Not every football pitch gets a crowd of 10,000 spectators. Nor does every bishop have 10,000 people singing at their consecration. But that was the scene on a Sunday in August last year, in the bustling town of Lira in central Uganda, when Langham Scholar Reverend Canon Doctor Alfred Olwa was consecrated as the new bishop of the Diocese of Lango.
Chris Wright reports:
I first met Alfred when I was asked to be the external examiner for his MTh dissertation at London Bible College (now the London School of Theology) in 2003. His study compared Old Testament laws about the use of land with issues and needs in his home country, to which he then returned. I’m happy to say he passed and got his degree!
Some years later, he was accepted as a Langham Scholar by Langham Partnership Australia, and studied for his PhD at Moore College, Sydney. I met him and his wife Susan there too, and I remember almost suffocating in the massive African hug with which he greeted me! He graduated in 2012, having written a fine study of the preaching of the famous Ugandan leader, Bishop Festo Kivengere. His dissertation has been published as a Langham Monograph.
Highly valued leadership
Returning again to Uganda, Alfred was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the Uganda Christian University, in Mukono, near Kampala, where his leadership and teaching were highly valued. Then came the call from the Anglican Diocese where had grown up, to become their third bishop.
On the day of his consecration, Wendy and Graham Toulmin were among the invited guests. Wendy was the national director for Langham Partnership Australia during Alfred’s years at Moore College. The Toulmins now serve in neighbouring Congo and were delighted to participate in the grand event. Here is how Graham describes the scene:
“A large football pitch near the Anglican Cathedral at Boroboro, just outside the town, had been transformed with the erection of an enormous covered area with central stage and numerous multi-peaked tents forming a square to protect the ever-growing crowd from the sun during the coming six-hour service.
Greetings from Langham Partnership International
“Dignitaries from the Ugandan government including the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Health and Security, and some High Court judges arrived with pomp and armed guards. Archbishops and bishops from various African countries and from across the world joined a long procession which entered the tented enclosure along a vibrant red carpet.
“The main guest preacher was Archbishop Ben Kwashi, from Jos, Nigeria. The crowd which had swelled to over 10,000 people sang familiar hymns enthusiastically in the local languages. The music, led by the Kampala Cathedral choir was incredible and at one stage we were stunned to realise that the announcement over the huge PA system was calling Wendy forward to bring special greetings. So Wendy went forward and brought greetings from Langham Partnership International.
“The job before him is formidable with many responsibilities, but with his many gifts and his humble and ebullient spirit, which endears him to all he meets, Alfred is God’s man for the job in Lango. We wish him well in his new, enlarged and exciting ministry.”
Alfred Olwa is well aware of the flourishing Langham Preaching movement in Uganda, and will undoubtedly encourage the clergy now entrusted to his episcopal care to benefit from its training. We also pray that, though he will no longer be teaching at Mukono, he will remain committed to a ministry of teaching and preaching in his new leadership role within the church. That way many more than the 10,000 who attended his consecration will be helped to grow with depth and spiritual maturity.
Chris Wright, International Ministries Director