A United Methodist Church in Kenya is the first of its kind to become a welcoming church to members of the LGBTQ community. The First United Methodist Church of Moheto says it supports “the full participation of all persons in every phase of church life” and has decided to join the Reconciling Ministries Network, the first African church to do so.
“We believe our process has begun and a time is coming when all these forms of homophobic and xenophobic expression in our United Methodist church will come to an end,” the church’s pastor, Rev. Kennedy Mwita, told UM News. “We want to be part of that change. A change must have a beginning, and we have opened our hearts and lives to God to use us as that beginning.”
Mwita sees welcoming LGBTQ members into his congregation as a human rights issue, saying, “We have been advocates for human rights and equality.” Mwita says the decision (sealed by a vote among congregants) is simply a formalization of “what we have been doing in the society as a visible voice for the voiceless for over 12 years.” Additionally, Mwita is advocating for more UM churches to follow suit. “My call to The UMC globally is that we stop all forms of discrimination,” he said.
FUMC Moheto has joined with over 1,100 other UM churches to become a “Reconciling Church.” Through its vote, the church joined the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which seeks “to equip and mobilize United Methodists to resist evil, injustice, and oppression as we seek justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
Two members of FUMC Moheto were absent from the vote due to illness, but the remaining 180 congregants voted on September 1, 2019, to become a Reconciling Church. No one voted against.
What Led to the Church’s Decision?
RMN explains Moheto FUMC’s decision to welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation, came about through an unusual experience. An article on the organization’s website explains:
Moheto FUMC’s journey toward full inclusion began in 2012 when the mother of an intersex child sought refuge at the church. She had been abused by her husband and sent away for having given birth to a baby considered “a curse to the family.” Rev. Mwita and the church welcomed her with open arms. “This became my eye opener and the church’s to know that God’s creation is diverse.”
Moheto FUMC then began a series of studies on human sexuality. Rev. Mwita gives thanks for Bishop Joseph Tolton, Bishop Yvette Flunder, and Rev. Dr. Grace Imathiu for their mentorship and for facilitating theological trainings and discussions on human sexuality “at a time when no one else in Kenya Ethiopia Annual Conference could give an ear.”
In addition to being an inclusive church, FUMC Moheto is starting a medical clinic that will also be open to everyone, regardless of their tribe, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. In a culture that is largely antagonistic toward homosexual behavior, offering access to medical care for those in the LGBTQ community is very progressive.
FUMC Moheto Is Out of Step With Other Churches in Central Conference
At the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri earlier this year, delegates voted to approve the Traditional Plan, one of four plans proposed to help the denomination come to a decision about matters relating to LGBTQ individuals. The Traditional Plan recognizes marriage as being between one man and one woman, does not allow for the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” and penalizes clergy that perform same-sex weddings. Churches affiliated with the UMC are expected to comply with the Traditional Plan by January 1, 2020.
Delegates from outside the U.S., including an overwhelming majority of African churches, significantly contributed to the vote going the way it did. While an estimated two-thirds of delegates from the U.S. voted for the more inclusive One Church Plan, the majority of delegates from the Central Conference, which represents Eurasia, Asia, and Africa, voiced their support of the Traditional Plan.
“FUMC Moheto stands as a prophetic voice that NOT ALL Africans support the Traditional Plan,” Mwita told UM News. “The worldview of the few and loud African leaders should not be taken as the wholesale world view for ALL Africans and ALL African United Methodists.”