A Kenyan Anglican priest has been elected a bishop in New Zealand.
Steve Maina, 48, will oversee the diocese of Nelson and, upon consecration, the bishop-elect will succeed Richard Ellena.
Mr Maina hails from Kagio in Kirinyaga County and comes from a family of priests with his father and grandfather having been Anglican priests.
Speaking exclusively to Sunday Nation from New Zealand, bishop-elect Maina said he was proud of his parents for raising him in the church.
“I owe who I am to my parents who invested in me from an early age. I was raised in the village. I worked in the farm and supported my parents,” he recalled.
He urged Kenyans to look outwards and see what gifts they can offer the world.
“God can use anybody and their country does not matter. This is not a job I applied for, since one is nominated after people see that you have something to offer. I have lived here for 10 years and I know the challenges ahead and I will do my best according to the will of God,” he said.
His father Canon Joseph Mwangi Ngoro was elated that his third-born child had scaled the heights of the church leadership in a far away land.
“We are thrilled by the wonderful news and thank God for having remembered our family,” said the elated Rev Ngoro, 89, who has since retired after serving for 45 years. Rev Ngoro recalled that as a young boy aged seven, the young Maina would don his priestly clothes and kept vowing that one day he would also be a vicar.
“In retrospect, we can see God had chosen him at an early age. We are really delighted at the news,” he said.
Thika Bishop Julius Wanyoike, with whom the bishop-elect served at All Saints Cathedral in 2008, described the incoming bishop “as a family man who is passionate about the mission and an influence of believers wherever he is.”
“He is a testament to Kenyans in the diaspora that you can excel wherever you are and be truthful to the values you believe in. It’s a great honour and we hope Kenya will be represented at the consecration,” he said.
Before his election, the bishop-elect was the head of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society (NZCMS).
He was ordained a priest in 2004. After serving in the Anglican Church of Kenya as missions pastor at the Nairobi Chapel, he was appointed General Secretary of Church Army Africa before being recruited to lead CMS in New Zealand.
“Steve brings a proven mission focus to all aspects of his ministry and is widely respected for his energetic and innovative proclamation of the Gospel,” the three Archbishops of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia said in a statement.
“His leadership of NZCMS has revitalised its response to the sending of mission partners around the world, dramatically increased the numbers serving overseas, and involved a significant number of young people in mission initiatives.
“We look forward to sharing with Steve in the leadership of our Church at a time when the challenges of presenting the Gospel in word and action require creative responses, alongside confidence in the enduring and simple Gospel message of God’s love for all people made known in Jesus Christ. Steve brings both a pastoral heart and a clear-thinking strategic approach to all that he does.”
The bishop-elect said that he was “overwhelmed and absolutely humbled” to have been chosen as the new leader of Nelson Anglicans.
“I would also say that I feel terrified!” he told Anglican Taonga. “Can a son of Africa really do this? Someone from Kenya? But I also feel absolutely excited, and expectant – and full of hope, because I believe that the Gospel gives hope.
“Jesus is in the business of transforming people. And I can’t wait to see what He will do.”
Bishop-elect Maina was born in 1970. Maina, his wife Watiri and their daughters Rinna (18) and Tanielle (15) arrived in New Zealand in January 2009. They have since acquired New Zealand citizenship. “My heart has always been to see the church in New Zealand passionate about mission. This is really an extension of what I’ve been doing in CMS”, he told Anglican Taonga.
“My reasons for considering the Nelson role included seeing, first of all, the challenges that Western Christianity is facing in the 21st century. Challenges from secularism, individualism, materialism and consumerism — we have a society which is ‘pushing God out,’” he said.
After completing high school, Bishop-elect Maina pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in sociology and religious studies at Egerton University in Njoro. He then graduated in 1996 with a Master of Divinity from Nairobi’s Evangelical Graduate School of Theology.
He served as a Missions Pastor at Nairobi Chapel for three years, then planted another chapel, which he led until December 2003.
He was then appointed General Secretary of the Church Army Africa. From there he was recruited as the National Director of NZCMS.
Maina first went to New Zealand in 2006. He was 36 then, and serving as the General Secretary of the Church Army in Africa.
He had met the previous head of NZCMS at a conference, who invited him to speak at the New Zealand society’s mission conference. He found himself speaking to a zealous, faithful group — many of whom had pledged themselves to mission 50 years earlier. There were, however, scarcely any younger mission torchbearers among them.
Yet back home in Kenya, the average age of a churchgoer was 19.
“I thought: ‘Could it be? Could it be that God would call me from that world, to be part of His transforming work in raising a new generation of Kiwis committed to mission?’”
The NZCMS board was convinced Maina was the man to take their mission forward — and in February 2009, he started work there.