Christian leaders in Kenya have launched a movement to champion gay rights.
The pastors say some religious people have ‘gone against God’s love by condemning gays’.
And one church has now put a rainbow flag above its door and is inviting LGBTI people to come and experience ‘liberated worship’.
Reverend Michael Kimindu, president of the Kenya chapter of United Coalition of Affirming Africans, vowed his new group of over 50 pastors would fight for gay rights.
Gay male sex is still criminalized in Kenya – punishable by 14 to 21 years in prison. While the conviction rate is relatively low, LGBTI people face police harassment, blackmail and persecution.
But the Christians in the Kitengela area south of the capital Nairobi say a new approach is needed.
Kimindu said: ‘Some religious leaders have gone against God’s love by condemning gays.
‘We will mobilize church leaders to accept the idea and condemn those who say homosexuals are outcasts.’
The movement is being spearheaded by Pastor Joseph Tolton, previously listed by US gay media advocacy group GLAAD as one of the ‘10 pro-LGBT faith voices of 2012’.
He preached at a 10am service yesterday (3 November) in Nairobi with the church advertising: ‘Come and experience liberated worship – at last the Lord has made room for us’.
The rainbow flag hanging outside the church carried the words ‘All are welcome’ underneath it.
Tolton has previously lobbied for marriage equality in the US, bringing together black faith leaders to speak for it.
He also helped mobilize religious leaders in the States against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, dubbed the Kill the Gays Bill.
Leading Kenyan gay rights advocate Denis Nzioka told Gay Star News: ‘The call by the clerics was unexpected and encouraging.
‘Unexpected in that there have been no courageous clerics before in Kenya who spoke out on behalf of LGBT persons, either Christian, Muslim or traditional African religion. And encouraging because most LGBTI persons have become disillusioned and left mainstream churches or religion over their anti-gay stand, based, largely, on their scriptures and sacred texts.
‘Affirming Africans-Kenya will seek to bridge sexuality and faith. It will also engage other religious leaders in a bid to make them inclusive and open to dialogue on sexuality, faith and spirituality.
‘The formation of what I call an “LGBTI-spirituality” perhaps, is the answer that LGBT persons are seeking given they cannot be accommodated at other churches.’