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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kennedy Mwita

Kenya and the Future of the UMC

Introduction: Rev. Kennedy Mwita will attend GC2019 and Affirmation members and friends are invited to a reception on February 23  in St. Louis. Exact time and place will be announced on Facebook. Here is his story:

Born in 1975, I am the first in a family of six children from the Moheto Village in Migori County, Kenya. I am married to Francisca Elnora Mwandau and we are blessed with four children. I studied computer science at Nakuru Institute of technology, i studies General Agriculture, Livestock and Marketing at Puwani University. I taught in high school, studied Divinity at Africa University-Zimbabwe. I was ordained an elder in full connection in 2013.

I served as the executive director of Moheto Community Based Organization (MCBO) from 2013 to 2017. MCBO’s objective is to mitigate human suffering. MCBO works on gender-based violence, poverty, female genital mutilation (FGM), and the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. I served as the Pastor of Moheto First UMC until 2015, when I was appointed to the cabinet as the District Superintendent of South Nyanza District in Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference. I also serve as the conference statistician and chair of the Board of Church and Society.

My advocacy for the inclusion of the LGBTQI person in Kenya started after I witnessed LGBTQI persons being segregated, arrested by the police, and tortured by society. I realised most of those who did this kind of persecution were Christians and were using the Bible to support their actions. As a human rights activist in Kenya, I felt compassion for my friends who were the target of rejection. I feared coming out openly to speak on the rights of  the LGBTQI persons in Kenya and the church in particular. Knowing that the constitution of Kenya forbids same sex relationships, I found it easier to address the rights of the intersex persons which became my entry point towards the advocay of the marginalized in the society and the LGBTQI persons. This was the first time I saw Christians and Muslims agree in common to persecute the victim. I started conducting workshops through the church and MCBO. In this approach I managed to engage the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to understand the rights of sexual minorities.

In 2015, I met Bishop Joseph Tolton* and this completely changed my approach. After going through a series of trainings on theological lessons with Bishop Tolton I became more empowered and strengthened to stand and proclaim a prophetic message of inclusion. I learned that all forms of oppression are connected, and Jesus’ message to humanity was that of deliverance and inclusion of all. He says he came to his own but his own did not receive him....But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children. This is my conviction, that regardless of our sexuality we are children of God.. This inspired me to find other sons and daughters of the Lord who have been shut out of the house of God and have been crying out to be heard.

I took the initiative of engaging my bishop on the discussion of inclusion and the leadership of the church. It has not been easy to convince Christians of African descent who were born and raised with the patriarchal background and the given theology that dehumanized and condemned homosexuality. My joy is that in the United Methodist church in Kenya, after a long struggle, we have conducted training for the cabinet and conference leaders on human sexuality. This became a turning point for many leaders in the Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference.

* Bishop Joseph Tolton is the Executive Director of  The Fellowship Global. In 2012, Bishop Tolton was part of the LYNC outreach to Central Conferences. Bishop Tolton has been partnering with United Methodists in East Africa ever since, as part of building a network of clergy who are affirming of LGBTQI people in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC.

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