The Most Reverend Dr. Stephen Kaziimba (center), 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda.
On March 1, 2020, two-time WTS alumnus Stephen Kaziimba was enthroned as Archbishop of Uganda, the head of the Anglican Church in Uganda. President Felix Theonugraha and his wife Esther, Development Director Andy Bast, and Associate Professor of Church History David Komline traveled to Uganda to represent Western. Current Ugandan student Isaac Ssebyala was also able to travel back to his home country to witness the historic event, thanks to some local donors.
“It was an incredible global church moment,” said President Theonugraha, “and seeing our two-time alumnus selected to head up a 12-million-member church was amazing.” The six-hour event was attended by the president and vice president of Uganda, archbishops from all over the world, and nearly 3,000 people.
Mary Nabakooza was the first Ugandan to attend Western, coming in the fall of 1999 to complete a Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree. Ten Ugandans have followed, many being experienced pastors with degrees from Uganda Christian University and the Bishop Tucker School of Theology. Stephen Kaziimba first attended Western in the early 2000s to earn a Th.M. and returned for a Doctor of Ministry degree, which he earned in 2007.
President Theonugraha is very interested in investigating partnerships and an exchange program with Uganda Christian University and the Bishop Tucker School of Theology. While in Uganda, he and Dr. Komline met with the vice chancellor and professors of the schools.
“I want our students to learn from an area of the world where the church is vibrant and growing,” he said. “We can expand our knowledge of what God is doing and learn from the people who are there. We have resources we can offer to them, too, for mutual learning.”
The Uganda-WTS pipeline has been aided by Words of Hope (WOH). Students Titus Baraka and Stephen Kaziimba became involved with WOH while studying at Western and advocated for the organization to expand to Uganda. From humble beginnings in an outbuilding on the grounds of the Archbishop’s residence (with chickens cawing and dogs barking in the background of radio programs), Words of Hope Uganda now broadcasts out of a beautiful building on the grounds of Uganda Christian University. Titus directs the ministry, with mobile studios in dioceses all around the country offering programs in 14 languages.
Titus served as host for our delegation while they were in Kampala. At one point during their week-long stay, the WTS group joined Titus for a regular gathering he leads for people dealing with drug addiction, alcoholism, and intense poverty. The meeting lasted for three hours, filled with remarkable testimonies of transformed lives. Titus later reported that he uses a lot of the family systems theory he learned at Western for his ministry.
As the meeting was winding down, a man asked President Theonugraha to come outside and bless his boda boda (motorcycle used for transport).
“My first thought was that I’m not the blessing bearer—Jesus is the one who is going to bless you and keep you safe,” Felix recalled. But then he realized this is part of contextualization, and it’s not much different than people in the West walking around a building and praying for all the things that will happen inside. So he blessed the boda boda.
“This is the type of horizon-broadening experience I hope we can bring to our seminary students,” he said. “We want them to step into these cross-cultural moments.”
The trip happened just before COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, and since then we’ve learned of another impact of our Ugandan graduates. Because of the pandemic, the president of Uganda asked Archbishop Kaziimba to lead worship from his house. What was the only organization to have the technology to livestream? Words of Hope Uganda. Now five million people a week are regularly watching the livestream and hearing the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ.