In the recently published book Other Worlds, Other Voices, Esther Mombo, Academic Dean at St Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, expresses a very different perspective on homosexuality from those of the Archbishop, the Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi. Esther Mombo is a member of the Inter-Anglican Doctrinal Commission and served on the Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report.
She offers a Kenyan Anglican woman’s reflection on the ongoing war of words on homosexuality and says the church must provide a safe space, free of condemnation, where we will listen to those who are of the gay and lesbian communities. Such a loving approach will open new understanding and provide a way to live with those who might be hiding their sexual identities and living in a world of fear. This is a radically different relationship with the presence of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion compared with the views expressed by the Most Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, Archbishop of Kenya.
She says that the Kenyan general public’s silence on homosexuality does not mean that this sexual style is non-existent in Africa, as popular opinion would have us believe. The truth is that homosexuality exists in Africa even in the most sacred echelons. From her personal experience as Academic Dean, in an encounter with a student, she writes that homosexuality is not a western issue but a human issue.
From a brief review of qualitative data, she concludes that homosexuality is not foreign to Africa, though the known episodes of homosexuality in Africa appear largely of the negative type.
Following this, she undertook her own research on the internet for indicators of the possible prevalence of homosexuality in Africa. Using the Google search engine, 316,000 hits were returned for ‘Men seeking Men Kenya’ and 360,000 for ‘Women Seeking Women Kenya’.
Esther Mombo reflects that the focus on the homosexuality debate in Africa has come in handy for bishops who wish to avoid responsibility for problems on their own doorstep in dioceses and parishes. They may claim that such problems have priority, but in reality they do nothing about them. Issues of poverty, HIV/AIDS, theological education, women and children are pushed under the carpet while the flag of homosexuality is flown high and used by Kenyan bishops and others to break apart the Communion.
She states categorically that the reasons why people are gay should not be trivialised because this is violence. The church has failed lesbian and gay people because it has demonised and criminalized them. Now, in Kenya, there is a major concern about me on the ‘down low’, which means covertly homosexual. What is frightening is that homosexual persons are forced to hide their identity, to marry wives, and then to live with a double sexual life.
She quotes from a article published by the Sunday Standard on 5 September 2004.
Socially, it seems, the Kenya gay man is a gypsy-nomad, forever condemned to shifting from place to place, leaving sniffles and scandals in their wake. The homosexual/gay community mostly remains invisible behind the straight façade of mainstream heterosexuality. Like a stream running crooked underground beneath plain terra firma. Like all groups that feel marginalized, the city’s gay community is both a close-knit and underground lot, paradoxically operating in the open but with some secrecy, like eyes behind sunglasses.
Other Worlds, Other Voices, ed. Terry Brown, is published by; Darton, Longman and Todd; ISBN 0232525692
P. 142 Kenya Reflections: Esther Mombo