Former assistant to retired Kenyan Archbishop Gitari comes out in support of gays

The Rev. Jepthath Gathaka, an Anglican priest and Executive director of The Ecumenical Centre for Justice and Peace, was interviewed about his support for LGBT people. A profile of him and his work follows the interview. 

What are your names and what do you do?

My names are Rev. Jepthath Gathaka (giving a business card), and am the Executive director of The Ecumenical Centre for Justice and Peace (ECJP). The ECJP is a programme of the Ecumenical Trust, which comprises inter-religious groups committed to working for peace through justice. We seek to provide a forum for men and women of all walks of life to come together and bring about a just and peaceful society. We also believe in peaceful co-existence of all faiths.

Which church do you minister in?

A priest of the Anglican Church. I am still serving in the church but seconded to ecumenical centre for Justice and Peace.

For how long have you been a pastor?

I have been a pastor since 1974 when I became a deacon, have served as a parish priest, as a personal assistant to bishop of the then diocese of Mt. Kenya East, headed by retired Archbishop Gitari. I was also his director of communications for two years.

Many people know of Reverend Kimindu but may not know you, for how long have you been LGBTI supportive?

My understanding of Jesus saying “there are other sheep” convinces me that there are people who believe and are Jesus’s followers and may not necessarily be those who confess the Christian religion. These people might also be of different sexual orientation and that gives me the mandate to minister and to love and to support to all.

Because of my little knowledge of understanding the bible and its inclusive language I would have been suspicious or not accommodative in the past, but my further understanding of the scriptures I find the bible to be very inclusive and non judgmental.

Many pastors who are gay supporting are mistreated by their churches. Have you ever been mistreated?

I have never been mistreated but mistreating others and being judgmental of those who are supportive [of LGBTI persons] is falling into what I would call biblical interpretation dishonest.

Please explain:

In this I mean, while those who are mistreating others understand very well that Jesus loved “sinners” but hated the sin, they therefore turn a blind eye on this. I do not say that LGBTI people are sinners but it is those who turn them as sinners – they should instead love as Jesus did. That means that even if you regard LGBTI persons as sinners, you are still obliged to love them, like Jesus did – there are no two ways about this.

Some people reading this article and know you, may start to mistreat you – are you prepared for that?

Persecution is part of the calling. Because Jesus said very well, as He says in Mark Chapter 10 you must also be ready for persecution. (He reaches out for his bible to check the exact quotation) – “it is Mark 10:30”

You may know of Bishop Senyonjo of Uganda, even though he is retired, the Anglican Church there does not allow him to preach, what would you do if they started mistreating you?

I would encourage the bishop to preach anywhere else he is welcome. Jesus said that there is too much but few labourers so the field is large. It is not only in the churches where he is welcome, he can also preach in the streets.

You worked with Archbishop; do you think he would be welcome LGBTI people in Kenya?

He is the one who taught me to love the sinner but hate the sin. I do not know how he would treat gays but I know he is the one who taught me that statement.

The Ecumenical Centre for Justice and Peace

Reverend Gathaka is the Executive Director of The Ecumenical Centre for Justice and Peace (ECJP) and the Founder Trustee and Secretary of the Ecumenical Trust. He is among the pioneers of civic education in Kenya and he founded ECJP in order to pursue freely and effectively his quest for justice and good governance in the country through civic education, lobbying and advocacy.

He has a degree in Theology and has attended Human Rights Courses in Canada (1991), Denmark (1996) and Ghana (1997) and many other conferences in Democracy and Governance and Peace Making in Kenya and overseas.  He has attended numerous courses in project management, fundraising, accounting and administration.

He is a senior Anglican Church of Kenya priest and has served as a parish priest. He has also worked as a marketing manager for the Bible Society of Kenya.

He thereafter worked as a senior director for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation programme of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) for six years where he was involved in the struggle for the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in Kenya including fighting for social justice.  

He chaired the Kenya NEPAD/APRM National Governing Council until it successfully completed its review mechanism and presented its report in Banjul, The Gambia in 2006 and in Accra, Ghana in 2007.

He has been a Director of the Institute of Democracy (IED) in Kenya since its inception in 1993 and has observed elections in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Germany and in Kenya.  He has been involved in peace keeping missions in Southern Sudan, Somalia and within Kenya.

He is involved in civic education Training of Trainers (TOTs) and speaking engagements especially in areas of Human Rights, Democracy and Governance, Management and Peace Making, Ecumenism, Church and Politics.

He has co-authored:
Multipartishm without Democracy – a challenge to the voter
The Future of Democracy in Kenya – a challenge to the citizen
Responsible Citizenship and Leadership – building a better nation
You and Your Rights – a citizens hand book
The Monster called Corruption –  a challenge to the leaders and citizens in the fight against corruption
Thinking about the Constitution – a guide to constitutional review education
Nepad and the Civil Society – Civil society’s perspective on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Kenya

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