Unity among Okwii’s priorities as he takes over shepherding Kumi diocese
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2022/05/unity-among-okwiis-priorities-as-he-takes-over-shepherding-kumi-diocese/
By Ivan Tsebeni
When the House of Bishops of Uganda’s Anglican Church voted the Rev. Michael Okwii Esakan as the second bishop of a diocese in eastern Uganda, not everyone received the news of this February 2022 event with joy.
Okwii’s joy of victory was short-lived as a section of Christians in Kumi Diocese petitioned court, seeking to revoke his election. The three Christians argued that the process of electing Okwii was not conducted according to the laws of the Church.
However, three days to the set date of consecration of Okwii on March 6, 2022, court dismissed the case for want of evidence, giving the greenlight for the ceremony.
“I will not join any camp in Kumi; I will not promote hostility,” Okwii said at his installation on March 6, adding that his approach to leadership is through “dialogue and resolving issues amicably.”
It is understandable when one hears Bishop Okwii preaching peace and dialogue. When Okwii was elected, two camps emerged in the diocese, one for and another against him. The people who were against the election of Okwii argued that the rightful person for the seat was supposed to be the Rev. Charles Okunya.
Okunya had, in fact, been elected in November 2019 as the would-be next bishop for Kumi to replace the Rt. Rev. Thomas Irigei who had reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
However, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Kaziimba, noted that Okunya was disqualified from becoming the bishop because, after a review of the records, it was established that he was 44 years old, a year younger than the age of becoming a bishop. He had told the House of Bishops that he was older.
At his installation in March, Okwii, an alumnus of Uganda Christian University (UCU) and a former lecturer of the institution, promised to strengthen prayer teams, entrench truth-telling and form reconciliation committees that will be tasked with mediating conflicts to avoid litigation.
He is aware that these are just a drop in the ocean of the responsibilities that await him as he shepherds the diocese.
“I have come in good faith, and with open hands and heart; I will be a bishop for everybody,” Okwii said.
Okwii’s remarks seemed to be a direct answer to the request by the day’s preacher at the consecration, the Rt. Rev. Alfred Olwa. Olwa, the Bishop of Lango Diocese, is also the UCU Council chairperson.
“I want to appeal that today, as you receive the second bishop of Kumi Diocese, you must move forward and grow in your faith in Christ,” Rev. Olwa told the congregation that gathered at St Philip’s Cathedral in Ngora district in eastern Uganda.
The first task before the new bishop is reconciling Okunya and a section of aggrieved Christians with the Church. In fact, Okunya in April 2022 resigned from diocesan and priestly duties in Kumi. A few days later, he was seen at Sunday prayers with a faction of aggrieved Christians and clergy who had renounced the Anglican Church.
Okwii received a Bachelor of Divinity and Diploma in Theology from the Bishop Tucker School Divinity and Theological College (now UCU) in 1987. He later graduated with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management from the Uganda Management Institute in 2003 and also earned a Master of Arts in Applied Theology from Trinity College, Bristol, UK.
Okwii taught, first, as a part-time lecturer at the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology in 2001 and, later, in 2009, as a full-time lecturer in the school.
At Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology, Okwii taught Pastoral Psychology and Sociology, Missions, Gender Studies, and Pastoral Care and Counselling, among others. He also served as director at UCU Mbale College between 2009 and 2010.
Born on February 10, 1965, into a Roman Catholic family in Atoot, Ngora district, Okwii got saved on June 3, 1986, at a fellowship. It was here that he joined the Anglican Church, despite knowing that a change of faith would be an unwelcome move before his father.
Four years later, in 1990, Okwii was ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Soroti, in 1990 and a priest in 1991. He has served in many capacities in the Church, including as parish priest and Cathedral Vicar.
His last posting before becoming bishop was as the Archdeacon of Soroti and parish priest of Asuret. Okwii is married to Christine, with whom he has six children, five of whom are alive, and one grandson.
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