Circle Kenya Founding Member consecrated First Woman Assistant Bishop.
She chairs The Africa Centre for Biblical Equity and is a founder-member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.
Mission is to serve: Emily Onyango consecrated as first woman assistant bishop
The Rev. Canon Dr. Emily Onyango, a Priest of the Anglican church of Kenya, was on Saturday March 27, 2021 consecrated and enthroned as the first woman assistant bishop of Bondo diocese.
Describing the occasion as a dream come true, the 59-year-old mother of two said that her journey in ministry hasn’t been a walk in the park.
“It all began in my younger days when I was brought up in a Christian family and I was convinced that it was the path meant for me. “When we joined the then St Paul’s United Theological College for a Bachelor of Divinity Degree, some men made fun of us that we were supposed to do sciences and not theology,” she said.
Before being presented for the consecration, the Rev. Canon Dr. Onyango took the oath of obedience at 11am .
The former student of Nyakach Girls High School grew up in Nairobi where her father worked with the Kenya Railways before he was transferred to Kisumu.
Highlighting her challenges as a young woman who embarked on a path that not many had tried, Onyango said she came face to face with controversy.
Following her appointment in January 2021, claims emerged that the appointment process of the assistant bishop for the diocese was unprocedural and in complete disregard of the provisions of the Diocesan Constitution.
They said that the diocese cannot financially sustain the office of the assistant bishop.
“This is evidenced by the fact that the parishes were, as of January 1, 2021, in arrears on their financial obligations to the diocese to the tune of about KSh13 million.
This is almost equivalent to the annual expenditure of the diocese,” read the petition. But on Saturday, the newly consecrated bishop said that the matter was the extra costs that her office was coming in with, but her appointment as a woman bishop.
“Many Christians were worried that the office will need a bishop’s car and other things, but I want to tell you that my mission is to serve God,” she said.
Following the 1978 Lambeth Conference, which stated that ordination of women need not be a communion dividing issue, the Anglican Church of Kenya permitted women to join the episcopate in 1980.
“Honestly, Christians had no problem with women leadership but the church hierarchy had its own reservations,” she said, expressing her excitement after she was ordained as a Deacon 36 years ago.
Onyango started with children’s ministry in the then Diocese of Maseno South and thereafter she was priested in December 1986 by the late Rt. Rev. Dr. Henry Okullu, who had also ordained the Rev. Lucia Okuthe, the church’s first woman priest, in 1983.
“Even though the province had agreed in principle, things turned out to be so controversial that Bishop Okullu had to be called from Canterbury to explain why I was ordained,” she said, adding that she was only 22 years old and the church leadership was suspicious.
Cuently, she chairs The Africa Centre for Biblical Equity and is a founder-member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.