Thursday, May 20, 2010

Church where Kenya’s gay, lesbian Christians worship

By EMEKA-MAYAKA GEKARA

A few weeks ago, I set out on what one of my colleagues described as an “unenviable assignment.” I was meant to attend a gay church and find out the flock’s mode of prayer. I ended up meeting a man who had an equally unenviable mission.

The Rev Michael Kimindu, an ordained Anglican priest, is not your usual preacher; he says he is on a mission to help Christians “read the Bible with new eyes”. The priest, who was “stopped” from the Anglican Church, has been running what he proudly calls a gay church to preach to “the other sheep.”

The Rev Kimindu is the coordinator of Kenyan branch of the Other Sheep East Africa, a worldwide Christian organisation for gays and lesbians. Tucked away in a flat at Nairobi’s Tena estate, this is probably the first openly declared gay church in Kenya.

It serves as the local branch of the American-founded Metropolitan Christian Community, for gays and lesbians. The priest, a retired military chaplain, says of his church: “We include everybody because sexual orientation is not a choice; it is innate and there is nothing one can do about it.”

The mainstream church is opposed to gay life saying it is evil but for the Rev Kimindu, gays are the “other sheep” Jesus was out to rescue in the Gospel of John Chapter 10;16. “All these people were created by God and since He is the Lord of love, who are we to keep His people out of church?”

The Rev Kimindu has 22 members. It is a unique fellowship of university students, middle-level professionals working in the city and clergy aged between 23 and 40. This closely knit group attends church at 3pm on Sundays where they discuss living gay but Christian lives.

Young professionals told the Nation they go to the Rev Kimindu’s church because they “feel more accepted.” “There is a lot of stigma out there,” says a volunteer at the church. The Rev Kimindu says due to stigma, some of the men who attend his church are married to conceal their sex orientation.

“They use marriage as a cover-up but keep male concubines who are more pampered than their wives.” The Metropolitan Christian Community was founded in 1968 by the Rev Troy D. Perry, the gay American preacher outspoken in his robust defence of gay rights.

Perry has been married to Mr Phillip Ray DeBlieck for 15 years. He is the author of The Lord is my Shepherd and He Knows I am Gay. Indeed, literature at the Rev Kimindu’s seemingly well-stocked church library revolves around Christianity and same-sex relationships.

Prominently placed on his table is a book appropriately titled Theology of the Gay. There is also the Stranger At The Gate: To Be Gay and Christian. The priest talks of what he calls a false perception that Kenya has few gays.

“Many gay people are afraid to go public because our society is hostile to them. The parents of university students attending my church don’t know their children are gay,” he says. He has been trying to persuade one of his church members — a concubine of a rich man — to stop the affair. “I have told him to get an unmarried partner and stop wrecking somebody’s marriage.”

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