South African Church: We Drink Alcohol To Receive The Holy Ghost

By Victoria Kim 04/26/18

The Gabola church, which is less than a year old, embraces drinking and even baptizes new members with beer.

Founder of Gabola Church Tsietsi Makiti
Founder of Gabola Church Tsietsi Makiti Photo via YouTube

A new South African church is stirring controversy by worshipping what some pious people might consider downright sinful—booze.

The Gabola Church—gabola meaning “drinking” in Tswana, a South African language—believes in the healing power of alcohol.

“Nothing is as happy in the world as people who drink,” said Nigel Lehasa, a self-proclaimed professor of Gabola, in a church service observed by the Associated Press. “There is no fighting, no arguing. We have nothing but love.” 

The church, which is less than a year old, encourages responsible drinking for people 20 and over. (The drinking age in South Africa is 18.)

While its goal is “to convert bars, taverns and shebeens (speakeasies) into churches,” as founder Tsietsi Makiti explains, the church’s focus is “not for enjoying the booze, but to bring parents together to create development for our children,” according to the church’s Facebook page.

The AP sat in on a Gabola service of about 30 worshippers in a bar in Orange Farm township, and witnessed congregants singing and dancing in praise of the “positive effects” of drinking, anchored by the altar, a pool table adorned with bottles of whiskey and beer.

New members were baptized with beer.

The AP described the scene in bizarre detail: “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.”

Matiki, who is also the self-declared pope of Gabola, paints the church as more accepting than traditional denominations. “We are a church for those who have been rejected by other churches because they drink alcohol,” he said. “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 us.”

But established churches want Gabola shuttered. “Gabola has nothing to do with the word of God,” 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.”

Matiki argues that while 80% of the South African population identifies as Christian, many find the need to hide their drinking. That’s the difference between Gabola and other churches, he claims. “[They] say they are holy but they drink by the back doors, in secret,” he told the AP. “They think God does not see them. 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.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr