An Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) bishop has resigned.
The Right Reverend Timothy Wambunya of Butere Diocese has opted for a lesser position in England, setting the stage for a search of a new bishop in December.
Dr Wambunya becomes the second bishop in less than two years to leave the prestigious episcopal seat. Last year, Bishop James Ochiel opted for early retirement, with 10 years remaining before the mandatory retirement age of 65.
Wambunya, who also has 10 years to retire, is set to become the vicar of St Paul’s Slough Parish in the UK.
A bishop wields immense authority in his diocese and carries the power to ordain, post and reshuffle priests under his jurisdiction. ACK bishops have been known to at times come out strongly to comment on governance issues like corruption and inter-ethnic violence.
While visiting parishes is among the duties of a bishop, it comes with pomp and colour, often seeing the particular church being visited full to the brim on worship days.
The bishop receives, on behalf of the diocese, any donations and grants from outside the diocese, not to mention that it is the bishop’s prerogative to consecrate a church building, commission lay readers, enroll the youth, as well as members of the Mothers Union and Kenya Anglican Men’s Association (KAMA). He also has power to confirm those to receive Holy Communion and to excommunicate any member within the diocese.
As bishop of Butere Diocese, Wambunya presided over 50 parishes that straddle Butere Sub-county of Kakamega County and was a member of the House of Bishops – one of the highest decision making organs of the ACK, alongside the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.
He also headed the education committee of the Kenyan Province.
A vicar, on the other hand, operates under the bishop and takes charge of a parish within a diocese.
Sons in the UK
In his resignation letter to ACK Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit, Wambunya cites the need to be with his family as the reason for leaving service in the Kenyan Province of the Anglican Communion.
Wambunya holds dual citizenship and his two sons are students in the UK.
Dr Sapit acknowledged receiving the letter and recommending Wambunya for his new posting. “Bishop informed us that they had resolved as a family to be united and being in the UK with the children was key, but being below the retirement age, he decided to continue with ministry,” he said.
Health was the other major reason that necessitated the move as Wambunya stated in the letter.
In April, the outgoing bishop contracted Covid-19 while coming from the UK and stayed at the Aga Khan Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for 17 days. After being discharged, he continued recuperating at home in Nairobi.
But life would never be the same again for the bishop who suffered multiple organ failures that left him frail.
“The demands of a bishop are enormous and health issues are critical, thus balancing the two for a larger congregation like a diocese, which demands lots of energy, is difficult, especially after facing trials like bishop did with Covid-19,” Sapit said.
Butere Diocese will have the fourth bishop after Wambunya hands over on December 6. He has served the diocese as bishop for seven years.