The leader of an Albany-based ministry who served a prison term for setting fire to his lover’s home in Virginia is garnering international attention for his anti-gay efforts in a highly religious region of Africa. But Carl Ellis Jenkins’ Sr.’s views aren’t as anti-homosexual as some extremists in the country who say that being gay should be outlawed.
AOL News carried a recent article about Jenkins, who lists his home and corporation address as 3309 Old Dawson Road, but does not have a published phone number and does not publicize a Website.
After serving a five-year prison term for torching the home of one of his employees in Virginia, Carl Jenkins established Albany-based Christ Central Christian Ministries Worldwide in 2007. His nonprofit-status paperwork with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office list only he and his wife, Ruby Strawter Jenkins, as the corporate officers. Neither could be reached for comment for this report.
Jenkins told AOL News that his ministry has linked up with church leaders in Uganda and neighboring countries to discourage homosexuality. He spent much of November in east African to finalize Christ Central’s organizational structure and on one Sunday ordained 16 bishops from Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. He says his African movement is based in Teso, Uganda, where he will open a Christ Central Academy and Health Center, which he says has 30 branch affiliates and counting in Uganda, and will have 55 units in Kenya. He says none of the newly ordained bishops have formal theological education, but that will change when they attend Jenkins’ Bishop Academy in 2011.
“Overall, we’re not seeing the moral change and economic change that Christ can give if you are obedient and dedicated to the word of God,” Jenkins told AOL News.
AOL News did not report on Jenkins’ 2002 arson conviction and five-year prison sentence, and $100,000 fine. At the time, he was founder and presiding bishop of Dale City (Va.) Christian Church.
During his sentencing, Stafford Circuit Judge James Haley Jr. chastised Jenkins for lying in July 2002 when he denied pouring gasoline on the front stoop of the North Stafford home of his former lover and church employee, Sandra Cager, and then lighting a match.
“Twelve jurors believed you were bearing false witness in violation of the Ten Commandments,” Haley told Jenkins, according to the Associated Pres. “There was no doubt you were lying.”
A jury found Jenkins, then 55, guilty of arson but innocent of three counts of attempted capital murder during a five-day trial that summer. Haley imposed the maximum fine of $100,000 and minimum sentence of five years.
Jenkins set the fire on March 2 while Cager and her two school-age sons slept inside. Damage was limited to that area. No one was injured. Prosecutor Lori DiGiosia argued during the trial that Jenkins’ actions had the potential to be deadly because the fire was set at the only exit from the upstairs bedrooms.
Cager testified she had been involved in a lengthy affair with Jenkins, who was her employer and pastor and lived just a few miles away. The fire occurred about three weeks after Cager confessed the affair to Jenkins’ wife and told her it would not continue. Jenkins had continued serving as church pastor from his Rappahannock Regional Jail cell until his conviction, the Associated Press reported.
While has since been removed from that post, the church’s presiding bishop continues to support Jenkins, whose efforts in Africa has drawn outrage from retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, a human rights advocate who says Jenkins’ is promoting hate.
“The last thing Uganda needs is more religious fundamentalism from the United States to fuel the fires of hatred and violence against gay and transgender Ugandans,” Senyonjo said. “Just weeks ago, a tabloid paper published a front page death threat with names and photos of gay and transgender advocates as well as my photo on the cover. They called for our hanging. People have been attacked and are running into hiding for fear of their lives.”
Jenkins denied being homophobic in the AOL article, but said: “But I can glean from the Bible that God is not pleased with homosexuality.”
Jenkins says some anti-homosexual attitudes in Uganda have gone too far and that he doesn’t agree with “all the forms of resistance — homophobic violence, ostracism and embarrassment” that is prevalent in the region.
Jenkins’ efforts come as a Ugandan death penalty for gays is on the table in the country’s legislature, and as human rights activists report a rise in the persecution of gays in Africa. Activists place a large portion of the blame on anti-gay incidents in the country on evangelical preachers and missionaries who bolster the already existing cultural intolerance in the region. A Pew Global Attitudes Project poll in 2007 found that 96 percent of Ugandans think homosexuality should not be tolerated. Indeed, many of Uganda’s educated classes argue that homosexuality is a Western important and that homosexuals are covertly recruiting the country’s youth to join their ranks. In October, a Ugandan publication ran a cover story with photos of 100 alleged homosexuals in Uganda and urged readers to “hang them.”
“God did not put us here as judgers,” Jenkins told AOL News. “The problem is we use God’s word to express our own intolerance and miss the spirituality. I want to focus the heart and mind toward spiritual things.”
AOL News reports that views on homosexuality vary down through the ranks of Jenkins’ ministry. Bishop Bernard Ebiau, the Ugandan point person for Christ Central Christian Ministries Worldwide, told AOL News in an interview last month that some form of the anti-homosexual bill should be passed.
“I don’t believe in hanging or corporal punishment. But homosexuality shouldn’t be legally allowed either,” he said. “That would be the same as promoting it. We believe that when the government allows unnatural behavior, it can attract negative judgment of God to a place.”