|Gay and Christian in
All Saints Cathedral Nairobi
Anglican Church of Kenya
St. Andrew's Church, Nairobi
Presbyterian Church of
Nairobi Baptist Church
VISIT Steve and Jose!
Visit the Other Sheep web site of the Executive
Director, Steve Parelli (at right in photo), and his
partner Jose Ortiz.
|This web page was constructed September 9, 2008
Visits made to this web page since September 9, 2008
|Darkness from light –
The deep sadness I felt in Kigali as I stood before 35 Rwandan pastors
Today I stood before 35 Rwandan pastors . . . and my stomach soured
at the thought of . . .
" . . . the light of the world is Jesus. Come to the Light, 'tis shinning for you . . . "
Today, the words of this popular missionary hymn, and others like it, which I used to
sing in our little up-state New York Baptist church Sunday evenings with soul-
winning zeal and worldwide vision some forty years ago when I was young, soured in
my stomach – or, something like that. I really don't know how to put in words what I
felt. Of course, my feelings are directly tied to my journey as a gay man within
evangelical fundamentalism – from self denial and self hatred (although I've never
called it that before now) to complete self affirmation.
You see, today I stood in a hotel conference room before 35 pastors (Pentecostals
mostly, some Baptists) all from within and around Kigali, Rwanda. Each came with
Bible in hand to hear "Pastor Steve and Pastor Jose from America" speak at "a
Gospel minister's seminar" (topic withheld!). The invitation read "[full name withheld]
Ministries, in partnership with Other Sheep ministries, has the honor to invite" –
here, a space left for the name of the pastor who was being invited – "to a Gospel
ministers' seminar." The day before the three hour seminar, two runners had
distributed the invitations by hand using public transportation.
Can you imagine the surprise when the projector splashed on the huge wall before
them "Other Sheep . . . presents: Rwanda, the Bible and . . . " The next frame
read simply "Homosexuality."
Our "chance" meeting with an area pastor
This was our first time in Rwanda and our stay is short: only seven days total –
three days remain - , then on to Uganda. This seminar was being presented on a
Saturday morning. Jose and I had arrived the Tuesday evening before on a flight
from Nairobi. With no other plans than to introduce ourselves to as many pastors
and priests as possible, Jose and I, while asking for directions to a low-budget
restaurant that was recommended in our Lonely Planet travel book, unknowingly
"bumped" into a well-known ("everyone" on the streets was greeting him) and - we
assume by the results he achieved - a well-respected Pentecostal pastor of Kigali,
Pastor [name withheld], Senior Pastor of [name of church withheld].
Soon after we left him, he circled around to catch up with us after having read our
business card which indicated the names of three "Reverends" in East Africa who
are associated with Other Sheep for the summer seminars in Uganda and Kenya.
He greeted us with as wide a smile as any I've seen in East Africa. Immediately he
pulled from his large date book, which is perhaps the greater part of his office, his
certificate and credentials and photos of his graduation from a Bible institute in
Nairobi, Kenya. With preachers as common as the hills here, I suppose one must
carry his credentials if he is a serious preacher. He's a young, focused, energetic
man of about 30 years who looks over the top of his glasses when talking to you.
And when you ask about the genocide here of the 1990s, he tells you, with a look
more serious, how at the age of 14 he escaped from death more than once. And
when he finishes, he ports his wide shinning smile again.
Introducing the pastor to the Bible and homosexuality . . . and his
instant desire to tell the same to his fellow pastors
We invited our new pastor-friend to join us at the end of the day in our hotel for a
private viewing of our PowerPoint presentation on the Bible and homosexuality. He
met us at 6:00pm sharp as agreed. After viewing the introduction on the misuse of
"sodomite" in the 1611 KJV Bible and part of our presentation on Sodom and
Gomorrah, he immediately formulated a plan to present "a Gospel ministers'
The following morning we rehashed the plan over breakfast at our hotel advising
him to go slowly and to look at the idea of having only a few pastors meet first to
advice him after seeing the material themselves. We warned him about the negative
fallout he could experience within his own circle of preacher friends giving the
examples of Rev. Kimindu and Rev. Makokha of Nairobi. We crossed examined him
on the message of Other Sheep, being very explicit with him about same-sex sex.
We wanted no misunderstandings. "Yes," he said, "I understand fully your
message." Finally, when I said I recommend small meetings over a full blown
seminar, he emphasized his independence and his autonomy and his commitment to
God and to God's message apart from any entanglement with men. I saw that his
church government left him free of any fear of hierarchical backlash. (I was
reminded why I was a Baptist.)
Introducing the topic of "homosexuality" to the 35 unsuspecting
pastors at the seminar
So, here we stood before a room full of Rwandan pastors (35 had registered their
name, church, phone number and email address upon entering the room). Our
opening slides showed the work of Other Sheep in Kenya so that the "problem" of
homosexuality could be seen as an African thing and not a western thing imported;
then we asked participants to respond to the overhead written questions so that
they could express where they are in their understanding and "feelings" about
homosexuality; then we gave simple definitions and explanations of terms like
I taught in English and my new pastor-friend translated. He translated as vigorously
as I taught. He stood right at my side and looking from the audience to the
overhead, back to the audience, he gave a lively translation. The room became just
as lively in return. Whatever he said, it kept them satisfied, even at times when I
thought we just might lose it.
