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Baptism of bishop, priests in Uganda sets off persecution & kindles revival


JINJA, Uganda (BP)–Hidden by the darkness of the night, the men slipped across the street to Samuel Lubogo’s home. The silence was shattered as the intruders beat down the door.
The night of terror began for the Lubogo family when they recognized the intruders as police officers and members of their parish.
Lubogo’s wife, Norah, cried as she watched her personal possessions carted off. One police officer grabbed Lubogo and another handcuffed his eldest son. The two men were dragged off to jail while the rest of the family was thrown out on the street.
A photograph published in that day’s newspaper had shown Lubogo — a high-ranking Church of Uganda official — being baptized at the local Baptist church. The intruders were sent to teach him a lesson.
It was a lesson that backfired, though. Lubogo clung even closer to his newfound faith.
“That night, all of the people stared at us. They persecuted us just because I was now following the truth,” he said. “As I watched what was happening, I worried about my family but I still praised the Lord for considering me worthy.”
Lubogo is not the only official from the Church of Uganda to make public decisions for Christ. Since April, more than 50 priests also have professed a faith in Jesus Christ. A spiritual awakening for Uganda is starting in one of the most unlikely places — the Church of Uganda — said International Mission Board missionary Bill Waddle.
The Church of Uganda is an offshoot of the Church of England and was founded in 1875. While the church believes in Jesus Christ and the resurrection, it also adheres to a rigid hierarchy of authority.
“Their stance on the Bible is that you don’t need one,” Lubogo said. “You don’t need one because the bishop will tell you what to believe and how to act.”
Lubogo was bishop-elect — next in line to become archbishop — with charge over 3 million parishioners and priests in his diocese when he left the Church of Uganda. He was not only the second in command in the Church of Uganda, but also a prince in the royal family of Uganda.
One Baptist preacher in Lubogo’s diocese, Godfrey Mayimba, was praying for a spiritual awakening in the Church of Uganda. Mayimba grew up in the Church of Uganda and knew its teachings. He was one of the first fruits of Baptist work in his area more than 20 years ago.
“When I was 14, I felt God telling me to go and lead my people to him,” Mayimba said. “I started praying for the Church of Uganda then. Many Ugandans have some sort of tie to that church and it has such a stronghold on the people.”
Mayimba met Lubogo through a local humanitarian program. The two began meeting and talking about the Bible. Lubogo began to ask questions and search out the truth.
“Finally I came to the point where I asked myself how long am I going to sit on this truth,” Lubogo said. “The truth haunted me. I had to act on it and acknowledge it — even if the church was against it.”
Until Lubogo’s baptism, his conversion had been hidden from the community and church. After police stormed Lubogo’s home, he spent four days in jail and then was asked to reconsider his decision.
Other Church of Uganda priests are suffering through similar situations as their decisions become public. One priest had all of his possessions taken from him, including his Bible.
Lubogo remembers when he inflicted persecution on evangelicals on behalf of the Church of Uganda.
“I apologize to those that I persecuted before I knew the truth,” he said. “Now, I want to live so that people can see the change in my life. I want to show people that Jesus Christ has control over me.”
Community members are curious about the changes they are seeing in Lubogo and the other priests. Many have approached Lubogo and asked him to start a new church.
“The people want to hear about Jesus Christ. They want to know the truth,” Lubogo said. “The problem is that these priests cannot come before their congregations and preach salvation without being fired or their lives threatened.”
Efforts are being made to find ways to disciple the 50 priests and support them in their decision, Waddle said. He feels these priests will be important players in spreading the gospel.
“They are the leaders of the community. People recognize and follow them,” he said. “If these priests are serious, the people are going to respond to the message they bring.”
Lubogo said many lives already have been changed through the priests’ example.
“A revival is taking shape here,” Lubogo said. “I would give up my title and wealth again just so I can take part and be used by God. He is moving in mighty ways and people will respond.”