Sunday, August 31, 2008

The American Connection

[Its Sunday, so, I am into Christian bashing.

Ok, not true. But here is an interesting article into the Christian religion in Uganda. No wonder we want to, as Archbishop Orombi says, throw off the colonial roots of Christianity! It is an interesting read. How the hell did it get into the New Vision? I dont know, but it is interesting.


Ugandan pastors’ love for America

The recent arrest of Christian Life Church’s Pastor Jackson Senyonga is no doubt a thorn in the flesh of the Pentecostal churches in Uganda, which have been battling tantalising stories about wayward pastors.

Pastor Senyonga may well be innocent of the charges that he behaved lasciviously with a minor while on a flight from Denver to Oakland in the US. Senyonga has explained that he was only inching away from a snoring man, which caused him to lean more toward the girl on the other side. Ugandan pastors have expressed confidence in his moral character, even those who have disagreed with him in the past over different issues. Senyonga is simply being maligned by the oversensitive American culture where many men, even of the cloth, have been found guilty of immoral acts.

But there is an element to this case that Pentecostal Christians rarely get a chance to dissect. Among the Pentecostal pastors fraternity there is a tendency to make America their frequent base, if not home.

For instance, it is amazing that Pastor Senyonga has been away preaching since February and will only return in November, according to his church aide. His wife Eva is also currently in the US. Senyonga’s website lists a US ministry as one of his ministry activities, and he “travels to nations and cities to address key churches and events to stimulate spiritual transformation through prayer, personal transformation and evangelism for church growth”.

Over the last 20 years, it has been a trend for Ugandan preachers to cast their visions overseas, with the pressure to label their ministries ‘international’ following almost every Pentecostal preacher. A visit to ‘outside countries’ is the desired springboard for most pastors. Many pastors spend more time at airports and in planes, and have become pastors of the air, as one top Kampala pastor once quipped.

Some of the powerful churches in Kampala are actually run by assistant pastors, as the heads are busy with ministry in America and other countries. Congregations go for months on end without seeing the man of God and only receiving greetings from their pastor through phone calls relayed by the associate pastor. There are many doors that are opened with a visit to the US. Education opportunities, financial partners and opportunities to widen the preaching circuit abound.

Pastor Simeon Kayiwa has been moonlighting as a professor at the Latin University in California and is to start a university here. Pastors can build networks with willing donors and other pastors, which benefit the orphans and the poor. Others, including Senyonga, have invited volunteer teams on medical missions or to help build schools. There is also a movement that sees Uganda as a missionary base and the fact that there are American congregations eager to listen to them is a positive sign.

All this would be well, if there were not a number of issues arising out of this trend.

Behind the drive to flock America is the lure of the image-is-everything prosperity kind of gospel. There is competition to have the most beautiful church structure, the best dressed choir, a televised programme, website, the most modern musical and public address equipment, sometimes a media house and other expansions. On a personal level, pastors must have a modern car, suits, a mansion and a contingent of bodyguards. All these things cost a lot of money and there are only so many ways a pastor can get money out of an average congregation.

Many pastors have to become resourceful in attracting donors to sponsor their plans. Usually, it starts with a visit to the United States of America, where many rich people are touched by the stories of AIDS orphans and poverty. Unfortunately, some pastors take advantage of this situation to hoard a lot of money, only a fraction of which ends up in a hastily set up orphanage. Sometimes, the physical structures are put up after news that the donors will be visiting to tour the projects. Almost every church has an orphanage or school attached to it. Although many of them are genuinely meeting the needs of the community, some are mere conduits for collecting money. A number of pastors have got into scraps with the Police and parents over orphanages or study-for-free schools that are run on crooked principles.

Many American Christians have been led to believe that President Yoweri Museveni is a born-again convert, when the President himself has said he long abandoned the faith.

