Quaker Justimore Musombi was a pastor in Kenya. That is, until he came out of the closet. Now he can’t go home. His heartbreaking story is this week’s QuakerSpeak.
- Subscribe to QuakerSpeak
- Read Doug Bennett’s Friends Journal article “Homosexuality: A Plea to Read the Bible Together.”
- Read Justimore’s Blog post for Earlham School of Religion
- The Quaker process of a “clearness committee” helped Justimore on his journey of self-discovery and reconciliation. Learn more about clearness committees in this resource from Friends General Conference.
- Find Quakers near you on QuakerFinder and Friends Journal’s meeting listings
- Quaker Voluntary Service has opportunities for social and personal transformation through service work and living in Quaker community
- Justimore spent much of his earlier life fasting and praying for “God to lift this curse” of homosexuality from him before he went through a journey of reconciling his culture, his faith, and his sexual orientation. Have you experienced this kind of dissonance in parts of your self? How do we go through that process of reconciliation?
- With regards to the biblical arguments against homosexuality, Justimore says that we need to look at the context under which certain passages were written. How do you experience the Bible? Does it provide a way to lead our lives? What is the value of knowing the context in which it was written?
- In part 2, Justimore says, “I am here to sacrifice my life and my gift that God has given me to bless my community.” What does this attitude impress upon you? What gifts has God given you to bless your community?
Part One: Being Gay in Kenya
I’m looking for a new family honestly, because my family has disregarded me. They did a ceremony in the African context of when you are gay or you commit suicide, they perform a certain ritual that people don’t want to associate themselves with you. To me, they performed it. They burned my clothes. They destroyed my things. They have sold my commercial plots in town. Some of the things I have bought. They have sold my things, meaning they don’t want to associate themselves with me.
I don’t have family in Kenya. I don’t have support in Kenya. I don’t have friends in Kenya.
Being Gay in Kenya
The law of Kenya is against homosexuality. If you are gay and found having sex with a person of the same gender you are jailed for 14 years. People need to understand, you know, what we mean by sexual preference and sexual orientation. I think that is the big thing that Africans are struggling with. So if they come to the fullness of understanding what is sexual preference and what is sexual orientation I think they can distinguish that and not demonize people and I think it is just homophobic, you know.
Being brought from where—I just don’t know because people say it is a Western thing, but honestly speaking it’s not a Western thing because I have done research and I found out that in the African context we have some terms that they used to refer to people of the same sex having sex—and so it is something buried down that they don’t want to bring it up. And yet it is there.
When I came out, close friends of mine heard about my coming out and they demonized it. They started calling me—that I am evil, I am possessed—and they treat me as someone who is suffering from mental illness.
“Praying for God to lift this curse”
I can say that what Paul says, “a thorn in the flesh,” something that disturbed me for many years and so I wanted this thing to come out. But it didn’t come out. It is something that I have grown up with my entire life. The first time that I discovered that I was gay it was far away in high school. I was being attracted to men sexually—those who dress well and they look nice. It was just me.
I would go to people to ask, “I have these feelings about my sexual desires. How am I going to do it?” Most of the time people advised me to pray and fast because they were telling me that it is a demon. And so I believed maybe, you know, people who are heterosexual and they engage themselves into gay sex: it is an abomination. It is a curse.
So I was praying God to lift this curse away from me.
So it has been so difficult for me to reconcile my faith, to reconcile my culture, and my sexual orientation. People refer me to books like Leviticus: “It is wrong for people to be together, have sex with the same gender,” and then they quote so much what Paul said. But you know, they don’t look into the culture of that time. The context and the content.
Why did Paul say this? Why did the writer of Leviticus write this? They take the scriptures literally the way it is and they want to apply it. Maybe it was that time, it is not this time.
Can’t Go Home
So right now I am operating as a refugee. Not on student status, but student vis-a-vis refugee. So I can’t assure you I will be going home right now, but I do love my country and I want to go back and support my country. But I have no means of going back because of the fear that I have for my life. Sort of like, I have shifted my minds to be here and to look for the Quaker organization and work with the Quaker church to support me and to be there.
Hakuna Mungu kama wewe
Part Two: Being Gay is Just OK
Homosexual is an inborn thing. You can’t get it out of you. If it is in you, it is in you. You can’t change it. It is just like heterosexual.
My name is Justimore Musombi and I’m from Kenya. I come from Algon East Yearly Meeting of Friends Church. I was a pastor in Kenya after graduating from Friends Theological College in 2000.
Quakers are well known for peace work and in Kenya we have the tribal clashes and fighting among the people in Kenya so I thought I really wanted to work to unite my country together and I couldn’t do that unless I have basic knowledge about peace.
So I joined the Quaker church simply because I wanted to know more about peace and work towards peace in Kenya, so that’s one thing that attracted me to Quakerism.
