19 January 2021

The first Anglican woman
bishop in Africa had links
with USPG and Limerick

With Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland and the Revd Duncan Dormor of USPG at the USPG conference in 2019 … first woman Anglican bishop in Africa died this morning

Patrick Comerford

I was saddened to hear today that the Bishop of Swaziland, Ellinah Wamukoya, died this morning after contracting Covid-19. Her death was announced by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

I last met Bishop Ellinah in 2019 when she was the preacher at the closing service at the USPG annual conference in High Leigh in Hoddesdon.

Bishop Ellinah, who was known around the world for her advocacy on environmental issues, who had close links with both the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe and with the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). She was admitted to hospital late last week and put on Oxygen therapy after contracting Covid-19. She was 69.

‘It is with profound sorrow that I have to announce the devastating news that the Bishop of Swaziland in eSwatini, the Right Revd Ellinah Wamukoya, died today,’ Archbishop Thabo said. ‘We express our deepest condolences to her husband, Okwaro Henry Wamukoya, their children and grandchildren. May her soul rest in peace.’

The Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jack Palmer-White, paid tribute, saying: ‘She was wonderfully dedicated to so many causes – particularly demonstrated through her leadership of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network for a number of years.’

Bishop Ellinah Ntfombi Wamukoya was elected Bishop of Swaziland in 2012, becoming the first woman Anglican bishop in Africa. She was consecrated in November 2012, and her first visit to Ireland was her first official trip overseas.

She was ordained priest in 2005. At the time she was elected bishop, she was Anglican chaplain to the University of eSwatini.

She was previously the Town Clerk of Manzini, eSwatini’s commercial hub, having earlier served as the City Planner. She held a master’s degree in Town and Regional Planning.

BBC News named her in 2016 as one of the 100 most inspirational and influential women in the world.

Bishop Ellinah took part in a panel discussion at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in 2018, to discuss the role faith communities can play in tackling gender-based violence.

Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland with Bishop Kenneth Kearon at his consecration (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bishop Ellinah was one of the consecrating bishops at the consecration of the Right Revd Kenneth Kearon as the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 24 January 2015.

During that visit to Ireland, Bishop Ellinah took part in the Community Eucharist in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, preached in Rathfarnham Parish in Dublin, and in Saint Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, visited Kilkenny College, met the bishops of the Church of Ireland, and met the directors of USPG Ireland.

She gave first-hand accounts of the problems and opportunities facing Anglicans in the Diocese of Swaziland before leaving for Canterbury and an intensive course designed for new bishops in the Anglican Communion.

She first visited Ireland in May 2013 to meet USPG directors and supporters, preached at a special Eucharist in Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin, at which Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh presided.

We last met when she the preacher at the closing service at the USPG conference in High Leigh in Hoddesdon in 2019.

The Anglican Church in Swaziland works to respond to the huge difficulties faced by the country. However, the Church there has few resources and currently relies on overseas donations to run its programmes that include local care points and feeding stations for the many child-headed households. Training in life skills is also provided for young people.

In a statement earlier today, USPG said: ‘It is with profound sadness that USPG has heard of the untimely death of the Bishop of Swaziland, the Right Reverend Ellinah Wamukoya. We hold her husband, children and grandchildren and Swaziland in our prayers and invite USPG supporters to pray for the family and the region that she loved and ministered to with such profound care.’

With Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, during her visit to Ireland in 2015

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