The controversial Gabola Church, which holds its services in taverns around the country while its congregants enjoy their favourite alcoholic beverage, is well within its constitutional rights to do so. This is according to Executive Director at Freedom of Religion South Africa (Forsa), Michael Swaine.
The church has ten branches around South Africa, with one in Bloemfontein’s Rocklands township.
“Every South African is granted the right to enjoy the freedom of religion by Section 15 of our Constitution. This means that we can believe, express and live out our faith and that we can freely choose what we believe within the parameters of the laws of this nation. The Constitutional Court has already ruled that even if a belief is irrational, illogical and bizarre, that does not make it invalid nor illegitimate,” said Swaine.
He stated that unless Gabola Church is involved in harmful or illegal acts, the church is entitled to practice its beliefs. “Freedom of religion is by definition doctrinally neutral and does not hold to any particular orthodoxy,”
Meanwhile, responding to his critics who are often in mainstream church organisations, Archbishop Tsietsi Daniel Makiti, said he does not see what the fuss is all about as he is essentially providing a spiritual home for people who often find themselves on the outside looking into the church. “Churches are doing painful things to the people of God in His Name. We are not taking tithes and offerings, nor are we promising magic and miracles. We are simply using the power vested in us by Jesus Christ to make society better and reinforce the belief that ‘We are all equal at the foot of the cross’,” Makiti said.
When asked whether his teachings are line with the Bible doctrines and why his church continues to use the Bible when it considers itself a church free of colonial influences, he said: “It is because it teaches all the values of our God here at Gabola Church, values expressed in the popular 1 Corinthians 13 verse which speaks about love… We don’t use everything as stated in the Bible, because it came with Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 when he came to steal our land, cattle and economy but the part we do recognise is when Jesus turned water into wine (found in John 2: 1-11). We use it even though it contradicts itself. We use our own discretion with regards to the Bible,” Makiti said.
While he would not say from which institution he graduated as a theology scholar, Makiti insisted that he is educated, even though “religion requires no education”. “Jesus did not go to school,” he said. He also stated that even though his church was founded only four months ago at Orange Farm where he opened his first branch, his church now enjoys a membership of over 1 million people in various parts of the world, with only 5000 of these being baptized members. To find out more about the church, visit @Gabola Church international Ministries on Facebook.