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HENRY LUKE OROMBI: A Study in Courage

HENRY LUKE OROMBI: A Study in Courage


By David W. Virtue
August 27, 2010

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi stands 6 foot five inches, towering over everyone he meets.

His infectious smile is a mile wide.

For a man his size he could easily intimidate, but he doesn’t.

There is an air of commanding humility about him that also brooks no nonsense.

When he speaks his words tumble out quickly like bullets from a revolver.

His yes is yes and his no, no. There is no middle ground when talking to him.

He jokes readily with those he talks to, but there is no insecurity about him.

At 61, he has four more years until retirement. He is using his time to bring the Global South African bishops into full maturity in the Anglican Communion. That is no small task. He can afford to hire the brightest and best. Most of his personal staff and bishops have been trained in either the UK or USA. They are fluent in several languages as Orombi is himself.

The Assistant Bishop of Kampala, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Zac Niringiye, a protégé of Orombi’s, is one of the best Bible teachers on the African continent and conducts the daily Bible studies here at this All African Conference of Bishops.

CAPA – the gathering of some 400 African Anglican bishops - is his show. He is its host and he is proud of what he has brought off.

It is clear that he loves the Lord with all his heart, soul and mind.

He also dearly loves his country Uganda, which he frequently refers to as “Africa’s Pearl”.

He commands enormous respect wherever he goes.

He doesn’t mince his words. Witness this exchange in “New Visions” newspaper about the state of the Anglican Communion, "What I can tell you is that the Anglican Church is very broken. It (church) has been torn at its deepest level, and it is a very dysfunctional family of the provincial churches. It is very sad for me to see how far down the church has gone."

From this and other statements you know exactly where he stands.

When he makes a decision it is final.

I have watched and listened to this gentle giant for a number of years now seeing and hearing him speak both in the US and Africa. I am not the least bit surprised that he has risen through the ranks to become the Archbishop of Uganda.

I also have no doubt that if the Anglican Communion should ever formally split, he would be the natural leader of the Global South’s 45 million Anglicans. His 10.2 million-member province is second only in size to the Province of Nigeria.

He is well educated holding a degree from St. John’s College, Nottingham, England, where he spent three years. His English is direct, clipped and with few faults. He does not specialize in subordinate clauses. Like most African Anglican leaders who are fluent in English and their own tribal dialect, they speak English with a fluency that is unparalleled by any other continent in the world except perhaps India. The effect of colonization was not all bad. In one or two provinces they speak French as a first language. Speakers regularly drop in and out of the two languages with ease. Prayers are often offered in the local tribal language.

Archbishop Orombi’s presence and leadership here is, by any definition, impressive. His stature among his fellow primates is unquestioned and unequalled. They bow to his leadership as easily as one might bow to an emperor or a king.

He stood out even when the President and Prime Minister of Uganda came to make their public offerings and testimonies before this august group of world class Anglican leaders.

Henry Luke Orombi is both the Master of Ceremonies and the Master of the moment.

Over the course of 30 years of knockabout journalism, I have met some of the brightest and the best. Henry Luke Orombi is one of them.

I also have no doubt that if he were the Archbishop of Canterbury the Anglican Communion would look a lot different than it does. He has a clear fix on the gospel and he knows people.

He doesn’t suffer fools and he is clearly an impatient man. He wants to get on with the job, which he wants done now and right the first time. Working for him might not be the easiest task in the world, but he commands tremendous loyalty based on those I know who work for him. He is not a tyrant though some might mistake his directness for harshness. It is not true.

His directness is born out of a no nonsense approach to life. Don’t whine, stop punishing yourself, confess your sin and get up off your knees and get on with the job. He can be ruthless on sin. He once told the story of a priest who was clearly in line to becoming a bishop, perhaps even heir-apparent to himself who seduced a young woman, got her pregnant and denied it. The priest was studying overseas. He was promptly brought back confronted with his behavior and fired.

His sense of humor is often self-directed.

When American Episcopalians were berating Africans over polygamy, Orombi told the story about his grandfather who had six wives, his father, he said, had two wives and both ended up sleeping alone in the chicken coop. He has one wife and has been happily married for several decades. He laughs when he tells the story and his audience joins in.

God has raised up this man for such a time as this; of that there can be no doubt. Henry Luke Orombi is a global Anglican leader who has yet to reach his zenith.

Of this conference he commented, “We in the Church of Uganda envision ourselves as a Christ-centered church equipped for transforming mission among people. This is my prayer – that we will indeed be equipped with what we need to transform our continent to become the Light of the World.”

Whatever the Anglican Communion devolves into, there is one man (and there will be others) who will emerge to lead it. His name is Henry Luke Orombi.


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