Archbishop Winnie Owiti sings for the outgoing leader of the Voice of Salvation and Healing Church in Kisumu at the weekend. The church has changed its leadership for the first time in 62 years. PHOTOS: HAROLD ODHIAMBO
For the first time in over six decades, a church that was formed during the struggle for independence has changed its leadership.
The Voice of Salvation and Healing Church has appointed Winnie Owiti, not only the first female archbishop of the church but also its new leader.
She is set to take over from Archbishop Silas Owiti, 90, who has led the church since 1956, when it officially began operating after being allowed by the colonial government to hold services in Kisumu.
Ms Owiti, the wife of Archbishop Owiti, has been the acting archbishop for the past five years since the church founder started ailing.
During the weekend, the church’s electoral college of 21 bishops drawn from three East African countries converged in Kisumu and selected Ms Owiti as their next leader.
They said that the election, which the faithful were not allowed to witness, was transparent.
The new archbishop was handed the church constitution as well as several other documents that are considered sacred and important in the history of the church.
Archbishop Owiti said her appointment to lead the church at a time when the nation was headed for an election provided her with the perfect opportunity to preach peace.
“I urge our government and all political players to emulate what we have done here and ensure that we have peaceful elections come August,” she said.
She noted that the country was facing many challenges, most of which she claimed could be solved through prayer.
“Our leaders should focus on prayer. It is the prayer of all Kenyans that we will have peaceful elections and embrace unity despite political differences,” she added.
Erustus Kwaka, a church elder, told The Standard that the shift of power was a historical moment for a church that has had its fair share of challenges.
He noted that during the inception of the church, members had to hide in the bush to hold meetings.
“We started at a time when gatherings were not permitted and we were thought to be Mau Mau fighters,” said Kwaka.
“At the time, the founder of the church was a close friend of Bildad Kagia, who was part of the struggle for independence, and he was one of the people who encouraged the establishment of the church,” he dded.