The Revd Henry Mayor, a retired priest and supporter of Changing Attitude England living in Manchester is at present visiting Kenya to participate in a number of events, some Anglican, others involving wider Christian and gay communities. Henry was born and brought up in Kenya this visit follows two previous visits undertaken on his own initiative.
Henry has raised funds in the UK for the Bondo Project, which in part has helped to fund a six-day Retreat/Workshop for the clergy of the Diocese of Bondo and a few others, from August 31st to September 5th 2009. It was on the theme of same-gender sexual relations and the Bible. Henry gave four presentations: my personal experience of the Bible; a discussion of terms used in discussing homosexuality; my personal experience of LGBTI people; and a discussion of Bible texts which condemn and support same-gender relationships.
There were also two presentations by Professor Dr. David Kodia about the Lambeth Conference and the Global Anglican Futures Conference, several inputs by local Christians, time for group discussion and plenary sessions, and a daily Bible Study (led by Henry) on Jesus’s and the Church's response to marginalised people.
Henry reports that the response was generally favourable: people were glad that for the first time they were able to discuss same-gender sexuality (or indeed sexuality in general), and happy to receive new information and perspectives. Some people asked for more literature. The pastoral care of LGBTI people was discussed and there was a concern to follow it up. The Retreat will be followed by a report and another day of meeting to decide on future courses of action.
Henry notes that the attitude of clergy and others towards LGBTI people is unlikely to change overnight, but he is confident that in the hands of capable Kenyans who are supportive of, or sympathetic to, LGBTI people, the process of change in Kenya will continue. He has already been invited to address a one-day meeting of clergy of Maseno South diocese on the same topic.
Other Sheep Kenya Seminar in Nairobi
Henry also took part in a seminar on “Religion and Sexuality in African Cultural Context” organised by Other Sheep Kenya held on 22 August 2009 in Nairobi. Twenty five people drawn from the LGBTI community and PFLAG attended the seminar. They came from diverse religious backgrounds and organizations including United Methodist Church, Baptist, Anglican, Kenya Assemblies of God, Catholic Church, Metropolitan Community Church, Nairobi Pentecostal Church, Apostolic Church, Redeemed Gospel Church, Islam, Changing Attitude, Reconciling Ministries Network, Ishtar MSM, Daystar University and United States International University (USIU).
Henry described how he had come to Kenya to help the Anglican Church discuss homosexuality and told them about the Bondo Project. Henry said that there are people who say being gay is not African but a western import. He believes his calling is from God. He said, “there is no human being who is normal except Jesus Christ”. He said that homosexuality has become a great sin in the way it is dividing Christianity. Christians should love all people without discrimination based on sexual orientation Christian communities must change their attitude and be positive about LGBTI people.
Rev Michael Kimindu, Changing Attitude’s contact in Kenya, said that there are people whom the clergy and laity do not accept in the church such as divorces, homosexuals, people living with AIDS, polygamists and alcoholics. “These are the other sheep”.
Michael said that sexual orientation is not an issue that is to be fought but to be accepted. Religious leaders should serve God by serving the vulnerable such as gays and lesbians. The gospel is not about hate but about repentance, reconciliation and renewal. Jesus did not die so that our sexual orientation can change but our hearts. He said there are thousands of LGBTI persons who think God hates them. The message from Other Sheep is that God loves you.
Other people who contributed to the seminar were Rev John Makokha, a United Methodist minister and Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator, Anne Baraza, Other Sheep Advisory Counsellor and Riruta United Methodist Women President and Peter Wanyama, an Anglican and Other Sheep Kenya treasurer.
An extended report on the Seminar can be found on the Changing Attitude web site