A Kampala lawyer told this reporter of a ‘pastor’ who ingratiated himself with an American couple and told them of an orphan he had reportedly rescued from Rwanda during the genocide. The couple used to send money, clothes and other types of assistance to ensure that the child was well taken care of. He also convinced them to donate money to a church over a number of years. When they decided to adopt the child the pastor went into some dubious methods to try and smuggle the child out of the country, but those attempts failed. 10 years later, the couple came to Uganda and was so heartbroken to discover that the ‘pastor’ had been feeding them on a pack of lies. The girl’s mother was not dead, although she was mentally unstable and had abandoned the child. The child’s grandmother laughed at the fantastic Rwanda genocide story and the church they had been sending money to was non-existent.

It turns out that the man used to be a preacher, but had become a businessman in Kampala and America, and as time proved, a terrible liar and extortionist.

There are pressures in the US that many Ugandan pastors are not able to resist. Many try to imitate the swashbuckling lifestyle lived by American preachers and transport it to their home churches. Those who travel without their wives have been lured into intimate relationships with women who don’t mind the fact that the pastor is already married. Some preachers leave the country on a ministry mission only to get married to American citizens in order to become official residents.

According to Pastor Solomon Male of Arising for Christ, there are many such pastors who leave the country purportedly to preach, only to end up on kyeyo, doing odd jobs to make money.

“The church is just a business venture for some of them. They go and deceive that they have orphans and poor people they are looking after, then they come back and live lavish lives. They don’t implement what they solicited the money for.”

Male says a pastor like Stephen Ssozi was really running the church as a personal business and that is why he sold it to Pastor Frank Lutaaya. However, the bulk of the congregation moved out and placed themselves under the care of a more trusted pastor.

Sometimes, money is raised from different churches in multiple fundraising drives for equipment or buildings when only one project is being undertaken. Still, church members will be made to contribute towards the same when they arrive in Uganda or at least be asked to pay for equipment to be cleared at the airport.

There are pastors who double as importers, mixing donated items with their business stock and making quite a handsome profit, both from the donated stuff and from not being taxed.

When Sunday Vision spoke to Pastor Male, he reeled off a number of bizarre cases, some believable and some extreme. He is confident about his sources of information and says he has followed up some cases and found them to be true.

Male also alleges that some have ended up being trapped in homosexual tendencies after getting funds from gay donors indiscriminately. Many so-called pastors have sold their souls to a number of dubious causes, all in an attempt to raise money.

The principal of Kampala Evangelical School of Theology, Rev. Dr. Solomon Nkesiga, says there is nothing wrong with pastors spending a long time outside the country if they have congregations there.

and it goes on and on. Read it. It is enlightening.

For the sceptical, no, I did not write that article. Once upon a time, maybe I would have gone into the research. My ire at the Christian church has plunged, to the point where I do find this mildly amusing.


spiralx said...

It's long been out in the open that the American Right have been subsidising a lot of these people, as long as they follow the American agenda on sex, and of course homosexuality.

I guess we're all prostitutes of a kind! I "put out for the money" in my work; they do the same... and I thought the comment about the "prosperity" gospel approach was very apt!

Cany said...

I am part of the US Episcopal Church (TEC). I want to add some thoughts, if I may.

There are MANY televangelists here of sordid action and theory. These are folks who are on the religious right, almost exclusively, and literalist in Biblical theology, though I have to add that they can ONLY be selectively literalist and taking the entire Bible literally, in terms of discipline, is obviously illegal (e.g. stoning for certain sins) and entirely unacceptable in this country. Nonetheless, there ARE some radical right pro-theocracy groups here that DO advocate dominionist thinking and action. Many of these groups are, also, racist organizations.

The mainline Protestant Churches in the US (Presbyterian, Episcopalian and United Methodist being the largest) do NOT have leaders with fancy cars, mansions, etc. The budgets for these churches, and the method of approval for spending on items, is carefully regulated by the various churches, their vestries and/or councils, and laity. These are NOT top-down organizations. They are, generally, churches with a liberal social gospel--something that has drawn considerable fire from radical right politicians in many cases.

One needs to make a clear distinction between these kinds of churches, the beliefs they promoste, the people they serve, the people democratically chosen to lead them, etc. versus top-down churches that absolutely tell you, to the letter, what you MUST believe.

