Martin Ssempa and Every Nation

Gay City News recently reported:

High Rise, the Every Nation, which characterizes itself as a student religious group at North Carolina State University, has invited the Reverend Martin Ssempa, a champion of proposed draconian anti-gay legislation before the Uganda Parliament, to its weekly meeting on April 2.

On a Facebook page advertising the meeting, the group referred to Ssempa as a “Passionate Voice in the Global Fight against HIV/AIDS,” citing statistics that “the HIV/AIDS rate has dropped from 22 percent to a staggering 8 percent” in the East African nation.

The article is not quite accurate: the Facebook page where the event is advertised shows that it took place on 2 April 2009, rather than yesterday. At that time, Ssempa was not yet quite so notorious for his anti-gay activism, and he enjoyed links to pastors such as Rick Warren – although his views were on record, as I first blogged in 2007.

However, the report does draw attention to Every Nation, a controversial neo-Pentecostal grouping – “High Rise” is a student outreach of a particular Every Nation Church called King’s Park International Church; I blogged on this particular church in 2005. Ssempa was also a prominent speaker at the Every Nation World Conference in Manila in 2007, and in the same year King’s Park pastor Ron Lewis commended him as

a vigilant worker in combating the plague of HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Pastor Martin has been working closely with Her Highness Janet Museveni, the First Lady of the Republic of Uganda in educating Ugandans on the truth about HIV/AIDS. Their efforts have contributed to a huge drop in the disease rate, which in recent years has fallen from 30% to 6.5% in Uganda.

(HIV/AIDS in Uganda is a subject I blogged on here)

Every Nation (formerly Morningstar International) emerged from the wreckage of the 1980s student movement “Maranatha”, which collapsed amid claims of authoritarian behaviour. I blogged on the controversy around the grouping in 2005.

Incidentally, Lewis’ predecessor as King’s Park pastor was a certain Wayne Mitchell, whose son Jason “Molotov” Mitchell – whom I previously blogged here – is one of Ssempa’s most vocal supporter in the USA, using videos at WorldNetDaily to praise Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill: if gay Ugandans don’t like the bill, they are welcome to leave the country; Western liberals should not criticise the culture of a foreign country. Molotov has also left a message of support on Ssempa’s Facebook page, and in one video he tells us that he has spoken with Ssempa by telephone. Molotov has been actively involved with Lewis’s Campus Harvest organisation, as can be seen here.

“Miracle Babies” Pastor Still Fighting Extradition to Kenya

Back in 2004 (as I blogged here) BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts ran a piece on Archbishop Gilbert Deya and his “miracle babies”. Deya, a Kenyan Pentecostal minister based in the UK, claimed that women in his congregation with fertility problems – and, indeed, post-menopausal women – could be made pregnant with miraculous babies which would come to term in a matter of weeks. Pregnancies would be diagnosed by Deya himslf, and the expectant mother then sent to a special backstreet clinic in Kenya to give birth. By coincidence, this clinic also took in unwanted babies.

The programme elicited some sceptial response, but Deya’s own 57-year-old wife then showed up at a hospital in Nairobi with a new-born baby and a placenta – doctors said they had found no medical evidence that she was was the mother, but Deya explained this was because they had been threatened by the authorities. The “miracle babies” also had DNA which did not match that of the parents.

While this may seem simply preposterous, the consequences have been tragic. The Guardian reported on one case in September 2005:

An infertile couple who claim to have given birth to a “miracle” baby are to go to court in an attempt to win back custody of the child from social services.

The couple, who cannot be named, are going to the high court to oppose the baby being put up for adoption. The authority, Haringey council in north London, will resist the application.

…The legal battle over the fate of Baby C has already cost more than £1m. He has had six care placements in less than two years, and two adoption attempts have fallen through because attempts to clarify his status have taken so long.

…The 38-year-old woman told the high court that Baby C was the second of three “miracle” babies born to her after prayers, and she was pregnant with him for just 27 days. She said the first of her babies died soon after birth in Kenya and the third was taken by Kenyan authorities.

The upshot of the scandal was that Deya’s wife was arrested and jailed for child trafficking, while the Archbishop was the subject of an extradition request from Kenya. In 2008, I noted a report which said that he had lost his appeal to stay in the UK. However, the BBC now tells us that he is still here:

A self-styled archbishop who claimed he could give infertile couples ‘miracle babies’ is still living and working in the UK despite his extradition to Kenya being ordered three years ago.

The Home Office has said it is still considering representations from Gilbert Deya’s solicitors that sending him to Kenya would breach his human rights.

…A call to his offices in London resulted in him telling us the BBC was “evil” for what had been broadcast about him previously. He told us never to call him again.

He’s not always media shy, happy to appear on his own TV channel, Deya Broadcasting Network, which screens his church services and phone-ins via satellite TV across Africa and Europe.

Deya’s website is here, where he puts his side of the story:

Although the ministry has recently faced a lot of opposition especially from the media, some people have slandered our name by calling us child-traffickers but this has not stopped this great move of spreading the Gospel. ” They have taken away my children and put them into care, my wife has been jailed but still the favour of the Lord is upon us,” Archbishop said. He further explained the injustice and cruel action taken against his wife by the Kenyan authorities. “We cannot understand how somebody can steal a child from an unknown parent, it is sheer propaganda and persecution.” So far, the British Scotland Yard and the Charity Commission have done their investigation but they could not find any criminal evidence to convict the Deya family and therefore closed their investigation.

One person who has been keeping an eye on Deya is comedy writer Robert Popper, who has drawn attention to a number of Deya’s videos, such as this:

In 2004 Deya’s videos listed for sale on his website included Jesus Healed a Woman with Three Breasts; Ambassador Carrying a Snake in his Belly Delivered in Jesus’ Name; (Witchcraft) 14 Year Missing Baby Born in the Womb (The Mother is 51 Years Old); and The Walls of Jericho Came Tumbling Down and Killed the Witches.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)