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Baptism of bishop, priests sets off persecution, revival

JINJA, Uganda (BP)–The intruders announced their presence when they beat loudly on Samuel Lubogo’s door and then stormed into the home.
The family was terrified when they recognized the intruders as police officers and members of their parish. Lubogo’s wife, Norah, cried as she watched personal possessions carted out of the parsonage and dumped on the roadside. One police officer grabbed Lubogo and another handcuffed his eldest son. The two men were carried off to jail while the rest of the family was left on the street.
A photograph published earlier in a newspaper had shown Lubogo — an influential Church of Uganda pastor — being baptized at the local Baptist church. According to Lubogo, the intruders were a direct result of that photograph and 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 leader from the Church of Uganda to make a public decision for Christ. Since April, as many as 50 pastors also have professed faith in Jesus Christ.
The Church of Uganda is a product of Anglican missionaries 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 pastor of the Jinja Cathedral, the largest church in the diocese with more than 803,000 parishioners. He also was a member of the Basoga tribe’s royal family.
One Baptist preacher in the area, Godfrey Mayimba, had been 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 working 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 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 pastors are suffering through similar situations as their decisions become public. One pastor had all his possessions taken from him, including his Bible.
Lubogo remembers when he inflicted persecution on evangelicals.
“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 pastors.” 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 pastors 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 pastors and support them in their decision, International Mission Board missionary Bill Waddle said. He feels these pastors will be important players in spreading the gospel.
“They are the leaders of the community. People recognize and follow them,” he said. “If these pastors are serious, the people are going to respond to the message they bring.”
Lubogo said many lives already have been changed through the pastors’ example.
“A revival is taking shape here,” he 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.”