Furthermore, I and MANY people in TEC (though I am straight) are fully supportive of lgbt clergy and lay people in the church. Yes, there are those among us that advocate with the likes of Orombi/Akinola et. al. for violence against and/or jailing of lgbt people BY association. They can get away with that on foreign shores, but not here. It is not well known here, though many of us (myself included) blog on these issues regularly, but believe me, hate speech within our churches is NOT acceptable. It IS acceptable for some who are leaving TEC for, ironically, leadership based in Nigeria, Uganda etc.

But please recognize the distinction between these two groups within TEC, and the difference between the religious right and the more liberal social gospel of the mainline Protestant churches.

A statement made recently by AB Bul (Sudan) suggests he cannot organize "his" people in "his" country to get clean water because of people "like" +Gene Robinson in the U.S. Huh? You mean as children grow ill or starve their families are more worried about one gay man on the other side of the planet? I don't buy it.

There isn't any way we in the US can change what happens in the African Anglican churches which are, slowly but surely, leaving our communion. Many of our churches in TEC, and in fact within the mainline protestant bunch, have relationships with African ecumenical groups or work with Anglican churches there to help improve lives through health, food/water programs, etc. Those are NOT tied to a lgbt agenda whether a good agenda or a bad agenda. It's about the people.

Many lgbt people in the US dedicate money and time (and prayer) to these efforts while being slapped in the face by African Archbishops for who they are. But their strong and decisive commitment to God helps them turn the other cheek, painful as that may be, year after year.

I cannot speak to the Anglican churches there and if they have had issues similar to the ones this article speaks to. But I can guarantee that if anyone from TEC forwarded inappropriate actions, they would be yanked quickly and the church would take quick and decisive action.

Like Africans, "Americans" are not alike to one another. We are a diverse bunch, some great, some bad and most of us in between. It does concern me, though, as I have been lately reading of a huge amount of problem with the more right leaning Christian groups, of which we are not a part, and their actions. Some of this seems perpetrated by Africans on Africans, and some by Americans/Africans. And it must stop, regardless, immediately.

This needs to get into the American press in a big way. Americans need to understand that some of the religious work in various African countries is anything BUT Christian and is harming everyone involved. I simply never read about it in the US in the print media.

gayuganda said...

Hi Cany,

thanks for the comment.

It is a fact that we are all diverse and different. And that a few will tarnish the many, especially in matters of religion!

Of course I do take advantage of that. Here in Uganda, the image of the church is frighteningly Extreme Right wing American. But most people seem to think that is normal. Suprises me that it is not! Anyway, for some reason, right wing missionaries from America have flooded Uganda for the last 20 years or so. Maybe that is the reason. We are extreme, even relative to our neighbouring countries in the region.

So, the 'American connection' is very strong. But I do understand that you are very different and diverse. and that we are seeing the extreme, right wing people, who have found Uganda a fertile ground. Would be wrong to generalise and say that all americans are like so. Maybe, not even all 'Right Wing' americans are like so. I mean, the words that Rick Warren's friend, Pastor Ssempa utters in Uganda would be politically incorrect in Saddleback church itself. And Ssempa is politically sarvy enough to know that. So, he says we gay Ugandans should not be having an HIV prevention programme, but have the law of sodomy enforced, for HIV prevention. Send us to prison for life, or something to that effect. But he would never say that in Saddleback.

So, maybe my agenda should be to wake the American public to the right wing extremists that they are exporting in the name of god!

Its not true. And not ok to tarnish all americans with that tar brush.

DeTamble said...

Go Guggy, Go Guggy, Go Guggy, GO! YAY!! You bash those religious nutters!!! You kick those Christian arses good!!!

Okay, so I haven't actually read the post but whatever :D

Unknown said...

hhhmmmm ... where do i start?

ok ... didn't read the whole thing but i get the whole "american connection ..."

all i can say is: it may be AMERICAN CONNECTION with the pastors and everything ... but for most of us, even minus the AMERICAN CONNECTION PLUS THE PASTORS, we still remain .... what did u call it ... RIGHT WING sth sth ...

if sth is wrong, it remains wrong ... it don't matter which wing or country u r in or who is doing it.

