By Jimmy Siyasa
For a larger part of his childhood, Godfrey Loum’s grandmother called him Bishop. In fact, to immortalize the Bishop name, she named him after former Ugandan Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, in whose reign Loum was born.
While the grandmother has passed away, her prophecy came true on November 21, 2021, at St. Phillip’s Cathedral, Gulu district, in northern Uganda. Loum was enthroned as the eighth Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Northern Uganda.
Loum, who is currently the Vicar of Christ Church in Gulu, seems to be already prepared for the expectations.
“It means from now on, I am going to be exposed and many people will be looking up to me, especially in the areas where I will be serving,” Loum, a Uganda Christian University (UCU) alum, said.
The 49-year-old takes over from the Rt. Rev. Johnson Gakumba, who has been the bishop since 2009. The news of the election by the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda was released in August.
Loum was ordained a deacon in 2007 and a priest the following year. Four years into the priesthood, he assumed the role of chairperson of the House of Clergy, a position he holds to date. In the position, among his other duties, Loum is expected to convene meetings of the House of Clergy.
During his tenure as bishop, the Rev. Loum looks forward to fishing more men.
“I would want to see more people give their lives to Christ,” he said.
Secondly, he hopes to bolster structures of the church in Gulu to be able to offer psychosocial support to members of the church and the community.
From 1986, for two decades, there was insurgency in northern Uganda, arising from the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels led by Joseph Kony. Loum is targeting the people in post-conflict northern Uganda, especially those who are still facing major depression disorders, to benefit from the psychosocial support program.
Loum’s choice of program is not surprising. He specializes in psychology. Having both psychology and theological expertise is something Loum believes will help him understand people and their social environment better. Loum has authored a book on counseling – A Quick Guide to Premarital Counseling for Pastors and Couples.
Behind Loum’s rise to the apex of the Church of Uganda clergy is a series of events. While in secondary school at St. Joseph’s College Layibi, in northern Uganda, Loum was lured by a cousin into alcohol and smoking. He drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes so often that the habit became an addiction.
Loum says he made several attempts to quit, but with not much success. For the few times he stopped, they did not last.
Eventually, he found a spiritual remedy to his challenge of addiction. Loum went to church. On October 4, 1998, he did not only mark his 26th birthday, Loum also gave his life to Jesus Christ.
“That day means everything to me,” he said. “It means a total turning point.”
To this day, Loum is unashamed to share that difficult season of his life because of his strong belief in the power of testament. “If you let others know about what God has done for you, it offers great empowerment to them,” he says.
Loum graduated from UCU with Bachelor of Divinity in 2004. In 2019, he graduated with a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, also from UCU. That was his second MA, having acquired another in development studies at Cavendish University in Uganda a year before.
Loum credits UCU’s training for preparing him to offer a double-edged ministry as pastor and counselor. He speaks fondly of Prof. Stephen Noll, the former UCU Vice-Chancellor who was one of his lecturers, and the Rev. Can. Dr. John Senyonyi, who was the chaplain during the time of his undergraduate. Senyonyi eventually replaced Noll as the Vice-Chancellor, a position he held from 2010 to 2020.
Among Loum’s role models are Noll and Senyonyi – the former for his “deep knowledge of theology” and latter for his “oratory prowess that he often displayed on the pulpit.”
Loum looks back at his early life with nostalgia, especially about the conduct of his grandmother making it a point to call him her bishop, a prophesy that has come to pass.