Wednesday 30 December 2009

Gug worries about his safety, Red Pepper claims Swedish Group pours billions into gay Ugandan groups

Gug has sent me scans of an article printed today in Red Pepper, a tabloid daily newspaper which publishes mostly highly sensationalized stories. The paper was the one used previously to out people. Its owners have connections to the government (it is owned by President’s brother) and it is used by the government to break stories that the other papers will not touch. It is very popular, said to be second only to New Vision, the government owned daily.

Gug has some concern that his jealously guarded anonymity may soon be broken. He is in communication with Pastor Martin Ssempa, the leader of the anti-homosexuality Christian campaign. The conservatives believe that his loss of anonymity will hurt him a great deal, which of course it will. But he thinks it might backfire because once he doesn’t have to hide, he will be free and open to campaign against the Bill in what has become a war, and they may be unpleasantly surprised. He is now more angry and mad than scared, but once exposed he will have more to fear from anonymous other people, those who feel compelled to detest himas an agent of the devil, as Ssempa preaches.

The article from Red Pepper reveals the prejudice against homosexuality which is only too familiar, and the willingness to mix fact with fabrication. If RFSL, the Swedish group named in the report, has indeed poured billions into supporting LGBT Ugandans, then it will be easy to trace, given the transparency of European organizations. Somehow, I doubt that RFSL has sent any money to Uganda, but let’s not worry about such details affecting the truth of LGBT African lives, shall we?

Here’s the article:

Red Pepper, Wednesday December 30, 2009-12-30
City Tycoons who Bankroll Ugandan Homos Revealed
By Stanley Ndawula

As the controversy surrounding David Bahati’s Anti-Homo Bill rages, Red Pepper has landed on a list of city tycoons and professionals who dig deep into their wallets to have the stinking vice lively maintained in Ugandan society.

Ndorwa West Member of Parliament Bahati’s Private Member’s Bill on Homosexuality seeks tough penalties for anal sex promoters. We have landed on several documents that indicate how lavishly the homos are facilitated to keep their vice alive.

Promoters of gay activities do this by recruiting new members, and the recruiters are normally self-confessed homos, documents reveal.

These are referred to as coordinators, who pocket a staggering Shs1.5m [about £12,500] as a monthly net salary.

Organisations such as LGBT (Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and a Swedish federation known as RFSL (Riksforbundet for homosexuaellas, bisexuallas och transpersoners rattigheter), pour billions of money into the country to facilitate several of these homo activities.

Also, loaded Ugandans clandestinely facilitate the cause especially when the foreign funding has not yet arrived. Some of these, we have ably established, include an assistant law lecturer at Makerere University. He normally, together with two other dons, hangs out at Tickles Bar on Gaddafi Road, formerly Makerere Hill Road.

The fellows are said to be highly funded individually. Hence, they are well position to facilitate the coordinators, also known as foot soldiers.

Now, there is a manager who works with Bata Shoe factory. He is said to have ready dime for the foot soldiers that include one Pepe, Kalende and Mukasa, all self-confessed gays.

Other highly loaded tycoons are an Italian, one Pietero who hangs out at Maama Mia and Sarah, a renowned patron at Tickles Bar. Others include Paul, a high-profile city doctor who works with a prominent medical facility. He normally hangs out T Mateo’s on Parliamentary Avenue every Friday, in company of his ‘wife’, Robert, a handsome Rwandese guy.

Paul, on top of using his personal money to keep the vice going, facilitates in the several ‘workshops’ organised for homos, and outs documentary materials that advocate for gay activities in general.

Sam, another loaded city corporate image, works with one of the giant communications houses around the city. He is so much into financing it that he at one time single handedly facilitated coordinators to a workshop in Nairobi.

God and Kar are city tycoons who clandestinely facilitate any homo cause in the country.

There is a city businessman on Nasser Road known in the gay fraternity as one with a huge whopper that has terrorised several youths’ bums. “He doesn’t have a particular partner but uses his money to secure a f**k. He is respected in the gay community because of his generosity towards various activities,” our insider source revealed last night.

The list acknowledges the support of self-confessed sympathisers such as Makerere University don Sylvia Tamale, her husband Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango, and a number of journalists and writers who covertly help to promote the vice in the media. These include Andre, Angela and Charles.

When contacted with our list for confirmation, Paul Kagaba, the estranged Gay Uganda spokesperson burst into long laughter. He said our list of gay sponsors was just the tip of the iceberg.

He, however, confirmed the list, promising to fully furnish us with more shocking revelations. “You caught me at a short notice and this is a very serious issue which requires enough preparation and adequate prayers,” he told this reporter at the Lugogo Shoprite-based Good African Coffee Restaurant on Thursday.

Kagaba said the group we listed facilitates several causes including a long annual retreat at a prominent Priest’s home in Gayaza.

“From December 22nd to January 1st, there is always a retreat at .... in Gayaza and this is when people show their financial might,” Kagaba revealed.

