In Summary
  • History. On April 16, 1961, thousands of believers flocked to Namirembe hill in Kampala to witness not only the inauguration of a new province, but also the consecration of Leslie Brown as the first Archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Ruanda-Urundi, Henry Lubega writes.

The Anglican community in Uganda recently marked 58 years of the Province of the Church of Uganda, or what is popularly known as the Church of Uganda.

In the beginning, what came to be known as the Province of the Church of Uganda was part of the Diocese of the Eastern Equatorial Africa. The diocese’s first bishop, James Hannington, never took office as he was killed in Busoga, eastern Uganda, by chief Luba on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga on the way to his seat in Buganda in 1885.
The Diocese of Uganda was carved out of the Diocese of Equatorial East Africa in 1897, just 10 years after the introduction of Christianity in present-day Uganda.

How it began
The Province of the Church of Uganda traces its origins back to the Diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa that was established in 1884 with James Hannington as its first bishop.
The diocese covered present-day Kenya, northern Tanzania, parts of Uganda with the exception of West Nile, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DR Congo. The initial diocese existed between 1884 and 1897 when it was divided into two, the dioceses of Uganda and Mombasa.
At the time of its split, Bishop Alfred Robert Tucker was at the helm, and so when the Diocese of Uganda was created he became its first bishop.

Writing in the book Bishop Alfred Robert Tucker and the Establishment of the African Anglican Church, Christopher Byaruhanga explains how Tucker laid the foundation of Africanising the church through what he called the Native African Church (NAC).
“Having been the bishop of the entire diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa since 1890, he began to prepare African men from Uganda as priests of the Anglican Church even before the vast diocese was subdivided into two in 1897,” Byaruhanga writes.

His efforts saw the ordination of indigenous Ugandans as priests as early as 1896.
Eighty two years after the arrival of the first missionaries in what came to be called Uganda, the territory became a province in the Anglican Church. In 1960, the diocese of the Equatorial East Africa was divided to create the Province of the Church of Uganda Ruanda-Urundi (Rwanda –Burundi) and Boga in Zaire (Eastern DR Congo).

Its inauguration on April 16, 1961, was graced by then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher. Thousands of believers flocked to Namirembe hill to witness not only the inauguration of the new province, but also the consecration of Leslie Brown as the first Archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Ruanda-Urundi.

According to the Living Church newspaper of May 14, 1961, the inauguration and consecration at Namirembe was like a gathering of the top Anglican Church leaders on the African continent.
“In attendance to accompany the head of the Anglican faith worldwide was Archbishop de Blank of Cape Town, Archbishop Hughes of Central Africa and Archbishop Beecher of East Africa (Kenya), while the one of West Africa sent a representative,” the newspaper reported.

Other parts of the new province were represented and the eight new dioceses that made up the new province were represented. The service was conducted in both Luganda and English.
According to the paper, besides the Anglican religious leaders present, local politicians and traditional leaders were in attendance as well.
“Civic as well as ecclesiastical dignitaries attended the service. Among them being the Kabaka and Nnabagereka of Buganda and the Umwami of Ruanda,” it was reported.

Timing
The inauguration of the province came at a time when Uganda had just voted in its first government of self-rule. Independence was on the horizon and the excitement around that time did not escape the sermon of the world leader of the Anglican Church.
The Uganda Argus newspaper quoted Dr Fisher saying all Africa is a ferment of change.
“One country after another in Africa has gained independence. Others are still in the travails of rebirth. Uganda has its own internal conflicts of interest not yet solved, but, as I believe, ready for a happy solution if all will let goodwill silence their fears,” he said.
He was, however, concerned about the hostilities that were prevailing on the continent as the struggle for independence swept across Africa. “Why is it that all over Africa political and social evolution should breed so much bitterness and hostility? Why should there be this always wasteful, sometimes terrifying, diabolic spirit of strife?”

Archbishop Fisher also laid a foundation stone at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Mbale, and planted three trees at the site where the cathedral of northern Uganda in Gulu was to be built.
A day after its inauguration, the province held its first assembly. During the meeting, it was resolved that a delegation from the Church of Uganda, Ruanda-Urundi and Boga be sent to New Delhi, India, where the World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting for that year was to be held.
The purpose of the delegation going to India was to request the admission of Uganda in the WCC family.

Reigning Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali.

New church province
In preparation for this, the synods of the Diocese of Uganda and that of Upper Nile met in May 1960 and agreed to form one church province to be called the Church of Uganda, Ruanda-Urundi and Boga in Zaire.
The new church province was made up of eight dioceses which were created by joining together two other dioceses of Uganda and Upper Nile and then divide them into different dioceses to form a province.
The first five dioceses were created in 1960 out of the Diocese of Uganda. These included Namirembe, Ankole-Kigezi, Rwenzori, Ruanda-Urundi and West Buganda.

Early in 1961 before the inauguration, another three dioceses were created from the Upper Nile diocese. These were the dioceses of Mbale, Northern Uganda and Soroti.
The new dioceses were responsible for different areas. For instance, Namirembe Diocese covered Busoga region and eastern Buganda. Ankole-Kigezi Diocese covered Ankole and Kigezi sub-regions, the Ruanda-Urundi Diocese covered the two countries, and Rwenzori Diocese covered Tooro, Bunyoro, and Boga in Zaire, while West Buganda Diocese covered Masaka and Mubende.
The three dioceses created out of the Upper Nile Diocese had Mbale which covered Bugisu and Bukedi, Soroti Diocese which covered Teso, Tororo and Karamoja and Northern Uganda Diocese which covered Acholi, Lango and West Nile.

In 1979, the size of the Province of the Church of Uganda was reduced following the creation of the Francophone province which covered the Diocese of Ruanda-Urundi and Boga in Zaire.
The Francophone province was inaugurated in November 1979 and in early 1980 the official name of the Province of the Church of Uganda, Ruanda-Urundi and Boga in Zaire changed to Province of the Church of Uganda, commonly known as Church of Uganda.

Reduced

In 1979, the size of the Province of the Church of Uganda was reduced following the creation of the Francophone province which covered the Diocese of Ruanda-Urundi and Boga in Zaire.