Photo of Rev. Dr. Peggy Mulambya Kabonde of The United Church of Zambia
Photo: The United Church of Canada

Global Partner Rev. Dr. Peggy Mulambya Kabonde

The Rev. Dr. Peggy Mulambya Kabonde is the first woman to be appointed General Secretary of The United Church of Zambia.

In that church, people had long assumed that the senior role was reserved for a man. However, in 2010 Kabonde was recalled from her studies in South Africa to fill the position.

Since then, she has twice been elected to continue to hold the General Secretary position.

She says her church “needed to try a woman” after there were “issues” with her two male predecessors who did not finish out their terms.

“It was a significant change in the life and work of The United Church of Zambia,” she explained.

Kabonde is a member of the global ecumenical partner delegation attending the 43rd General Council meeting.

Zambia’s largest Protestant church has been ordaining women since 1968. The first Black woman was ordained in 1976. Today about 35 women in total have been ordained. There are about 500 clergy in the church, and about 1,000 churches or ministries.

Kabonde says The United Church of Zambia struggles to reach financial stability, and support from partner churches remains critically important.

“There is much poverty affecting the church and the general population of the country,” says Kabonde.

“Muslims appeal to communities by offering free education and food,” she says, “so Islam has become a major threat to Christianity in our country.”

The church has a range of social services to support people in poverty. It has also opened its churches to offer HIV/AIDS treatment clinics and related education classes.

“On Sunday we have church services, but Monday to Friday we have HIV/AIDS clinics,” says Kabonde. “It’s our vision that by 2030 this disease should be eradicated.”

New drug protocols mean that babies born to HIV-positive mothers are born HIV negative.

The United Church of Zambia is also trying to address population growth in the country. This needs to be addressed, Kabonde says, “so the next generation does not have the problems we are facing today.”

While The United Church of Zambia ordains women and has a female general secretary, Kabonde says there is still a long way to go in terms of women’s leadership in the life of the church.

She is a former chaplain to the University of Zambia and an executive member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and has completed her doctorate on Female Ordination in The United Church of Zambia.

She has been a member of The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians since its inception in 1989, and has worked to coordinate gender justice issues with the Council for World Mission (CWM) Africa region.

Founded in 1965, The United Church of Zambia is a united and uniting church formed by a union of four denominations that were established by missionaries in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has been at the forefront of providing quality education, theological training for its leadership, health services in rural Zambia, training in agriculture, and development programs for people across the country. The United Church of Canada has partnered with The United Church of Zambia since it was founded.