Well I have been through rough times. I can’t say that it has been easy for me to come out openly as a gay Quaker Christian. It has been a lot of challenges in my life. Because I was a pastor in Kenya, I preached and people consider me as a very spiritual person and charismatic. Yes I am a very powerful pastor, very charismatic. Sometimes I can even speak in tongues. But now, coming out as gay, it was a shock to many people.
My Monthly Meeting wrote me a letter that was a very bad letter telling me how I am evil, I baptized children there and I held them in my hands and I was preaching there, and all that I did – now it is null and void, it is rubbish.
And so I had a clearness committee to help me sort out my way out because I wasn’t sure where to go with all of these threats and phone calls. I had to report it to the police. So talking to the clearness committee, they helped me to apply for political asylum, and I applied for political asylum, which I was granted last year.
Supporting Young People
My plan was to go back home and support the young Quakers. I’ve worked with the young Quakers for long and the young Quakers understand me so much and they love me so much in my country and I have a heart for them. These are people that we can rely on for the future generation of the Quakers and I think in Kenya it’s the highest population of the young Quakers probably in the whole world. So my main focus of coming here was to get the studies and go home and support them. I have so many young Quakers who are gay and lesbian but people in Kenya lead a double life. I wanted to go there to start a different Quaker church that is welcoming and affirming to support the Quaker young people.
I have felt so good because, for example, Earlham School of Religion is the liberal college and is welcoming and affirming. I’ve seen so many transgender, gay and lesbian people. And I felt good because they are supportive. I have been going to West Richmond Friends Church, which is welcoming and affirming.
Pastoring from Afar
I am working to write my story from the time I was born, how I grew up with my stepfather and my stepmom, how I came to know that I was gay. It will include my coming out story. So it’s going to me my life in Kenya and my life in the US, just to let people know that being gay or lesbian is just OK and God loves you just the way you are. And it’s not that you are suffering from mental illness and it’s not that you are a demon or anything, it is just the homophobic people just being afraid. But I really want to write my book so that people can read and create that awareness in the community and I think it will be a great place for people to read my story.
I’m also inspired to look forward to what articles Quakers have written about homosexuality and the Bible and I’m looking forward to translate those articles if people can give me that permission—into Swahili so that people can get that knowledge. Even though I will not be there physically, if I get my book there and some material there for people to read, I will have helped my society so much. If I don’t do it, who will do it?
I am here to sacrifice my life and my gift that God has given me to bless my community.
There is none like you my God. There is none, there is none, there isn’t one like you my God. Hankuna Hakuna Hakuna kama wewe. Hankuna Hakuna Hakuna Mungu kama wewe.
18 thoughts on “Justimore Musombi: “Being Gay is Just OK””
Praying that wonderful healing and transformation will come through you for people in general but especially Quakers in Kenya. Your courage is inspiring. I will be at FUM triennial in Indiana in June. I hope that you will be able to be there. God bless you always.
Courageous interview. Thank you for sharing your journey. Jesus love is the center of Christianity…..
God Bless You Justimore for sharing your story with us, it was very touching and your courage and ongoing faith is an inspiration. Thankyou to Jon Watts and Quakerspeak for bringing this message to us and hopefully provoking thought in the wider Quaker community. I urge Friends to read the article and interview by/with Doug Bennett referenced above – well worth the time. From a gay Quaker (well an applicant for membership) in Sydney, Australia
I love QuakerSpeak. This series is so rich, it’s like having dessert for dinner. So sweet, so full of everything I love, so much variety to the sweet, sweet flavors. So leaving me wanting more. It’s delicious. It’s fabulous.
Thanks all for your inspiring comments and prayers! I really do appreciate. Continue holding me in the Light. Blessings to you all.
I really feel for Mr. Musombi. It must be really hard for family, friends and the body of Christ to reject him as they have. Unfortunately, this is the path taken by so many who claim to be living a life in the likeness of Jesus, the Christ.
With this said, however, I was a little disturbed at the line of thinking provided by Mr. Musombi in the videos. The defense against what scripture says on the subject is that people in first century Christianity were essentially homophobic and those passages do not relate to the Christian today. I would ask, then, if any passage of scripture is applicable today? What distinguishes one belief system from another is a standard. From this standard, we draw our worldviews. In true Quakerism, Christ is the standard (I realize that many within Quakerism do not acknowledge this, but as someone who has a family lineage within the Quaker movement spanning over 350 years, I am aware of what it was and what it has become). Hebrews tells us that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. If this be the case, scripture, the Word of God, is also unchanged, though I realize many different interpretations have developed over the millennia. Simply put, this behavior is sinful, just as many other sins ordinary Christians commit and neglect (gossip, hypocrisy, etc.) are sinful. I am not a hate monger, but a fellow sinner seeking to help a brother through a tough time.
