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New Election Procedures for Kenya's Anglican Church

Posted on: January 30, 1998 10:32 AM
Related Categories: Kenya

The Church of the Province of Kenya [CPK] is to undergo major administrative changes among them the change of name and the election procedure for Bishops.

At a Special Synod of the Church held from 22nd to 23rd January 1998 at the All Saints Cathedral Hall in Nairobi the delegates agreed to change the name from the current CPK to the Anglican Church of Kenya. The Provincial Chancellor, Mr. Paul Kariuki has been instructed to apply to the Registrar of Societies for the change of name. The Church will be administered by a Primate assisted by two or three Archbishops. This is in response to the rapid expansion of the church and the increased need for pastoral services.

Currently the church which is the second largest denomination in the country has a membership of three million out of Kenya's total twenty-six million people. It is administered through twenty-six dioceses up from the original seven in 1970 when the Kenya Church became independent of the larger East African Province.

On the election of Bishops, the delegates agreed that the final decision would lie between the Standing Committee of the Provincial Synod and the Standing Committee of the vacant Diocese that once a See becomes vacant, a Search Committee would be constituted comprising of six laymen and six clergymen from the Diocese. The Provincial Standing Committee of Synod would then appoint two bishops, two priests and two laymen to join the Search Committee. The Committee would then nominate not more than three people of good standing who they would interview and recommend to the Primate. The members of the Diocesan Synod would have the liberty to propose any person they consider suitable for the appointment. Thereafter the Archbishop would be approached for further discussion between the Standing Committee of the Province and the vacant diocese.

The Constitutional Review Committee chaired by retired Bishop Henry Okullu said they believe this method would eliminate campaigns and too much lobbying and would ensure that a proper person of good standing is elected bishop. Currently the election of bishops has been left almost entirely to the diocesan synods which has given raise to intense lobbying and sometimes bad blood between supporters of different candidates. In a number of cases, Sees have stayed for a long time without being filled because it became difficult to settle matters at the Diocesan level. It is believed that the new method would involve the church more in the election and it would give the Primate the ability to translate bishops from one area to another as maybe necessary.

On the election of the Archbishop or Primate it was unanimously resolved to change the current regulation from voting until the winner obtains 2/3 majority win. The delegates noted that this provision may seriously incapacitate the church leaving the church without proper leadership for long. Drawing from the experience in the recent election of the Archbishop where voting went deep into the night because neither of the candidates had garnered the 2/3 majority of the ballots cast until the very last round, the delegates resolved that when there are more than two candidates aspiring for the position of Archbishop or Primate the balloting will be taken as usual but when none of the candidates gets more than 2/3 majority of the ballots cast then balloting would be done eliminating the last candidate at every ballot until only two candidates remain. Voting for the last two candidates will be done three times and if no one emerges with the 2/3 majority, at the fourth ballot the candidate with a simple majority will be declared the Archbishop or Primate.

The Constitutional Review Commission was appointed in November 1992 by the 11th Ordinary Session of the Provincial Synod and was chaired by Bishop Henry Okullu. It noted that the Pastoral needs of church members is increasing rapidly and the church is expanding greatly since the last constitution was made. It also laid concentration on the future requirements of the church. As a result of the growth the Commission noted, it has become very difficult for the Archbishop to effectively travel and visit the twenty-six dioceses and it is envisaged that the number of dioceses will continue to increase. As such the Commission was charged with the responsibility of investigating methods of creating Regional Provinces or Arch-Dioceses within the Province and to make recommendations as to whether the Primate or Presiding Bishop must necessarily also be the Bishop of Nairobi. Under the current constitution the Primate is always the Bishop of Nairobi.

In the last Synod the delegates resolved that the Church should be divided into either two or three ecclesiastical provinces (the number to be determined by the working committee) each with an Archbishop and each having a number of dioceses. The Archbishop will be elected by the electoral college equally represented by all the dioceses and the ecclesiastical provinces. It was also agreed that the Primate would be bishop of an area jointly agreed between by the Provincial Office and the Nairobi Diocese. This would give the Diocese of Nairobi a chance to elect their Bishop democratically and also reduce the diocesan responsibilities of the Primate.

Commenting on the expected changes, former Permanent Secretary and now a lay member of synod, Mr. J. S. Mathenge said time had come for change. Mr. Mathenge said he was excited that the church was ready to embrace change now and noted that although the church likes to keep tradition to ensure stability it was also imperative to realise that time for change is necessary. "We are marching to Zion, We have come to a muddy patch but we must march on. We have to take a second step of faith and accept that change is inevitable" said Mr. Mathenge.

Former Deputy Speaker, Mr. Samuel Ngeny, Lay Secretary of the Synod concurred with Mr. Mathenge. "We must change with the times and change completely. When I was young I wore a suka when I went to look after my father's goats, then I went to school and started wearing shorts now I wear a suit and tie when I come to the city and meet with executives. I have had to change completely so that I can embrace what is best for the times. We need to learn to change for the better."

The Archbishop had began the Special Provincial Synod with a with a plea to change the attitude of "as it was in the beginning so it shall be now and evermore" especially in the light of the recent evaluation management report that criticised the decision making procedures of the Church terming them as too long and outdated.

Mr. William Ogara, the Hon. Treasurer of the Provincial Synod noted that the church has strategic strengths to build on. He noted from the Management report that enthusiasm for change is high and is expressed in the desire for change in the organisational and management systems of the office. He also noted that CPK has a rich resource base crying for development and is widely recognised as the voice of the people in matters of social and political concerns. The Church, he said, stands unique as the only truly established grassroots institution with tremendous opportunity to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wishes to see these strengths consolidated in the service of the church.