Spartas, Reuben Sebbanja Ssedimba Mukasa
Orthodox Church /
African Orthodox Church / Anglican Church
Reuben Sebbanja Ssedimba Mukasa was born towards the end of the
19th century, son of Yakobo Damulira Mugimbalume, of the Mama clan, a village
headman at Kira, about five miles from Kampala, Uganda. His mother was Maliza
Mukomutibwa, a keen Christian woman. He was brought up as an Anglican, and
became a protege of Archdeacon Daniel, of the seminary at Mukono. He admired the
ancient Greeks, and at school he began to use the name Sparta, and added an s
after he encountered the Greeks.
He studied at King's College, Budo, where he discovered that Anglicanism was
merely an offshoot of the true old church (Welbourn 1961:77). He joined the
army, where he met Obadiah Basajjikitalo, who married his sister (Welbourn
1961:78). When, in 1924, he read about the formation of the African Orthodox
Church in an issue of Negro World, the publication of Marcus
Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, he wrote to the church to
enquire about joining, but was told that the church had no ministers in Africa.
After the consecration of Daniel William Alexander of South Africa as a
bishop in the AOC, which took place in 1927, Spartas was informed, and wrote to
Alexander, who made arrangements to visit Uganda. Alexander went to Uganda in
1931-32, and gave theological training to Spartas and Basajjikitalo. While he
was there, a local Greek asked Alexander to baptise his daughter, and after the
ceremony expressed some doubts about the ceremony used, suggesting that they
make contact with Fr. Nicodemos Sarikas, an Orthodox priest in Moshi, Tanyanyika.
After some correspondence, in which Spartas asked for help in being united
with the Patriarchate of Alexandria, Fr. Nicodemos visited Uganda in 1933, He
comunicated his finding to Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis in Alexandria. The
Patriarch, however, had good relations with the Anglican Church, and had hopes
that there would soon be reunion between the Orthodox Church and the Anglicans.
He therefore advised Spartas to wait until the reunion took place. Spartas,
however, insisted that he wanted to be Orthodox when he welcomed the Ugandan
Anglicans (who belonged to the evangelical wing of Anglicanism, and therefore
did not approve of the sign of the cross, icons and other features of Orthodox
In 1942 Nikolaos, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Axum, visited Uganda as an
envoy of the Patriarch. Nikolaos was ethnically Arab, and not Greek; at that
time most Greek bishops were nationalistically minded, and were not much
concerned about ministry to anyone beyond the Greek community. Metropolitan
Nikolaos recommended that the African Orthodox be received into the
Patriarchate, but it was not until after World War II, in 1946, that Spartas was
able to visit Alexandria and was appointed Patriarchal trustee of the Uganda
Church. He was eventually raised to the episcopate, and became Bishop
Christophoros of Niloupolis.
Tillyrides, Makarios (ed.) 2002. Yearbook and Review
2002: Orthodox Archbishopric of Kenya and Irinoupolis.
Welbourn, F.B. 1961. East African rebels: a study of some
independent churches. London: SCM.
This article is generated by the Database of African
Church Leaders, which is part of the Database of African
Independent Churches maintained by Stephen Hayes. All rights reserved.