When it comes to this situation and dealing with sin in general, I would point everyone to the opening verses of John 8. A woman was caught up in adultery, and the “religious” people brought her to Jesus asking if they should stone her as Moses instructed. These traps were almost certain to land Jesus in contradiction of either the law or his mission on earth. But in typical Jesus fashion, he says that anyone without sin should be the first to stone her. Realizing their iniquity, they all left with exception, of course, the only one who had not sinned, Jesus. He in turn assured that he would not stone her, yet also encouraged her to go and “leave [her] life of sin”.
Mr. Musombi, I am glad that you feel led to unite your people in Kenya. It is God’s will that we be united to our brothers and sisters, across all walks of life. I also find it noble that you are continuing your education in the states, at Earlham. I will pray that God will give you an opportunity to be used by him to do great things for your people. I also pray that you realize that while God loves all (even LGBT folks) this behavior is sinful and keeping you from your mission to bring all together. God can and I pray will use your experience in this sin to bring others out of it, while affirming their great worth in the sight of God.
I feel compelled by Eric’s comments to say something more. I detect an arrogant pride in Eric’s assertion that he is knowledgeable on this because of his Quaker lineage. It seems that such professors of Christ don’t think there is anything in the Scripture that has been handed down to them which is not entirely consonant with God’s love and direction for all. That is not what many of us understand about the provenance of canonical scripture.
We need to be clear that possessing Christ is what true faith is about. Scripture can be a helpful guide but it has always been the product of humans with all the errors that humans are capable of producing.
I believe that the Levitical and Pauline condemnations of homosexuality are not part of the will of God. I don’t think that is inconsistent with Friends understanding either now or in the past. Even if we just go with canonical Scriptural texts attributed to Jesus for our understanding, we find that the only time Jesus spoke at some length on a subject touching on sexuality, he actually extolled those who found the Kingdom by becoming eunuchs. I would suggest that was what first century male to female transgender folk would have had done in the face of general lack of understanding (as they still do today in some cultures).
Jesus may have said more that remains unrecorded in Scripture. Indeed, there is a reference to Jesus saying he had much more that he would teach but his contemporary followers were not ready for it. That is why he pointed his Friends to the eternal presence of the Holy Spirit. That spirit does not condemn people for being who they are. Just as some are transgender, some are only sexually attracted to their own gender.
I cannot fail to respond to Eric. Despite his claim to Quaker lineage, it does not appear that he shares the Quaker understanding of the place of scripture in our spiritual life. Quakers have never taken the words of scripture to be the final authority, and have always looked to the Inner Light as the final authority for the gathered meeting. I would suggest that he read Barclay’s Apology for a fuller understanding of what early Quakers believed. If any of the words of scripture conflict with our understanding of how God is leading us, we must follow the Light that gave the scriptures to fallible men that wrote from their understanding of how God was leading them then. The scriptures can never be the final authority for Friends. Continuing revelation is of central importance to our testimony. I also find it disturbing that he refers to himself as a sinner. George Fox would not be pleased with that. He would say Eric was “pleading for sin”, as if we could never escape it, and that being a sinner was the essence of our nature. It really does disparage Christs gospel, if our nature cannot be changed by the working of the Spirit of God.
I respect the comment. It has caused me to think over my own words. My lineage is merely to show where I am coming from, as all credentials or works in our sinful state are rubbish in the eyes of God. I apologize for the arrogance that was interpreted. As for being a believer that acknowledges all scripture as consistent with God’s love and direction of all, I am guilty.
Most who claim to be Quakers would claim to adhere to the writings of early fathers such as Fox and Barclay, and consider them as essential to their Quaker faith. Fox says in his journal:
“That the holy scriptures were given forth by the Spirit of God; and all people must come to the Spirit of God in themselves, by which they might know God and Christ, of whom the prophets and the apostles learnt; and by the same Spirit know the holy scriptures; for as the Spirit of God was in them that gave forth the scriptures, so the same Spirit of God must be in all them that come to understand the scriptures; by which Spirit they might have fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the scriptures, and with one another; and without this Spirit they can know neither God, Christ, nor the Scriptures, nor have right fellowship one with another.”
Barclay says in his apology:
“From these revelations of the Spirit of God to the saints have proceeded the Scriptures of Truth, which contain,
I. A faithful historical account of the actings of God’s people in diverse ages; with many singular and remarkable providences attending them.
II. A prophetical account of several things, whereof some are already past, and some yet to come.
III. A full and ample account of all the chief principles of the doctrine of Christ, held forth in divers precious declarations, exhortations and sentences, which, by the moving of God’s Spirit, were at several times, and upon sundry occasions, spoken and written unto some churches and their pastors.
