RIP: Ellinah Wamukoya, Swaziland’s ‘Green Bishop’ and 2017 GEMN conference speaker, dies of Covid-19

The Rt. Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya, Bishop of Swaziland and the first woman bishop of a diocese in Africa, died of Covid-19 on Jan. 19 at age 69.

Bp. Wamukoya preached on reconciliation at the May 25 Morning Prayer at the 2017 Global Mission Conference sponsored by GEMN at Camp McDowell in Alabama.  The scriptures were Paul’s reflections on reconciliation in 2 Corinthians and the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  She also led a workshop on companion diocese relationships with Bp. Alan Scarfe of Swaziland’s companion Diocese of Iowa.

In his announcement of Bp. Wamukoya’s death, Bp. Scarfe wrote: “Though history will know her as the first female Anglican Bishop in Africa, she was truly the Green Bishop of the Anglican Communion, leading her young people and the diocese into dedicating themselves to address climate change as a Christian service. Other ministry goals that she steadfastly sought to hold the diocese to during her time included gender equality, the care for orphans, the most vulnerable among the Swazi population, and the encouragement of the diocese’s capacity to develop its own economic resources, such as expanding agriculture, or building hostels for students. She loved young people and called them her ‘Gideons’ – the ones who were the ministering leaders for the Gospel.”

“Bishop Ellinah was widely known for her advocacy of the integrity of creation,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, who preached at her funeral at All Saints’ Cathedral in Mbabane on Jan. 23.

“A great tree has fallen,” wrote Canon Rachel Mash of Green Anglicans and the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, who will speak at the 2021 Global Mission Conference in April on Creation Care in Global Mission.  She continued:

Our hearts are broken at the loss of our beloved Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya.  She was truly great in the kingdom of God. The first woman bishop in Africa, she was a true pioneer.  She modeled a new way of leadership, a leadership of heart and hands that inspired and motivated those around her. She did not tell people what to do, she showed us the way. With her high levels of competency and spirituality she opened the doors for acceptance of women bishops in other countries across Africa.  Named as one of the BBC’s 100 women of the year in 2016, she said of her ministry “I am going to try to represent the mother attribute of God.” . . .

She inspired us to love God and love Mother Earth. She was one of the pioneer eco-bishops of the Anglican Communion, and her diocese became a leader in environmental sustainability.  Always hands-on, she planted trees, collected litter and promoted reforestation and biodiversity conservation. The diocese won an award for two years as Environmental Champion from the Minister of the Environment [of Eswatini, the current name of the country].

In her master’s thesis she connected the Eucharist with Creation and shared this insight at Anglicans Ablaze: “Eating and drinking the bread and wine enables us to touch the clouds, the sun, the earth, everything in the cosmos. Christ is food – not bread alone – being food he is life. Hungry people are all over the world – they do not have life in abundance because they do not have food.” . . .

When she was already in hospital a prayer that she wrote was sent out by the Lambeth Conference.  She wrote:

“Creator God, we thank and praise you for giving us the opportunity to be co-creators with you and to ensure the sustainability of Mother Earth, our meeting place with God.  God as a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teach us as the Anglican Community to work together for mutual respect with one another and your creation.  We repent of our negligence, leading the earth to be in peril from loss of habitats and species. Help us to be caretakers of your gifts, protecting the land from abuse, and ready to share with all in need. Amen.”


Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s funeral sermon for Bp. Wamukoya.

Announcement from Bishop Alan Scarfe of the Diocese of Iowa.

News announcement from Episcopal News Service.

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