Wednesday 9 September 2009

Revd Michael Kimindu, Changing Attitude contact in Kenya, meets the new Archbishop

The Revd. Michael N. Kimindu is the Changing Attitude contact person in Kenya and Coordinator for Other Sheep East Africa. Michael is an Anglican priest and was a member of our team at the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

Yesterday, Tuesday 8 September, Michael formally met the new Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukhala.

In May 2009 Michael wrote a congratulatory letter to the Archbishop-elect and requested a meeting with him at the earliest convenient time. He waited until this Monday before calling to remind the Archbishop and was invited to meet him at 10.00 yesterday at the Anglican Church of Kenya Headquarters.

The Archbishop stood to receive Michael and enquired how he has been doing. The last time they met Michael was a military chaplain. Michael felt relaxed as he narrated how he left the military on reaching the retirement age of 55. He showed Archbishop Wabukhala the letter that had then posted him to St. Luke's Parish in December 2007.

The conversation moved on to the scholarship Michael was awarded in 1993 by the World Council of Churches to study Pastoral Care and Counselling in the USA. Michael specifically studied pastoral counselling to LGBT people. He described his USA experience, his struggles with human sexuality issues and his eventual decision to take the subject seriously as a church minister.

He told the Archbishop how he encountered gay clients in his counselling ministry on returning to Kenya both outside and in the military and about his discussions with the two retired Archbishops, Dr David Gitari and his successor Benjamin Nzimbi.

In 2004 Michael founded of Other Sheep ministry in Kenya and in 2007 met the Rev Steve Parelli (founder of Other Sheep internationally) through Canon Samuel Tei. Michael explained how he moved to St. Luke's and how, while there, his pro-gay debate sermons and connections with Steve Parelli became suspect, culminating in his suspension until he had talked with the Archbishop.

Michael narrated how he met Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi in March 2008. The Archbishop was convinced that Michael’s ministry was legitimate and promised to come back following a meeting to be arranged between him and the Archdeacons. That meeting took place in August 2008 after Michael had attended the Lambeth Conference. On hearing about the hostility Michael had experienced from the Archdeacons, the Archbishop’s words and body language showed real concern.

Michael talked about the work he is doing for Other Sheep in East Africa, his contact and involvement with Changing Attitude, his licensing as an MCC minister and the congregation of LGBT people which meets in his house. He described the seminars on the Bible and homosexuality, the concern for men who have sex with men (MSM) and HIV/AIDS.

Michael delivered a verbal message from the General Manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK). He wished the Archbishop to know that the hostile stand taken by religious leaders in Kenya was like supporting death for LGBT people. By ignoring them, the church leaders were effectively saying they do not care if people die as a result of HIV.

The Archbishop responded:

• He said was sorry that Michael is not in a paid job, but advised that he maintains his present work. The Archbishop has over 100 clergy to serve a diocese of 11 parishes.
• He promised to find an officer in his office who will relate with Michael on regular basis. If Michael initiated contact himself, the Archbishop thought they might not respond positively.
• The Arhcbishop is still listening and consulting with the Provincial Synod about the debate on human sexuality but indicated that there may not be immediate significant change .
• He suggested that if other collaborators (meaning people from outside the Province) could take a lead, then the people would respond more positively. This has been confirmed by the seminars being conducted at present by the Revd Henry Mayor, a priest and CA supporter from Manchester, UK.
• He is following developments in the Communion. Michael said he sounded like Archbishop Rowan Williams, not so far yet not so near, which he thought was a wise position to take.
• The Archbishop promised to meet the Archdeacons to hear their side of the story from 2008.

Michael’s evaluation of the meeting is positive. He believes there is light at the end of the tunnel. He asks for prayers for the Archbishop and that his own ministry may be more active in Kenya.

After his meeting in the Archbishop's Office he visited the Directorate of Social Services (ACK-DOSS) HIV-AIDS Project Officer, the Rev Rhodal Dzombo. He asked her what they were doing for gays and HIV. She said they had done nothing at all due to the stance of the previous Archbishop. She said the Anglican Church of Kenya is on a journey on the issue of homosexuality and many people, ordained and lay are afraid to speak openly about it.

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