Former Gangster Ordained Youngest Bishop in UK

London, England - Eight years ago, Climate Irungu Mwangi was a remand prisoner in a London jail awaiting trial.

He and two other Kenyans had been charged with attempted rape and possessing a firearm. He was bracing for a long jail term if found guilty.

When the trial began at The Old Bailey -Central Criminal Courts, the equivalent of Kenya's High Court, Mwangi and his co-accused had a lucky escape. Crown Prosecution Service, the public prosecuting body in UK, failed to prove its case against the three on the charge of possessing a firearm and the charges were dropped.

On the charge of attempted rape, they were found guilty but were released because they had served half of their sentences while on remand.

This was the turning point for Mwangi, formerly known as 'Man Man', a hard talking East London gangster, who used to sport dreadlocks. He converted to Christianity and became a preacher.

Today, Mwangi, 34, is the youngest Pentecostal church bishop in the UK following his consecration last Saturday. He was ordained by Bishop J.P. Hackman of the umbrella Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Alliance of Churches (Tapac). Tapac has 45 bishops.

Mwangi becomes the Bishop of the World Conquerors Christian Centre, which has more than 10,000 faithful in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Edinburgh, Scotland and London.

The ceremony was conducted by American Archbishop General Dr Lawrence and the Bishop Hackman at World Conquerors Christian Centre in Deptford, South London.

The cleric, his wife Jeniffer, and children Summer and Climate II. Pic by Gitau wa Njenga

He was escorted to the altar by another Kenyan, Bishop John Gichiri of Victory Revival Christian Centre, who was ordained last year.

So how did a gangster end up at the altar?

"Nine years ago, I was lost, just like the biblical prodigal son. I was dealing in drugs, abusing alcohol and involved in violent gang crimes in East London. I believed this was the right lifestyle until I ended up on the wrong side of the law. All my friends in crime deserted me and I had no one to turn to. I was very lonely," he told The Standard in London. "My life had been full of mayhem. I thought it was fashionable to be a gun-totting gangster but I was causing grief to others," he recalls. All this became vivid when he and the other Kenyan men were implicated in an attempted rape, which allegedly took place at a flat on Plashet Road in Forest Gate, East London.

"This was the first major crime involving Kenyans and Kenyan journalists reported it from UK," recalls Mwangi, the first-born in a family of four. The Bishop says he left remand in 1997 a changed man. The first thing he did was to shave his trademark dreadlocks and drop his street name, Man Man.

"I started evangelising in Norwich, Ipswich and Suffolk. While I was preaching in these towns I met and married Jennifer, who is also a pastor with the WCCC.

"The desire to spread the word intensified. Jesus redeems those who seek solace in him," says the former Rastafarian. He had tried two faiths - Islam and Buddhism - before "finding solace in Jesus".

The preacher and his family live in Edinburgh, Scotland, where their ministry is based. Mwangi reaches millions of people worldwide through his televised sermons on Sky Channel 673, digital cable and satellite networks in the UK. His sermons are also aired on Kenya's Family TV. Mwangi's children are uniquely named. "My first-born girl is Summer, while my new-born baby boy is named after me -Climate II." Born in Mtito Andei, Makueni District, Mwangi grew up in the Kenyan coast. He attended St Valentine and Masii Boys secondary schools. He trained as a mechanical engineer before migrating to UK in early 1990. He has a diploma from Trinity College in Hampstead, North London.