglican Christians worldwide.
The Constitution of the Anglican Church in Kenya allows for anyone ordained and in good standing to be elected to the office. It is yet unknown whether the pledge made by ACK Archbishop Ole Sapit will have any influence on Okeno’s elevation.
Retired Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, and now President of the GAFCON GBE Council of Reference told the EC: “I don’t know much about it but, if confirmed, it will certainly affect GAFCON unity as the Primates have a moratorium on women bishops which can only be removed when there is overwhelming consent”.
The Revd Tim Anderson, Chairman of GAFCON Ireland and Rector of St Elizabeth’s Church, Dundonald, said: “GAFCON’s position is that there is a moratorium on such actions and that it is a matter that the Primate’s Council will have to resolve”.
When asked about the matter by the EC, The Revd Canon Daniel Willis, Operations Manager at the GAFCON Secretariat’s Office in London, offered a different explanation.
He said, “The GAFCON Primates agreed to a voluntary moratorium on the consecration of women to the episcopate which was to run until the end of 2019. My understanding is that he woman appointed as a suffragan in Kenya did not require the Primate of Kenya’s assent. In the case of this latter election, the Primate of Kenya is yet to respond. The Primates Council has not met face-to-face since April 2019 and no further decision has been taken on the moratorium. There is a Primate’s Council scheduled for September 2021 and no doubt Archbishop Ole Sapit will apprise the Primates on the Kenyan situation”.