The Right Reverend Jackson Nasoore ole Sapit is the new Archbishop-elect of the Anglican Church of Kenya.
Sapit, who will also double up as the Bishop of the All Saints Cathedral Diocese, was elected after six rounds of voting and replaces outgoing Archbishop Eliud Wabukala who has attained the retirement age of 65.
Wabukala has been heading the over five million-member church since 2009 having succeeded Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.
Standing at over six feet tall, and dressed in a light brown suit and a violet shirt, a beaming Sapit walked through the sturdy, brown doors of the All Saints Cathedral Church at exactly 2.15 pm, to cheers from a crowd of church members that had been waiting for their new leader to be unveiled.
Just about 15 minutes earlier, the sound of pealing church bells signaled the end of the exercise, bringing to a close a three-hour wait for the announcement of the new Archbishop-elect.
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Sapit, who is less than a month away from his 52nd birthday, has been the bishop of the Kericho diocese, and will be consecrated as head of the church at the All Saints Cathedral in July. Humble servant
He beat five other candidates in the race for ACK’s top position, and was elected by simple majority in the final round of voting. Other clergy contesting for the position were the Right Reverends Moses Nthuka (bishop, Mbeere Diocese), James Ochiel (bishop, Diocese of Southern Nyanza), Joel Waweru (bishop, Nairobi Diocese) and Lawrence Dena (bishop, Malindi Diocese).
Announcing the result, the Dean of the ACK, the Right Reverend Joseph Wasonga, said God had used members of the Electoral College to elect a new Archbishop of the church.
Wasonga, who held Sapit’s hand as he unveiled him to the battery of journalists and congregants assembled outside the church, then prayed before giving the new head a chance to speak.
In his speech, Sapit thanked the nation for standing with the Anglican church and said he was coming into the role as a humble servant.
“Today, the Anglican church has spoken and the voice of the people, they say, is the voice of God. I come in as a humble servant to serve the church and unite its people and the nation,” he said.
Standing at least two heads shorter than Sapit, was his wife, Esther, who embraced her husband as he took to the podium to deliver his first address as the head of ACK. The archbishop-elect said he was overwhelmed by his election and promised to focus on the children’s ministry as this was the nation’s future.
The sun’s warm rays after hours of cloudy weather captured the atmosphere of camaraderie shared among the candidates who congratulated the archbishop-elect and vowed to work with him.
“The Lord has chosen the right person and anyone who was supporting any of the other candidates should not feel bad because they did not win,” said Bishop Ochiel.
Waweru said the manner in which the church conducted its election was a great statement to the nation on how to conduct its polls. “None of the candidates was of the opinion that they would not support the other,” he said.
His views were echoed by Dena who said the candidates had been praying for each other and that he was satisfied with the results.
Bishop Wanyoike also congragulated the new archbishop-elect and prayed that the Holy Spirit would continue to guide him in his new role.
The Archbishop of the Anglican Church is elected by an electoral college, which consists of all the diocesan bishops of the church, excluding the incumbent archbishop, all elected members of the provincial synod, 12 elected members of the standing committee of the synod of the All Saints Cathedral diocese of whom six shall be priests and six lay persons.
About 200 delegates from the ACK’s 38 dioceses participated in this year’s election.
A service preceeded the vote by the electoral college, with the last delegate walking into the cathedral at about 11.25am before the doors were closed to allow the process, which is closed to the public, to start.
The process begins with the chairman reading the mandate for holding the election and calling the roll call of the electoral college to ensure only bonafide delegates take part. The presiding officer then supplies each elector with a copy of the list of candidates for election. Each elector then makes and signs a declaration that binds them to vote ‘’not through fear or favour, but in singleness of heart for the glory of God, the good of His church and welfare of His people”.
At this point, those nominated as candidates are required to leave the meeting to await the poll’s outcome.
Each candidate is entitled to two observers, who are members of the electoral college, to verify the counting process for the election, which is by secret ballot. If only one nomination is received, then that candidate is declared the duly elected as archbishop.
In the just concluded election where more than three nominations were received, a series of ballots is usually held, with the candidate having the least number of votes being excluded from the election at each stage, leaving the other nominees to contest the ensuing ballot.
This is repeated as many times as is necessary having regard to the number of candidates until only two remain, (in this case Sapit and Nthuka), when a two thirds majority shall decide the election. Where two thirds majority is not attained, a further ballot is taken which determines the winner by a simple majority.
The number of votes, according to the church’s constitution, is not to be announced.
The history of the Anglican Church of Kenya dates back to 1844 when the first missionary from the Church Missionary Society(CMS), Dr Johann Ludwing Krapf, arrived in Mombasa. He was joined two years later by Reverend Johann Rebman.
The diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa was formed in 1884 and it included Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika, with James Hannington as the first bishop. One year later, ex-slaves Ishmael Semler and William Jon es became the first Africans to be ordained to the Anglican Ministry.
The first African Bishops of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Festo Olang’ and Obadiah Kariuki were consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Uganda the following year.
The Most reverend Olang’ would later be elected as the first African Archbishop of the church in 1970.