By Raymond Baguma
THE Anglican Church of Uganda has consecrated an American priest as bishop to oversee Christian congregations that have split from the main Episcopal Church in the US over the issue of homosexuality.
John Guernsey was consecrated at St. James Cathedral in Mbarara town yesterday in a ceremony, presided over by the Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi. He was assisted by bishops from Canada, Argentina, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria, and priests from the US.
Prime Minister Prof. Apollo Nsibambi represented President Yoweri Museveni.
Guernsey, who has been the Vicar of All Saintâ€™s Church in the parish of Woodbridge, Virginia, will return to the US and lead the 33 parishes that have recognised the Church of Ugandaâ€™s authority.
â€œAs I assume this responsibility of providing episcopal oversight and care for the church of Uganda congregations in the US, I am excited about helping these churches catch the fire of mission which the Church of Ugada so passionately demonstratesâ€, Guernsey said.
â€œIn America, we must recapture the priority of evangelism, the urgency of outreach into our communities and the need to reach young people and raise leaders of the next generations. I pray that the spirit of revival comes to us where so many are lost.â€
Guernseyâ€™s consecration came just three days after Kenyaâ€™s Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi consecrated two American priests as bishops.
The 77 million-strong Anglican Communion has been split since its 2.4 million-member US branch consecrated Gene Robinson as the first gay bishop four years ago.
The US Church accuses Africans of invading their turf. But African bishops retort that they are merely providing refuge for believers at odds with liberal views.
After Gene Robinson was consecrated, Orombi announced that no diocese in Uganda would accept money or gifts from American charities belonging to the US Episcopal Church.
Some parishes in the US have since seceded and joined Anglican dioceses in Uganda.
In his sermon, Orombi said humanity today was at crossroads and there was need to rekindle the Christian revival movement, based on the biblical principles.
â€œThe whole world is watching. It occurred in Kenya and we are making it happen here in Mbarara. With the consecration of John, many parishes will bid to join and we are welcoming them.â€
Prime Minister Nsibambi received a thunderous applause when he praised the Church of Uganda for their firm stand on homosexuals.
â€œThe Government appreciates the firm stand the Church of Uganda and other religious leaders have taken against homosexualsâ€, Nsibambi said.
â€œWe do not want to persecute them because we know they suffer and need assistance. It is very wrong to consecrate homosexual bishops as it happened in America.â€
President Museveni, whose speech was read by Nsibambi, said Guernseyâ€™s consecration came at an opportune time, in the light of acts of moral decadence in the present times.
â€œThe urban setting of Mbarara diocese may bring with it social ills prevalent in these times and affecting the family unit,â€ Museveniâ€™s speech read.
â€œThe church should come to the rescue. The church has been vigilant in building homes. It should also design programmes for young people so that they do not roam in other pleasures.â€
The President donated sh2m in cash to the American bishop.
Guernsey first came to Uganda in 1989 and worked in north Kigezi diocese. In 2006, Guernseyâ€™s parish left the Episcopal Church, to join the Church of Uganda and north Kigezi. He now becomes the bishop for the Church of Uganda congregations in America.
At the same ceremony, Rev. George Tibeesigwa was consecrated the fourth Bishop of Ankole Diocese, replacing retired Bishop Elisha Kyamugambi.
Orombi handed episcopal staffs to the two bishops as symbols of authority.
In Kenya, the Anglican Church also consecrated two US bishops in a similar move expected to deepen the row over homosexuality.
Bill Murdoch of Massachusetts and Bill Atwood of Texas will be under the Kenyan Church although they will serve in the US. They were consecrated by Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi in Nairobi (Full story on page 17).