The Episcopal Church of the Sudan reburies its first Archbishop in Juba, sixteen years after his death and burial in exile in Khartoum.
On Saturday 8th November 2008 the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) reburied the remains of its first Archbishop, the late Most Rev. Elinana J. Ngalamu, in a grave behind All Saints’ Cathedral, Juba, Southern Sudan. The first Archbishop’s coffin, originally buried in Khartoum in October 1992 following his death there on 29th September 1992, was exhumed on Thursday 6th November 2008 and flown to Juba with an accompanying delegation on Friday 7th.
On the morning of Saturday 8th a brief burial ceremony was conducted by the current Archbishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul, accompanied by the bishops of Khartoum, Rokon, Lainya, Rumbek, Ibba, Rejaf, Mundri and Lui, the assistant bishops of Torit, Bor and Juba, and the retired bishop of Mundri. Archbishop Daniel, sighting Moses’ reburial of Joseph’s bones in Canaan after his return to the Promised Land from exile in Egypt, prayed that Archbishop Elinana’s “homecoming” be symbolic in the hearts of Sudanese Anglicans in all marginalised areas as a final homecoming. He pleaded that never again should the Church have to flee from these areas as Archbishop Elinana fled from Juba to Khartoum in the 1980s to die in exile in 1992. He thanked God for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 21-year civil war in 2005 and allowed the homecoming of the first Archbishop.
Archbishop Elinana was born in 1918 in Wandi, Amadi District, in the then Province of Equatoria in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He excelled in school and taught between 1936 and 1947 when he went to Bishop Gwynne Theological College to study for ordination. He was deaconed in 1953 and priested in 1955, turning down his local chiefdom to serve the Church as parish priest in Mundri. In 1963 he was consecrated as Suffragan Bishop in Rumbek but had to flee to Uganda in 1965 where he served as Assistant Bishop in Gulu helping to build up the Diocese of West Nile. Following the 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement he returned to Sudan and served as the Bishop of the Diocese of Sudan from the retirement of Bishop Oliver Alison in 1974, again building up the diocese to the point where he could take over as the first Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan when the diocese was created a province on 11th October 1976. His work as Archbishop was instrumental in building up the province, including the expansion of Bishop Gwynne College in Mundri, the Juba Housing project, New Day Publishers, Lainya Vocational Training College (LVTI), the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and the founding of the Development and Relief Department of the ECS (DRD – now the Sudanese Development and relief Agency, SUDRA) to assist Ugandan refugees fleeing Amin’s war in 1978. He composed many hymns in his native Moru. He died of illness giving the blessing at a service of Morning Prayer for his close friends and family at 7.30am on 29th September 1992 in Khartoum, aged 75.
Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum preached after the re-burial in Juba, thanking all that had made this symbolic event possible, and asking that the final resting in peace of the father of the ECS lead to a new era of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Church, negating as it did the tensions and mistrust heralded by the election of Bishop Benjamin Wani Yugusuk as the second Archbishop before the death of Archbishop Elinana, which resulted in the “ECS Crisis” of the early 1990s almost resulting in schism.
Archbishop Daniel echoed these words in his closing speech, challenging all to forget the differences of tribalism, seek God’s forgiveness for past mistakes and unite in the service of God and the Sudan in the new era of peace.