Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda has announced he will retire in mid-2012, six months before the end of his 10-year term.
An iconic member of the Global South movement and an outspoken critic of trends among many Anglican churches of the West, Orombi, 62, says he wants to use his retirement “to preach the Gospel single-heartedly. This has been my single passion and I want to fulfill the call while I can still do it.”
Under his leadership the Church of Uganda has chosen to withdraw from various instruments linking Anglicans internationally. He did not attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops and resigned his membership in the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, making no secret of his frustration at the failure of these bodies to take a firm stand in the sexuality debate.
In recent months he has been a key player in strengthening links between Africa and some of Anglicanism’s Asian provinces, including building up relations with Christian leaders in China. During the last decade Chinese politicians have been conducting a charm offensive directed at African nations, and church leaders on the continent see links with Chinese Christians as an important priority.
Orombi has his critics outside Uganda. As a point of principle he refused funding for humanitarian work from sources in the Episcopal Church. He became a leading player in the GAFCON movement and consecrated the Rev. John Guernsey to exercise oversight of disaffected congregations in the United States, under the flag of the Church of Uganda. In 2009 those parishes joined the Anglican Church of North America.
In the same year he responded to Pope Benedict XVI’s creation of a Personal Ordinariate by insisting that GAFCON structures were sufficient to meet the pastoral and spiritual needs of traditionalist Anglicans in Africa.
Under his leadership the Church of Uganda opposed a proposed anti-homosexuality bill. He said his church was “committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer” and should be “a safe place for individuals who are confused about the sexuality of struggling with sexual brokenness.”
Internally his leadership paved the way for reconciliation within conflicted dioceses and strengthened provincial infrastructures, including the long-awaited development of provincial offices in the nation’s capital, a serious attempt to address young people leaving the church, a campaign to eliminate child sacrifice, and support for a Decade of Mission.
Orombi was born on Oct. 11, 1949. His father was in polygamous union with two wives. He has made no secret of this and spoken openly about how such unions cause strife and heartache. He studied for ordination at the Bishop Tucker Theological College at Mukono and pursued further studies at St. John’s College Nottingham. Returning to Uganda, he served for seven years as a youth officer in the West Nile region.