LYING is wrong, even though i just lied today (i think) and yesterday ... and the other day ..

HOMOSEXUALITY is wrong, even though you practice it today or yesterday or the other day ... hate it or love it!!

CONCLUSION: we are the same in the eyes of God: YOU the homosexual and ME the liar/porn addict/wanker. WE ARE ALL SINNERS; ... hence we all need the blood of Jesus to wash us, cleanse us, purify us and His Spirit to change us.

Take it or leave it ... as we said before ... your choice ...

oh ... and before i forget .... how are u, guggy? still going on about how much i hate u, uh!?

be cool.

tovi ellesse

gayuganda said...

Hi Tovi,

you are at university?

Well, if I use what you know of me to say that I am not a sinner, would you believe it?

by the way, can you as yet bring yourself to call me gay and not homosexual? We went through that some time ago, and you kind of ran away from that challenge.

Unknown said...


hooray, i am done with that hill of makerere.

on that question, i would say: NO, i would not believe you. BECAUSE I know that in the Big G's eyes, we are all the same. SINNERS who need the grace of God. Sinners. Sooo, you are a sinner, i am a sinner, so is Orombi, Ssempa, robinson ... oh and the Pope too. We all need Jesus.

On that "calling you 'gay'", I didn't chicken out. I just GAVE UP.

But now, seriously, I am trying this: putting myself in your shoes, if that's possible!? Perhaps, you can help me out: How am I supposed to feel? e.g. have I felt this attraction to men (i am a man) from birth or from some age? have i been in religion or not?

and then u should also try wearing mine: a once-focused guy who nearly lost everything because of his addiction to pornography and masturbation, tried everything to break it but failed until he found JESUS; and by the power of his word, broke free (i shud say: breaking free). Now, here comes a guy who says that the Word which broke me free is wrong and GAY (i said it) is right.

Do u think that this guy will say nothing as the Word which broke him free is being attacked? My shoes: u see, I fight homosexuality because in a way, if I don't fight, I am a contradiction to my beliefs and the Word and that just might spark off a downward spiral back into the abyss. I need the Word to live, I need to defend the Word to live. The Word says "homosexuality is wrong," so I say it is wrong.

Sorry, it does not sound logical. I myself see many flaws in my argument but I just don't know how to organise this whole thinking process into a clearer thing. I just know what I feel. I mean I am now asking myself why I don't fight corruption and stealing as much as I fight homosexuality. Good question ... and I am confused ... let me think about that ...

gayuganda said...

Hi Stanislaus,

I must say that I am very, very suprised. Why?

Because you are more honest than others.

Forgive me. My bad manners. Congratulations on finishing MUK. that is always a good achievement. And then, you go out in the wide world and see how different, and savage it can be.

Logically, since I dont believe, I cannot be a sinner. Because I dont believe. The definition of a sinner is wrapped up in your faith.

No. I am not asking you to put yourself in my shoes.
Its hard to explain this, but; you see, you guys attack me so much that I feel like attacking back, most of the time.

I dont want you to imagine that you are gay. It will be a fake thing. Just think of yourself, a straight man, under attack for being straight. Looking at a girl, or woman, and feeling attracted, and then remembering that that attraction is supposed to be a sin. That may approximate what I feel. Where I have come from.

About having the foundations of your life under attack. Tovi, it happened to me, it is happening to you, it will happen to everyone.

Does one always just pull back and defend those foundations staunchly? Of course, that is the instinctive reaction.

But, being a thinking human being, you also have to examine the basis of those conclusions.

One of the good things with intelligence is the fact that, it is not static. You may have been a gay basher, but, you are now questioning. That, to me is not a bad thing.

Before, I was in fear of you, because you would have attacked me without thought. Now, well, I think you can be honest in your thought.

Good thinking.

I recommend to you to read a book, I think it is online, or at least some summaries of it. Check the post I dedicated to Ssempa. Check that post. October 2008

Can you imagine a pastor, a big, evangelical pastor who came out as gay and found redemption in that? Well, do you dare find out what it was like for him? Check out that post on Anthony Venn-Brown.


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