Bishop-elect Metlhayotlhe Rawlings Ogotseng Beleme

We have a new bishop. Or at least a bishop-elect. The Very Rev. Metlhayotlhe Rawlings Ogotseng Beleme.

For those following the Anglican Diocese of Botswana, this is not new news. He was elected a fortnight ago.

I do not know Fr. Metlhayotlhe, and I doubt if I have ever met him. He has been serving in the Diocese of Matlosane, in South Africa, for some years, and is currently an Archdeacon there. But he is a Motswana, and a citizen of Botswana. His family is from Molepolole nearby, and he has had parish experience in varied places within the Diocese of Botswana. These are qualities many in this Diocese have been clamoring for. In fact, it has been a source of some tension that we have had mainly expatriate bishops, some of whom did not know Setswana. And so, when his election was announced the Sunday following the Saturday election, there were cheers and ululations in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The process for episcopal elections in the Church of the Province of Central Africa is quite different from that in the Episcopal Church in the United States. Nominees are solicited from pretty much anyone – common enough in the Anglican Communion – but then things move into a more restricted, and secret, process. A dozen persons have previously been chosen at diocesan synod to serve as electors, and the names go to them. They short-list the nominees, after which ten from elsewhere in the Province join them for the election. Those ten include the Archbishop, Albert Chama, from Zambia, and three each – bishop, priest and layperson – from one diocese in each of the other three countries that make up the Province: Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

Probably more than you want to know.

Even today, we do not know who the other nominees were. I innocently ask at a dinner party the other day, and the Vicar General’s reply is that all are sworn to secrecy. There are perhaps good reasons for this, but it’s quite a contrast to the American practice, where I can go on-line and see the names of all nominees and the votes each secure on multiple ballots. There are perhaps good reasons for that too. Just different.

Now we await consents to the election from other provincial bishops. Presuming that consent comes, Fr. Metlhayotlhe will be consecrated as the fifth Bishop of Botswana, probably in July. I wish I could be here.

In our classes, our students at the St. Augustine Theological School have been praying for the election for weeks before April 27th. Sometimes I use the collect from our American prayer book: ‘Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’

Several of our students and I talk about the last part of that prayer, a faithful pastor who, as part of his pastoring, will equip us for our ministries. They and I both like that.