Who is Pastor Gary Skinner? Flash Uganda Media looks at his biography, age, family, church ministry, preaching, early and wife of the founder and Senior Pastor of the Watoto Ministries.
Gary Skinner is a Canadian gospel preacher, visionary and passionate Team Leader and pastor at Watoto Ministries including the dynamic Watoto Church, with its headquarters in Kampala Uganda, along Kampala Road.
Gary Skinner together with his wife Marilyn Skinner founded the ministry in 1984.
His Early Life
Gary Skinner aged 69 years, was born in Zimbabwe to missionary parents. He’s a fourth-generation preacher in the family and has pastored in Canada, Zambia and Uganda where Watoto Church is based.
Skinner believes Power, Sex, Money, the 3Gs that stands for Gold, Glory and Girls are the main source of evil among religious leaders. He, therefore, advises fellow church leaders not to touch the gold, don’t try and take the glory and stay away from girls.
“Most leaders fall because of one of these areas. They will get tempted in any of these. When you start getting an impression of yourself, listening to what other people say about you, believing and taking in that, you will become proud and start taking in the glory. Before you know it, you will start saying you deserve something and start taking gold, before you know it, you are on the girls and you end in trouble.”
“Stay humble and keep yourself pure. Be contended with what you have.” Skinner’s advice to fellow pastors.
Watoto Church, formerly Kampala Pentecostal Church (KPC) is English speaking cell-based East African Community Church headquartered in Kampala, Uganda.
Watoto Church leaders describe Watoto as a church “celebrating Christ, growing and multiplying as each one reaches the other, touching souls around them with the love of Jesus Christ, bringing healing to the cities and the nations.
Watoto means children in Kiswahili an East African Language.
It was founded on April 22, 1984, by Gary and Marilyn Skinner.
Initially, Watoto Church operated at the Imperial Hotel compound before the leadership took over a disused cinema which was renamed The Center.
Today, Watoto occupies its purpose-built building in Kampala and earns 13.3 million euros per year. Watoto’s main church is dubbed Watoto Church Downtown and has expanded over the years across the city namely; Watoto Church Kisaasi, Bweyogerere, Lubowa, Kyengera, Kansanga, Bugolobi and Entebbe.
The church has also expanded across Kampala with Watoto Church Bbira in Wakiso District, Watoto Church Suubi in Mpigi District, Watoto Church Gulu and Watoto Church Laminadera in Gulu District.
The vision of the church is to continue expanding until it encompasses all of Uganda and possibly East Africa. It already has a campus in Juba; South Sudan named Watoto Church Juba.
The church has an average congregation of 27,000. People also meet in smaller cell groups. Each cell comprises about 7 to 10 members who meet at least once a week in members’ homes to share fellowship.
Watoto Church is a cell-based community church with over 24,000 people gathering each weekend to celebrate Christ.
Gary passionately believes it is the responsibility of the local church to solve community problems. Watoto Church cares for the community holistically through the 2,900 cell groups that meet in homes each week.
In 1994, Gary and Marilyn founded Watoto Child Care Ministries, an international organization as a compassionate response to the cry of African millions of children orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS scourge.
Currently, they are caring for almost 3,000 Ugandan children in Watoto villages where every child is raised in a family setting rather than an institution. Their vision is that these children will be raised to become future leaders of Uganda and Africa.
The Watoto Children’s Choir tours the world annually as advocates for the 14 million African children currently orphaned by AIDS.
Concerts of hope are held in churches, community halls and schools. The choir has performed before presidents and royalty in the White House, Buckingham Palace and many other National Parliaments. Audiences are inspired as the children sing, dance and celebrate their story of hope.
In addition to championing the cause of the orphaned child, Watoto is committed to restoring dignity to HIV+ women, left to bear the brunt of AIDS, war and social injustice. Marilyn believes Africa’s greatest resource is her women waiting to be empowered.
Almost 3,000 women have experienced an improved quality of life through Watoto’s Living Hope and more than 15,000, of their children, have a better chance of fulfilling their potential.
Many of the Women have been victims of human trafficking, abduction from their homes as little girls and distributed amongst rebel soldiers as sex slaves.
Through Living Hope, they are equipped with necessary life skills through vocational training and empowerment through income-generating projects enabling them to become productive members of the community.
The comprehensive psychosocial support these women receive has given them purpose, dignity and a future.
Gary is committed to replicating the Watoto holistic model throughout Africa. He travels internationally as an advocate for the local church, inspiring people all around the world.
Gary is married to Marilyn Skinner and together they have three children and four grandchildren.
Watoto Church holds an annual Christmas Cantata and a gospel drama play, every four years known as Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.
The shows are a mixture of live performance music, dance, scripted drama, sounds and lighting effects. Historically, the cantata happens a week before Christmas.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Watoto Church was criticized by the head of state, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the public for going ahead with a tour by its internationally renowned children’s choir.
Seven members of the choir and seven adults on the tour with the children contracted COVID-19 but recovered and 80 members of the choir remained stranded overseas due to lockdown.
Watoto Church has received criticism for its stance on homosexuality. Gary Skinner and Stephen Langa have been accused of creating “violent homophobia” with Uganda.
In 2009, Langa invited American pastor and anti-gay activist Scott Lively to the three-day Family Life Conference in Kampala to discuss the “hidden and dark” gay agenda and the 2014 Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act allegedly arose as a result of the conference.