Canon Francis Omondi


Every time a prominent Kenyan Christian is cremated instead of being buried,3

a debate ensues among Kenyan Christians on the best ways of disposing of

their dead. The real contestation is on whether Christianity sanctions


The attitude of Christians has not shifted to favor cremation, despite the

reforms churches have made on their funeral policies. For example, the

Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) adopted changes to accept cremations as a

way of disposing of the dead in 1999 (ACK, Special Provincial Synod 2000, Min

3.9). But when Manasses Kuria, ACK’s second Archbishop, cremated the body

of his wife Mrs. Mary Nyambura Kuria in 2002 astonished Christians

disapproved of his action. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) had

relaxed her position on cremation for their followers following Vatican II.

This article examines the debate about whether Christianity sanctions

cremation. First, it explains the historical development of burial as a church

practice adopted by most Christians in Kenya and highlights various customary

African norms for disposing of the dead. Second, it examines incidences of

cremations in Kenya, explaining why Christians are taking up this practice.

Third, it sets up a critical correlation of the findings in the second step, with

the normative traditions of the Kenyan Christians. Fourth, it applies

the empirical data and theological discourse to offer a theory for action which

revises the present praxis. It adduces theological grounds that allow Christians

to accept cremation as another way of disposing of their dead.

Although the Churches have pronounced themselves on cremation as an

acceptable alternative means of disposing of the dead, many Christians remain

reticent to switch to cremation from burial. This article has addressed the

reason for Christian reluctance by answering the objections raised against

cremation. This study was not a biblical response to cremation. Instead it

focused on presenting a theological response to the belief challenges facing

Christian disposing of their dead. I have, in this article, established a

theologically informed course of action, an action that removes the inhibition

of Christians in Kenya to cremation as a way of disposing of the dead,

consistent with the existing traditions of Christian faith and African customs.

This article exposes salient aspects surrounding cremation, establishing that it

does not offend Christian dogma, nor does it assault African customs.

In offering a plan for action to revise the present praxis, this study has

proposed a way forward for Kenyan Christians, having established that

Cremation offers Christians a valid and acceptable alternative to traditional


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