UCU alum’s journey to being first bishop of new Anglican diocese

By Kefa Senoga
As a son of an Anglican priest, Barnabas Tibaijuka was expected to lead a God-fearing life. And that’s exactly what he did at home.  His was the perfect illustration of living a double life — humble, obedient, and God-fearing son at home and rebellious and party-loving boy away from home.

Narrating his life’s journey on the Church of Uganda Family Television, Tibaijuka said while in secondary school, he joined peer groups that introduced him to sins like fornication.

“I would deceive my parents by telling them about non-existent demands at school, so that I could get money to facilitate my girlfriends,” Tibaijuka said.

He noted that he mastered the skill of living the double life so well that whenever he was with his father, he would criticize people who engaged in the same things that he did while away from home, to erode parental suspicion of the kind of life he led away from home.

Christians attending the consecration of Tibaijuka at St. Barnabas Cathedral in Bundibugyo, western Uganda on August 27.
Christians attending the consecration of Tibaijuka at St. Barnabas Cathedral in Bundibugyo, western Uganda on August 27.

However, he soon realized that the life of pretense would not take him far. He gave  his life to Jesus in 1994, while in Senior Four. This began his journey to the pulpit.

The former student of Uganda Christian University (UCU) was on August 27 consecrated and installed as the first bishop of West Ruwenzori Anglican Diocese in western Uganda.

He did not travel his journey to the seat of the bishop without hurdles. First, after his Senior Four examinations, Tibaijuka applied to train as a lay reader in church, but his application was not successful. He was not given reasons for the rejection. He thus abandoned the journey to priesthood altogether, opting for a vocation in teaching. A lay reader is a layperson licensed to preach and conduct some religious services, but not to celebrate the Eucharist.

In 1998, he graduated with a certificate as a primary school teacher. Four years later, he had risen through the ranks, becoming a caretaker headteacher at Kuka Primary School in western Uganda. He then pursued a diploma in education at the National Teachers College in Mubende, central Uganda, which he acquired in 2005. However, he still felt he had not yet quenched his thirst for knowledge.

By 2008, Tibaijuka was back at school, this time at UCU, to pursue a Bachelor of Divinity course. He was eventually ordained a priest in 2011. However, he did not abandon his teaching job. He continued with teaching alongside ministry work. By 2014, Tibaijuka was back at school, this time to Mountains of the Moon University in western Uganda, to pursue Masters of Education Leadership and Policy Studies. 

At this point, he had to choose one of the two paths — ministry or teaching. 

“As a priest and teacher, I realized I wouldn’t be effective on either side, so I opted to leave teaching and concentrate on the church ministry,”  he said.

After nine years of full-time church ministry, Tibaijuka was on April 3 this year elected as the founding bishop of West Ruwenzori Diocese. At the time of his election, he was serving as parish priest at Buganikere Church. 

As the bishop, Tibaijuka plans to expand the administrative units in the diocese by creating new archdeaconries, parishes and building the capacity of the clergy.

“I am also thinking of protecting our environment due to the fact that Bundibugyo is prone to landslides, which are largely influenced by environmental degradation.”

Tibaijuka was born on May 8, 1975, in Bundinjongya, Bundibugyo district in western Uganda. His father, the Rev. Timoseo Wediime, was at that time serving in a remote parish in Rwebisengo. Tibaijuka is the ninth child and lastborn in their family.

Tibaijuka completed his primary education at Bubandi Primary School before enrolling for secondary school at Semuliki High School in Bundibugyo. He is married to Alice Tibaijuka since 2005 and the couple has seven children – Gloria, Agnes, Jolly, Mary, Timothy, Edith and Barnabas.