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Tough life, spiritual rewards for gay-friendly Kenyan priests

The Rev. Michael Kimindu (Photo courtesy of Identity Kenya)
The Rev. Michael Kimindu (Photo courtesy of Identity Kenya)

An article in Identity Kenya tells of two straight clergymen whose ministries to LGBT people provides comfort and care for their congregations despite condemnation from homophobes around them. The challenges and rewards that the two men face are similar to those faced in Uganda by gay-friendly Bishop Christopher Senyonjo.

The article, “Kenyan Superallies: Reverends On A Mission,” tells of the Rev. Michael Kimindu of Metropolitan Community Church and the Rev. John Makokha of Riruta Hope Community Church, “who feel called on a mission to fight religious-based homophobia.”

Makokha says:

“Most of our religious leaders use the holy books, the Biblical and Koranic texts to clobber the LGBT community. Most of our LGBTI persons are living in the closet in fear, spiritually dead because of what they normally hear from religious leaders.”  …

Where does this hate come from? Rev. Makokha says, “The curriculum in theological schools [in East Africa] at undergraduate, masters, and doctorate levels is homophobic. It’s been designed by sponsors from the West, especially America. They are the ones who bring in the money and decide what is taught in these schools. The professors are teaching that being gay is an abomination.”

Kimindu says:

“Can the church outreach to these people? Yes. Would Jesus outreach to these people? Yes. If we can overcome religious-based homophobia, the politicians would just fall into place.”

Their criticisms of homophobia have provoked retaliation against both clergymen.

The Revs. John Makokha and Michael Kimindu (Photo courtesy of IdentityKenya.com)
The Revs. John Makokha and Michael Kimindu (Photo courtesy of IdentityKenya.com)

Mokokha lost his United Methodist church congregation. Kimindu was ousted from a 400-person Anglican congregation.  After Kimindu preached “a message of acceptance during the International Day Against Homophobia,” a local newspaper named him the “gay priest.” His archbishop

“thought I was satanic, encouraging sin, and living in sin. He believed if you are a sympathizer with homosexuals, you must be one of them.”

“Even my landlord wanted to kick me out, saying that I was not a good person. I also received texts messages on my phone threatening to kill me and my family. They accused me of recruiting their children for homosexuality. I’ve become very lonely, as others don’t want to be associated with me.”

The two men are making a difference. A member of Kimindu’s small congregation says, “I would have killed myself if I hadn’t met the Reverend. I saw the Rev’s picture in the newspaper and contacted him. When I met him, this was the beginning of the process of healing through the years of self-hate and depression.” …

Makokha says, “We’re breaking the ice. We’re getting 30 people to sit around the table without throwing stones to dialogue about spirituality and faith.”

Read the full article in Identity Kenya here: “Kenyan Superallies: Reverends On A Mission.” [Editor’s note: That link stopped working. I’m trying to find out what’s going on so I can restore that active link.]

Fortunately, Makokha and Kimindu are not alone.  Also see “Embrace Gays, Former Archbishop David Gitari Urges.”

Their allies include retired Archbishop David Gitari, former head of the Anglican Church of Kenya:

Gitari said he would support any move to cater for the spirituality of gay and lesbians Kenyans and even hinted at being at the forefront of organizing a conference for Anglican clergy to discuss homosexuality and the church.

Reverend Kimindu … said in the coming weeks they would be talking to more clergy to see if it was possible to organize a conference on spirituality and homosexuality.

In neighboring Uganda, Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo has vowed to block a similar conference proposed there.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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