Farewell Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya

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Bishop Ellinah delivering the closing plenary - Reflection on emerging Sacred Life and Living Earth narrative at the SAFCEI Policy Conference 2019. Photo by Elkan Butler Photography.

Farewell Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya

It was with enormous sadness that we received news of Bishop Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya’s passing. Recovering from recent hip replacement surgery, she succumbed to Covid19 and became another tragic victim of this raging pandemic.

Kate and I have known Bishop Ellinah as a colleague and friend for half a decade. Based in eSwatini, she was a pioneer on several fronts. In a male dominated world, she read a Masters degree in town planning, was ordained priest in 2005 and consecrated the first woman Anglican Bishop in Africa in 2012. Named one of the BBC’s 100 women of the year in 2016, Bishop Ellinah said of her ministry, “I am going to try to represent the mother attribute of God.” She did this with deep love and compassion for the people of God and for God’s world.

Not only was she a person of deep faith, she was also down-to-earth with great insight and practical competence. Known in her Diocese as the Green Bishop of eSwatini, she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, planting trees, collecting litter and promoting land-care, biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability. She was a champion of women’s rights and supported and encouraged women and young people to fulfil their dreams and aspirations. As Chairperson of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Environment Network (ACSA-EN) and the global Anglican Communion Environment Network Bishop Ellinah also had a strong presence and influence beyond the boundaries her African Diocese.

A hallmark of her work and relationships was a firm but gracious, respectful and unthreatening approach. There was no ego in her. She was a leader who inspired confidence. She saw the importance of putting God at the centre of our lives, and that meant following Jesus’ commandment to love. A love that is for all of life. She saw and understood that our neighbour includes the natural world and appealed to humans to care for and love all of creation.

We in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and we in the world-wide Anglican Communion, will miss her. Those in her Diocese and country of eSwatini will miss her. We send our condolences to her family and loved ones and pray her example and legacy will be an inspiration to all who knew her.

Bishop Geoff Davies, Patron and founder of SAFCEI and co-founder of the Anglican Communion Environment Network