"So, what is your message in a sentence or two," someone asked
"So, what is your message in a sentence or two," someone asked. Already, and
expectantly, what the Bible says was upper most in their minds. After all, this was a
"Gospel ministers' seminar."
I replied, slowly and deliberately, "Just as Christians persecuted the Jews during
Reformation times; just as Christian Englishmen enslaved the African; and just as
Christian men subject women even today – and have used the Bible in every case
to justify their discriminations, so today in Africa is the Bible being used to justify the
abuse of another people-group – they are called homosexuals. And if you will give
me just another fifteen minutes, I will demonstrate to you how your Rwandan Bible
has incorrectly infused the word 'homosexual' into five Old Testament texts. I will
demonstrate that the Bible you hold in your hands is misleading you in five Old
Testament verses, giving you supposedly God's authority to mistreat homosexuals.
I will demonstrate how the 1611 King James Version Bible played a part in bringing
to Africa the Englishman's bias against homosexuals."
As my pastor-friend translated, without a single change in his determination - a copy
of myself in this message of liberty - , I saw their faces respond with a resolve to give
me audience, to see if my claim could stand the test of their scrutiny at least in these
My stomach soured when I realized how missionaries, in their
translation of the Rwandan Bible, had brought over the errant KJV
translation . . . laying a religious base for homophobia
As I looked out upon the faces of the pastors, it appeared to me from the group
discussion, that for many, his only education was the Bible he held which had been
translated into the only language many, if not most, spoke: Kinya Rwanda.
And that's why my stomach soured. Their precious Rwandan Bibles followed the
errant 1611 KJV translations of Deut. 23:17; I Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; and II
One participant had come a bit early. He was early enough to watch me do a dry
run through my PowerPoint on these five errant Old Testament verses. He was
fluent in English. Making good use of the time, I interacted with my new-found Bible
student and the PowerPoint presentation before him. He asked questions and I
carefully taught him. At one point I asked him to read Deut. 23:17 in his Rwandan
Bible. There it was in his own language: "homosexual." The Hebrew word kadesh,
which means temple prostitute – a reference to Canaanite fertility practices, had
been wrongly translated homosexual in his native language. My heart sank. Bible
translators (I assume heterosexuals) had, without any thought of the Hebrew word,
brought the English word "sodomite" – an incorrect rendering of the Hebrew word -
over into the Rwandan Bible. I thought: That so much darkness could come from a
book that is considered to give so much light. My naïve youthful impressions of
missions – once again, shattered; my stomach soured – and not so much because
my ideals were dispelled, but because we – missionaries with a book – had failed a
whole continent and turned heterosexuals against homosexuals with one simple,
loaded, pejorative, discriminating, unrelated-to-the-text word: "sodomite."
This early, eager student, asking questions as he followed the Hebrew text along
side of the Analytical and NIV translations, eventually asked the inevitable: "What
should we do?" "As for these verses," I said, "draw a line through the word
'homosexual' and point back to the earlier word in the verse where the same Hebrew
word is correctly translated (temple) prostitute." He understood.
"By the end of today, 2000 people will know . . ." said the pastor
During the actual seminar, I had the pastors read each of the five verses from their
Rwanda Bibles after demonstrating from Deut. 23:17 that kadesh is incorrectly
translated homosexual. At II Kings 23:7, they read "And he brake down the houses
of the homosexuals, that were by the house of the Lord . . . " "There is nothing in
this verse that speaks about tearing down the houses of the homosexuals. This
translation is incorrect," and I reiterated why.
Later over lunch with the pastor who sponsored us and with a friend from Uganda
who observed the meetings, the pastor said, "By tonight, 2000 people will be told
the story that their Rwanda Bible incorrectly uses the word 'homosexual' in five Old
Testament verses." And we preceded to discus how to train pastors to teach on the
Bible and homosexuality, an extremely important task if we are to reach full inclusion
of LGBT people within their African churches.
A narrative on Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz's "cold call" seven-day trip to Rwanda, July 15-17, 2008:
A "chance" meeting with an area pastor who formulated an impromptu seminar on the Bible and
by Steve Parelli, MDiv
Other Sheep Executive Director
written Saturday, July 19, 2008 and first published July 21, 2008 in a Constant Contact Other
Sheep eNews mailing from Kigali, Rwanda
The following information shared at the seminar in a PowerPoint is an
example of what was demonstrated before the pastors
Why the discrepancy between the two translations? The answer, of course, is to
be found in a closer look at the Hebrew text. The Hebrew word kadesh in Deut.
23:17 is the same Hebrew word used in the other four verses. Kadesh does not
mean Sodomite, it refers to the "priest-prostitutes of the Canaanite fertility cults"
There shall be no whore of the daughters
of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
whore קדשה kedeshah (fem.) Female Cult Prostitute
sodmite קדש kadesh (masc.) Male Cult Prostitute
What is the Hebrew word for Sodom?
סדם - Sodom; (contrast kedesh - Cult Prostitute)
- there is no relationship between this Hebrew word for Sodom and the
above Hebrew word for Cult Prostitute -- קדש.
A frame from the PowerPoint
presentation on the Bible and
homosexuality as shown to the
Kigali pastors, Kigali, Rwanda on
Saturday morning of July 19, 2008.