The Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) inducted its first female presiding bishop in over 200 years on Sunday…

“I feel overwhelmed, honoured and filled with gratitude to God,” the new presiding bishop, Purity Malinga, told News24 on Monday.

Malinga said she had prayed that there would be a female presiding bishop in her lifetime – not necessarily her – and was pleased that this had been realised.

She was elected in June by synods from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa, which comprise the MCSA. She succeeds Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa.

Malinga said patriarchy had been a way of life in the church, and although she had not encountered any resistance as a woman leader in the church, she was ready to “convince those who are not convinced yet”.

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As the leader of the church in the region, her priority would be to make the church a safe space for women and people in need. “The poorest of the poor,” she said.

Her induction comes amid the ongoing refugee crisis at the Cape Town Central Methodist Church in Cape Town

The Reverend Alan Storey offered hospitality to about 600 people, including children, who were forcibly removed by the police and law enforcement officials from an arcade near the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ offices.

They are seeking relocation to a country other than their country of origin, and talks were continuing on Monday over their situation.

A biography on the SA Council of Churches’ (SACC) website notes that Malinga hails from Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal, and first taught at Siyakhona Primary School before entering the ministry.

She holds a Masters of Divinity from Harvard University, and counts time as a past deputy president of the SACC among her past achievements.

She also served the Methodist Church as its director of education mission and ministry unit for the past three years.

The church’s communications manager, Bongi Moyo-Bango, said: “She is an amazing woman and an incredible leader.”