Nevertheless, because they are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all Truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate primary rule of faith and manners. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty: for as by the inward testimony of the Spirit we do alone truly know them, so they testify, that the Spirit is that Guide by which the saints are led into all Truth; therefore, according to the Scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader. Seeing then that we do therefore receive and believe the Scriptures because they proceeded from the Spirit, for the very same reason is the Spirit more originally and principally the rule, according to that received maxim in the schools, Propter quod unumquodque est tale, illud ipsum est magis tale: That for which a thing is such, that thing itself is more such.”
I do not mean to come off as questioning of anyone’s faith, as that is the Father’s territory. I merely want to understand its derivation. If not scripture, if not the early Quaker fathers, than what? The spirit alone? The apostle John, through the Holy Spirit, tells us in I John 4 to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Luke demonstrates such testing in the book of Acts 17:11, “now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” As for deciding which passages are “in scripture” and which can be disregarded, Jesus himself warns against this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, also in Luke 16). If we are discussing that of “the spirit” without any checks, our conversation must end here. Discussing the things of God in this way is as subjective as a discussion on which color is the best. God bless this discussion.
Friend, I grant that I am a Christian first and a Quaker second. To summarize Barclay’s Apology on this topic as I seem to interpret it differently, Scripture CANNOT be in conflict with the Spirit, as the Spirit dictated to the authors what to write, as again Barclay said in his Apology, which I am told I should read, “Seeing then that we do therefore receive and believe the Scriptures because they proceeded from the Spirit”. Scripture is the template by which all revelation must align, as it is the Word of God that we know for certain, and God cannot contradict himself. There could be (and surely) is more revelation apart from Scripture itself, but must be in harmony with that which is known. As for sanctification, salvation upon myself is rubbish. I deserve to burn in hell for all eternity on my own merits. But, because of Christ’s sacrifice, I am adopted as a child of God and my iniquity is done away with. Neither George Fox nor Christ himself would claim that a man is justified by his works, but by faith. The state in which I am in does not condemn me because I believe on Jesus, as Fox himself says. I do not seek to revert back to the Hicksite schism of the 19th century, which settled this very topic among the Friends. I realize that in those terms I would side with the orthodox and there are those who read this who would side with Hicks. I only mean to speak the truth in love and seek, “fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the scriptures, and with one another” as Barclay put it.
I followed the suggestion to read Doug Bennett’s Friends Journal article “Homosexuality: A Plea to Read the Bible Together” (linked above). Bennett’s clarity on the subject is unusual and impressive. This article is an excellent resource.
Before arguing with each other, we might first work to deeply understand Bennett’s article. Otherwise, we risk injuring others while we struggle to reinvent the wheel.
Some who grasp Bennett’s explanation may want to look more deeply into scripture. I recommend “The Man Jesus Loved” by Theodore Jennings.
i am in Nairobi Kenya. i came out in 2008 and it was hell on earth. I was thrown out of home, I was excommunicated from Chavakali Yearly Meeting and Life has never been easy. I went with Jestimore Musombi to Friends Theological college and Kima international School of Theology. All I can say is I still strongly believe that God through His son Jesus Christ He loves all.
Denomination can not take us anyware,we should understand and respect one another ,Oooh my fellow christians who is to judge ? 1oo% I support mr Musombi
I respect your opinion, Walter. When it comes to a “man of God” doing what is completely contradictory to God seeking recognition and acceptance for it, I will have to side with a few people who “judged” the religious people. Jesus made a whip of cords and drove people out of the temple who were acting against the Father. Paul addresses this very issue as sin and unacceptable for God’s people. John and Peter both rebuked false teachings contrary to Christ. Levitical law prohibited this behavior. The New Testament affirmed this behavior as contrary to God’s will for our lives. I am sorry if this offends anyone. Take it up with God.. It is His law. We are called to live by it.. If Mr. Musombi truly is a brother in Christ, he should take the loving rebuke scripture gives (and should be given by his fellow brothers). If he is in the world, he can do what he wants. If he belongs to Christ, he lost his right to be an individual and committed himself to the work of Christ. It is that simple.
Iam a kenyan citizen ,aquaker from north yearly meeting ,what mr Musombi did its agood start, for those who are gays its our opportunity to claim our rights , its so challenging because its inborn and our friends should understand us ,God is the only friend who can understand our well being
[ iam helpless…..please rescue
oooh Eric , so how can can those who have a challenge like mr Musombi can be assisted .
The Bible say that if you are gay you are going to Hell look it up in Corinthians
Its good that he has spoken the truth of his identity , the Bible is very clear in John 10: 10 , Satan came to still , Kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life and Life in abudancy.
Justomre aka JustinNamtembi, Read 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Homosexuality is a sin like stealing but worse of it , you are sinning aganist your own body. Is your body still the temple of the HOLY SPIRIT?
Homosxeuality is an Evil harbit one can over come once you ask God to have full control of your body, brain and heart.
The wages of SIN are death but the gift of Life is through Jesus Christ our LORD and Savior .
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