“The Bible has been misused to fight homosexuality, it is not against homosexuality as we know it today, the Bible is against some aspects of homosexuality which was practiced by the Cannanites in their shrines and its called cultic temple prostitution where the priests performed anal sex as a way of conferring blessings to the worshippers,” says Reverend Michael Kimindu.
“The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is amplified as a lack of hospitality, so it is not right to use the Sodom story as a reference against homosexuality in the Bible. It has been misinterpreted, mistranslated and misapplied.”
Homosexuality remains a thorny issue in most traditional and religious communities as these groups in society battle to disassociate themselves from homosexuals but of note is how religious writings are being interpreted to either condemn or fight for sexual minority rights.
Anglican ordained Kenyan Reverend, Michael Kimindu says most Christians tend to misinterpret the Bible in condemning sexual minority groups particularly homosexuals quickly pointing that they lack proper understanding on what the ‘holy book’ says on homosexuality.
Kimindu, president of Other Sheep Africa, runs a church open to ‘social outcasts’ at the Gay and Lesbian Coalition Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The church under the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has had 1000 visitors since its formation in 2008.
“Sexual minority groups said all they were getting from their churches were insults, not being reached and they made demands that we start something for them,”
“Together with other affirming individuals, a congregation was started in my house,” Kimindu says.
Kimindu who makes reference to Biblical verses (John 10 verse 16) says faithful sexual minority groups deserve a place within local churches. He says clergymen and women should embrace ‘Jesus’ Other Sheep.’
John 10 verse 16 according to the King James version reads, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
However, Bulawayo based Pastor Anglistone Sibanda of Word of Faith International Ministries is quick to dismiss Kimindu’s interpretation of the Bible as “actually a violation of the rules of Bible Study interpretation, completely cut out of context.”
“Homosexuality has become an old social problem that is as a result of sin, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of that sin which marked the fall of man,” Sibanda says.
“Romans 1 makes reference to this because it speaks of how man knew God but did not want to honour him, the sheep Jesus refers to in John 10 are the Gentiles and not homosexuals.”
Romans 1 v 26-27 reads, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
Reverend Kimindu who says he belongs to the sexual minority group by affirmation accuses several world religious leaders particularly Western preachers for encouraging homophobia through misinterpreting the Bible. He says while most of the African community is convinced that homosexuality is an imposition of the Western culture, the importation of homophobia from the West has reached alarming levels.
“I am shocked at the level of the importation of homophobia from the West as opposed to the importation of homosexuality, what the West is bringing to Africa is tragic homophobia through a group called the Evangelical Christians, the likes of Pat Robertsons, Joyce Meyer and other televangelists through use of the Bible,” Kimindu says.
Several critics of homosexuality in most African Christian societies tend to make reference to the Bible in condemning this section of the sexual minority group. In 2010, televangelist, Joyce Meyer criticized Uganda’s Homosexuality Bill saying she has a moral and ethical duty to speak out against injustice. In a statement released then, Meyer said,
“As a global society, we do not have to agree, endorse or condone the lifestyle choices of others. However, history has taught us that we equally cannot and should not excuse those who would hide behind religion or misuse God’s word to justify bigotry and persecution.”
Kimindu is of the view that people within the sexual minority community in churches are not being fully reached because of lack of skills, religious bigotry and ignorance.
Reverend Judith Kotze, a Cape Town based lesbian minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, speaking at a German Foreign Affairs ministry organised conference on the Lesbian Gays Bisexual Transgender and Inter-sex (LGBTI) community said homosexuals and others within the sexual minority community should be accepted in the same manner as heterosexuals as “God created them.”
Speaking at the same conference attended by sexual minority activists, a gay South African Muslim worship leader, Muhsin Hendricks says he has been doing research on what really happened in Sodom and Gomorrah as well as what the Quran says about homosexuality.
The conference was attended by activists from South Africa, Germany, Nigeria, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi and Lebanon.
In Nigeria, there have been reports of homosexuals being chased away from church services and in other churches stopped from participating in church activities that include the choir and Bible studies once their sexual orientation is discovered and made public.
Dorothy Aken’ Ova, a human rights activist in Nigeria says, House of Rainbow Fellowship, another church under the MCC now provides a safe haven for members of the LGBTI community to worship without fear of persecution.
Tim Kuschnerus, director of the Joint Conference Church and Development says in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s anti gay sentiments have been a source of influence for stances that have been adopted by the church since the early 1980s.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), a local coalition of churches has already said they will not accept a new constitution that lacks clarity on homosexuality. According to media reports, EFZ president Goodwill Shana has been quoted saying,
“As the church, we have never been for homosexuality and we want it clarified in the draft constitution that it is outlawed.”
Kimindu whose Other Sheep Africa has ties with a church in Bulawayo says church leaders should desist from “living our lives for us.”
“Does different mean unacceptable? The church continuously wants to manage our sexuality and prescribe our lovemaking because once you join a church you cease being yourself.”