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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: February 2020

Chapter Eight - ‘It takes faith to make a church’: Gay and lesbian Christian proselytising in the HUMCC


The concept of the Holy Spirit became central to legitimising the project of the HUMCC in the face of condemnation from other churches. One of the ways in which the presence of the Holy Spirit was made manifest was through the growth and expansion of the congregation – the goal of proselytising.

Let us begin with an individual testimony which illustrates, in microcosm, the broad spiritual odyssey of the group of people who formed the HUMCC. Sipho Buthelezi tells the story of how he was alienated from the church in which he grew up, his response to this rejection, and his attempts to integrate his sexual identity with his religious beliefs. His personal resolution of these issues is echoed by the alternative exegesis, the ‘gay reading’ of the Bible, that is to be found in the sermons and rituals of the HUMCC.

In 1987, as a teenager, Sipho Buthelezi became a Christian. While still in school in 1990, he experienced a calling to become an evangelist. He completed matric in 1993, and with the help of his local pastor, who arranged a bursary, he registered with the Bible College of the Apostolic Faith Mission in Pretoria.

In 1994, the Bible College mobilised students to join a protest against the interim Constitution, mainly because of the inclusion of the Equality Clause that disallowed discrimination on the basis of ‘sexual orientation’. The campaign included writing letters to the Constitutional Assembly. Sipho found himself in a dilemma:

Well, things started in September, when there was a protest against the gay movement in Pretoria. So I didn't agree, I disagreed, to join the campaign. They asked me why I disagree and I told them, I am a gay too. It was concerning the issue of the Constitution, that the South African government must not allow homosexuality to be part too as the Bible condemns it as sin and it will create more cases of sodomy to the young boys. (Sipho Buthelezi, interviewed 5 May 1996)

Following his teachers’ instructions, Sipho prayed and fasted. Although there was no change in his homosexual desires, he pretended that these had changed.