The church acquired a notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s when its leaders, such as David Gitari, Henry Okullu and Alexander Muge rubbed the political establishment up the wrong way
The Anglican Church of Kenya will be having a new archbishop by this weekend to replace the outgoing Eliud Wabukala. All eyes are trained on the premier protestant congregation and the man it will choose to lead it to the next decade.
So far, bishops James Ochiel (South Nyanza), Moses Masaba (Mbeere), Joseph ole Sapit (Kericho), Joel Waweru (Nairobi) and Lawrence Dena (Malindi) have thrown their hats into the ring. Any one of them will be handed the archbishopric crosier to lead the Kenyan Anglicans.
ACK has been a political hotbed for many years and as such, its elections attract lots of interest among the political class. Already there are talks that both Cord and Jubilee power brokers are circling overhead looking to plant a man favourable to their causes to head the church, a claim the church leadership denies.
Things have gone full circle and although the church is no longer poking its nose into matters politics as much as it used to, there is no gainsaying the fact that whoever is chosen to head the estimated five million faithful will be someone politicians would want to court favours from.
Whoever gets the Electoral College’s nod will join a line of distinguished leaders who have steered the church to where it is today. Its first archbishop, Festo Habbakuk Olang, an alumni of Alliance Boys High School, led the church for 10 years, handing over to the most Rev Dr Manasses Kuria in 1980. Archbishop Kuria was later succeeded by Dr David Gitari, who retired in 2003.
The church acquired a notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s when its leaders, such as Dr David Gitari, Dr Henry Okullu and Dr Alexander Muge rubbed the political establishment the wrong way and offered refuge to anti-government groups holding protests in Nairobi.
It was with much glee that diehard Kanu supporters derogatively referred to the church as the Church of Politics of Kenya — a corruption of its name, the Church of the Province of Kenya.
That politics is never far from Anglicans was seen in the current round of elections when word surfaced that there was a push to have either Waweru,Masaba or Wanyoike to drop their interest in favour of one of them to consolidate votes from the larger Mount Kenya region. As usual, this was not proven but keen watchers of the church will not dismiss such claims off-hand.
It is instructive that there was hue and cry in the elections that were called to replace the retiring Olang in 1980. The then outspoken Maseno Diocese Bishop Henry Okullu was spotted as the most qualified to take over. Days to the elections, Dr Okullu stepped aside citing interference from a powerful politician.
Bishop Sapit is said to be heavily involved in community activities in Narok and Transmara. Bishop Ochiel is one of the senior-most priests among the six. He is a former untrained teacher who is now working on his PhD degree.
Bishop Dena is a former ACK provincial secretary and has been leading Malindi since late last year. He is passionate about the welfare of his members. His little experience as a bishop may, however, work against him.
Not much is known about Bishop Masaba while Bishop Wanyoike is a former provost at the All Saints’ Cathedral.