- The church community of St Sebastian, based in the Spanish Canary Islands, has announced the establishment of its first fellowships in Africa, being prepared in Uganda and Kenya. The all-inclusive church community is especially known for its outreach to homosexuals. In Kenya and Uganda, both the government and local church communities are strongly homophobic.
"In recent weeks we have been blessed with the opportunity to extend our ministry throughout Africa and especially in Kenya and Uganda," Revd Paul Gibson told afrol News. The leader of the Gran Canaria-based community of St Sebastian revealed that preparations to offer religious services in the two East African countries are now at an advanced stage.
According to Revd Gibson, establishment of fellowships in Kenya and Uganda "is only the beginning of a new fully inclusive church that will grown in strength and statue, whilst also becoming a voice for Christians who have been marginalised by an out of date system of administration." The church leader leaves no doubt that, when he speaks about "marginalised Christians", he mainly refers to Kenyans and Ugandans with a sexual minority background.
The church community of St Sebastian is relatively new and has so far mostly concentrated its services in the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, just off the southern Moroccan coast. The community is known for condemning the exclusion of gays, lesbian and transsexuals by most mainstream churches. "Such exclusion is contrary to the fundamental teaching of Jesus and is abhorrent in the eyes of God," the community holds.
Aiming at world-wide expansion, Revd Gibson has already headed an initiative to establish a fellowship in Britain, however with limited success. The church leader rather decided to "re-structure" St Sebastian and focus on Africa and Asia. "With the increasing interest amongst marginalised people in Africa and Asia, as well in parts of Europe, it has been decided to concentrate on these areas of need primarily. In essence this means that the development of fellowships in the UK will cease," he announced this weekend.
Asked by afrol News to give details on the church community's expansion in East Africa, Revd Gibson needed to consult with colleagues in Uganda and Kenya to avoid giving out information that could jeopardise the security of those attached to the pro-gay fellowship. Recent government attacks of gay and lesbian communities in both countries have scared the group, and Mr Gibson emphasises that St Sebastian is not a community of homosexuals but a generally "inclusive community".
In Kenya and Uganda, Revd Gibson said, the fellowships "will be run by either deacons or priests" who had already indicated that "they wish to be part of the Community. These will be fully trained by our vocations team," he told afrol News. "At the current time there are several people training for these roles across Kenya and Uganda," he added.
Revd Gibson, who also uses the title "Bishop Paul", explained that St Sebastian's fellowships in Kenya and Uganda had been established by "groups of Christians who feel called to serve God as he himself served others."
Asked how potential followers could get in touch with the newly established fellowships in Kenya and Uganda, which have no official address or marked houses of worship, the church leader again is led by security concerns. "Anyone who is interested in contacting a fellowship should initially contact our Secretary" in the Canary Islands, he said, referring to his own e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are an Independent Christian fellowship and people of all faiths are welcome to join us," Mr Gibson declared, adding that both Catholics and Protestants were welcome. Asked whether the community of St Sebastian has got in touch with the established church communities in Kenya and Uganda, Revd Gibson said this was not the case. "We will be willing to open discussions with other groups should they approach us, so that we can continue to work in unity and faith with all people," he said.
The community of St Sebastian is based in the Gran Canaria holiday resort of Playa del Inglés, which itself is one of the world's leading gay tourist destinations. Also here, homosexuals form a large part of the St Sebastian community's local membership.
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