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 worship).
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. Nairobi. 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.