Further reflections on the meeting with Bishop Joseph of Machakos

There is a great divergence of opinion about homosexuality in the Church of Kenya. The Dean of Theology at one of the Nairobi universities sent a text to Michael saying: “In my view, timing, strategy, participants and fear need to be rethought. Several senior clergy including retired Archbishop David Gitari have gay friends and are effectively in favour of the full inclusion of LGBTI people on the Church.

In the conversation with the woman deacon yesterday, she and Michael confirmed to each other that one of the Kenyan bishops has just two children, daughters, and both of them are lesbians, now living in the USA. Meanwhile, he teaches and preaches against homosexuality.

There are government ministers who are pro-gay and anxious for help in confronting the campaigns being waged by the Churches against legislating in favour of LGBTI people. There are members of parliament who are gay, members who have lesbian and gay children, and have talked on television about their children.  At times, the public political discourse here has felt very close to the discourse in the UK, except that here the anti-homosexual Colonial-era legislation is still on the statute book. I have referred people to the work of Kaleidoscope and other groups recently established to eliminate all such legislation where it still exists.

On one journey across town, we passed the military headquarters in Nairobi. Michael Kimindu pointed out the potentially impressive but unfinished chapel within the grounds. The bishop and an army officer who are building the chapel are both sabotaging its completion because each is siphoning off funds raised for the building into their own, separate pockets, by submitting false invoices for building materials. So there is stands, half-built and unused. This kind of corruption is common across Africa. What is shocking to those like me who uphold high Christian values of honesty, truth and integrity, is to have been told so many stories of the ways in which bishops abuse power and act corruptly in their administration of finance.

In Machakos, there is a proposal to divide the diocese and create a new bishop. This isn’t because the diocese is growing numerically but because there are senior clergy who want to be bishops. Michael suspected that the Dean’s intense anger about our interview with the bishop was because he is hoping to be appointed as the new bishop and saw Michael as a potential threat.

Bishop Joseph was at pains in our brief meeting (we talked for about 15 minutes) to tell me that he had met Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori in the USA and they had sat and talked together as if this proved that he wasn’t prejudiced or that he was open to all. He said that she was visiting Kenya later this year and they would meet again. I’m curious about the context in which they met in the USA and about here visit to Kenya – perhaps some Episcopal friends can enlighten me. He also told me that Archbishop Rowan had sat in the chair where I was sitting.

Well, what came to mind was, did he treat +Rowan in such a hostile and abusive way, and if not, why did he think it was appropriate treatment for me. And why oh why does +Rowan not speak with greater clarity and courage about the corrupt, abusive behaviour of so many in the Global South, behaviour replicated by their supporters in the west, by Canon Chris Sugden who nurtures their anti-gay attitudes and commentators such as David Virtue and Stand Firm who spread poison around the Communion.

I meet more integrity and Christian wisdom and virtue in the LGBTI people I am meeting here and those clergy who are supportive than I have met in those who claim the high ground of Biblical inerrancy and gospel truth. As with the USA, it is far from true to say that Kenya is a deeply Christian country. It is a country beset with corrupt practices, with self-appointed bishops, with so-called Christian leaders preaching the prosperity gospel.

I had hoped to talk with Bishop Joseph about Continuing Indaba and the commitment made in Lambeth 1.10 to listen to homosexual people. When I tried to ask the question he wasn’t listening.

Comments

  1. Graham says

    In reflecting upon your experience of meeting the Bishop and Dean I was reminded of the experience of Lot and the angels (Genesis 19:1-11) when they met the residents of Sodom: hostility, abuse, lack of hospitality, and an inability to recognise a fellow child of God bearing a valid message.

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