Shock As Bishop Resigns

The Anglican church is reeling with shock over the abrupt retirement of an Australian-born bishop whose quit notice has generated a lot of controversy.

Bishop Alfred Chipman of the Mt Kenya West Anglican diocese headquatered in Nyeri is scheduled to leave Kenya at the end of this month.

Chipman, who came to Kenya in 1969 as a missionary, rose through the ranks to become the first Mount Kenya West bishop when the diocese was created in July 1993.

When word went round the parishes that Chipman was about to leave the country after his work permit was allegedly cancelled, the diocese reacted swiftly by allaying the deportation fears.

Mt Kenya West diocese covers the whole of Nyeri district, parts of Laikipia and Meru Central, and has a following of over 20,000 faithful.

The diocese was carved out of the larger Mt Kenya South which has since given birth to Mt Kenya Central, Thika, Kirinyaga, Mbeere, Mt Kenya West, Mt Kenya East and Meru.

The Administrative Secretary of the diocese, Rev Geoffrey Irungu, dismissed the allegations as the fabrications.

"To some people it is unbelievable that a bishop or a prominent leader can opt to retire from such a public office when there is no problem. I can assure you that the bishop has made a personal decision to quit," Irungu explained.

He said the church had always renewed the bishop's work permit on schedule, and at no not time has he ever been in the country illegally contrary to the alleged reports.

He said the church as a whole would have reacted angrily if anybody was trying to force the bishop out of the country, saying the matter would have been taken over by the synod.

He, however ,conceded that some followers from Laikipia had been having some differences with the bishop but this had nothing to do with the early retirement.

"Once a bishop is elected and ordained he is answerable to the synod which alone has the powers to take action if there was a need. A section of followers or one church can not influence such a decision.

Irungu disclosed that a farewell party had been planned to send off the bishop on May 29 before he jets out of the country the following day.

He said the church had already started the process of replacing Chipman who was scheduled to retire after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 65 in 2007.

The Administrative Secretary said nomination forms had already been sent out and that the prospective candidates will be interviewed before they are short-listed so as to be elected by the electoral college.

He said some people had already started lobbying and campaigning for the post, and were bound to claim responsibility over the bishop's departure as a way of getting some support.

He named Emmanuel church in Nanyuki as the one which had in the past been having some misunderstandings with the bishop.