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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 4:54 pm 
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ORANGE FARM , South Africa — Dressed in a red robe and a
gold- trimmed bishop’ s miter , the clergyman pours whiskey
into his cupped hand and anoints the forehead of the man
sitting before him.
“ You are hereby invested as a minister ... This is a double tot , ”
he says of the remaining whiskey in the chalice . He hands it to
the new minister , who downs it.
“ Hallelujah!” shout the congregation members who erupt in
singing and dancing, swigging from bottles of beer .
Welcome to Gabola Church, which celebrates the drinking of
alcohol. The South African church was started eight months
ago and has found an enthusiastic following .
“ We are a church for those who have been rejected by other
churches because they drink alcohol, ” Gabola ’s founder and
self- declared pope , Tsietsi Makiti , told The Associated Press .
“ Gabola Church is established to redeem the people who are
rejected , who are regarded as sinners. We drink for
deliverance. We are drinking for the Holy Ghost to come into
Others in South Africa are outraged by Gabola , saying it is not
a church at all.
“ Gabola has nothing to do with the word of God. Those are not
church services , ” said Archbishop Modiri Patrick Shole ,
director of the South African Union Council of Independent
Churches . “ They are using the Bible to promote taverns and
drinking liquor. It is blasphemous. It is heresy and totally
against the doctrines. ” He said his organization intends to see
that authorities close Gabola for breaking municipal
regulations that say churches should not be located near bars.
Gabola is not a member of the mainstream South African
Council of Churches , which said it has no comment about it.
Gabola is not affiliated with any other denominations .
About 80 percent of South Africa’ s 56 million people profess
to be Christian . In addition to Catholic and Protestant
denominations , there are small independent ones with
unusual practices like handling snakes. One pastor recently
was found guilty of assault for spraying Doom , a popular
insecticide , into worshippers’ faces , which was supposed to
chase away evil spirits .
The condemnation by other Christian organizations did not
bother the 30 worshippers attending a recent Gabola service ,
held in a bar in the sprawling Orange Farm township 40
kilometers (25 miles ) south of Johannesburg .
A pool table served as the altar , adorned with bottles of
whiskey and beer . Six ministers at the altar solemnly blessed
the chilled jumbo bottles of beer bought by most churchgoers .
A few drank whiskey , brandy or other beverages , all of them
similarly blessed . The congregation sang hymns praising the
positive effects of drinking. Three new Gabola members were
baptized with beer which covered their foreheads and
dripped down their faces .
Gabola means “ drinking” in Tswana, one of South Africa ’s
official languages.
“ Our aim is to convert bars, taverns and shebeens into
churches, ” Makiti said . “ And we convert the tavern- owners
into pastors .”
People in other churches “ say they are holy but they drink by
the back doors , in secret. They think God does not see them , ”
he said . “ But the Lord zooms in on them and can see them .
We drink openly at our services . We do so in peace and we
love each other . ”
Gabola ’s leader said he encourages people to drink
responsibly and emphasizes that alcohol will only be sold and
blessed to people who are 20 , two years older than South
Africa ’s legal drinking age .
The rousing hymns praising the effects of alcohol brought
church members to their feet and they enthusiastically
stomped and danced in a circle , often around a beer bottle. As
the three - hour service progressed they became louder , more
animated and sloppier. Some dozed off during the sermon .
“ Nothing is as happy in the world as people who drink ,” said
Nigel Lehasa , who explained scripture during the service and
described himself as Gabola ’s professor . “ There is no fighting,
no arguing . We have nothing but love .”

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