Pastor Martin Ssempa, the renowned anti-gay activist and now chairman of the Pastors’ crusade to support the ‘Bahati Bill’, said fighting homosexuality in Uganda was a very challenging task since the vice had several, well placed sympathisers.

“It is you people (Red Pepper) who recently revealed that two ministers had pocketed giood dime to support homos. True, we are fighting a high-profile and moneyed people but this is a Godly battle we are fighting,” Ssempa stated.

He named Sweden as one of the main foreign sponsors of homo activities in Uganda, saying they channel their sponsorship through local organisations. Such organisations include Icebreakers Uganda, Spectrum Uganda Initiatives, and Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG).

Others are Integrated Fellowship Uganda (Integrity), Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Frank and Candy Initiative, Kuchus Living With HIV/AIDS and, Queer Youth Uganda (QYU). Ssempa further said that the main reason Ndorwa West Member of Parliament David Bahati’s Private Bill is feared is that the mentioned people and organisations will be culprits. He revealed that investigations were underway to ascertain allegations that several politicians and senior citizens were under lobby to frustrate the Bahati Bill.
Watch this space.

Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo denies newspaper report of $20million grant

The Rt Revd Christopher Senyonjo (second from left in the photo above), President of Integrity Uganda and retired Anglican bishop of the diocese of West Buganda has emailed me denying the allegation reported in the Monitor newspaper that Integrity Uganda is one of the groups benefiting from a $20million grant to promote homosexuality. Bishop Christopher writes:

Dear Rev. Coward

It is true that the Minister of Ethics in Uganda just before Christmas it was reported by Monitor News Paper that he said that Integrity Uganda and GAYUGA were to receive $20 million to promote the cause. This is of course absolutely untrue.
Best regards.

Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo

Bishop Christopher was a member of our team at the Lambeth Conference in 2008, working alongside Inclusive Church, Changing Attitude and Integrity. He was excommunicated by Archbishop Henry Orombi on 24 March 2006 as a result of his support for LGTB people and his commitment to the Integrity group.

Gug, the Gay Ugandan blogger, was another of the three accused of receiving money, which he has totally refuted on his blog.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Transcript of John Humphries' interview with the Archbishop of York about the Uganda Bill

John Humphries interviewed the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, on the Today programme this morning about the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This is my transcript of what he said:

“I think that the context in which this whole bill is coming, which is a private member’s bill not a Government Bill, it’s now going through the Committee stage and they have invited everybody who’s got interested to make some kind of comment and it shall return probably back to Parliament in February next year. My feeling is that in order to understand what is all behind all of this is that unfortunately, or whatever one wants to say, the Penal Code, Chapter 20, Section 145, which dates back to the time when England had similar legislation, that is still what they call unnatural offences, and anybody who commits them at the moment is liable to imprisonment for life. But also that penal code, in cases of rape as what they call aggravated sexuality, in cases of rape, you also face a death penalty, if you have got sex with a girl under the age of 18, you are liable again to suffer death. So this particular high, extreme sentencing already exists. Now what they have done in cases of homosexuality in this particular Bill, they are talking about aggravated in terms of again, a girl of eighteen, somebody living with HIV, a guardian or a parent, and the trouble is, it tends to confuse all of homosexual relationships with what you call aggravated stuff and that’s the problem”

What’s your general moral reaction to this kind of approach?

“I want to go back to the Dromantine Communiqué in 2004 by the Primates of the Anglican Communion where we said, we wish to make it clear that our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific behaviours; we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral care and support of homosexual people;the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and regarded by him and deserving the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship."

So it is anathema to you?

“I think when you begin ... I am opposed totally to the death penalty I am also quite not happy when you describe people with the kind of language you find in this Private Member’s Bill, which seems also not only victimising but diminishment of individuals.”

Well, they are being demonised in effect.

“Yes, I think that is not a very helpful way, but having said that, already the law in Uganda is where we were before the 1967 Act.”
Well absolutely. There’s a question about what those people who are affiliated to the Anglican Communion in Uganda feel about this and what they can do about it. There’s been a great deal of publicity in recent years about the difference between the views, generally speaking, of the Church of England, and the views of many people in the African Churches in the Anglican Communion. How concerned are you about that huge gulf which seems to exist?

“Well, I am absolutely convinced that Dr Zac Niringie, the assistant bishop of Kampala, assistant to Archbishop of Uganda, is now carrying out an assessment and they will be making their responses to this particular Bill. The gap can actually grow when is seems as though we are have a dialogue of the deaf, and the reason why Canterbury and I haven’t actually come out publicly to say anything is not because we don’t want to say anything, because the position is very clear, but rather ..”

Because you were trying to help?

“We were trying to help, and we are trying actually to listen, and sometimes people are not understood that actually the law in Uganda at the moment without this Bill does exactly the same thing and what this Bill has done....”

So in other words in your view it’s bad enough already even without this.

Without this, and therefore it seems to me that what we need is greater understanding of the context and I’m absolutely committed that the Church of Uganda, and I can only speak about the Church of Uganda, is committed to the pastoral care which is in the Dromantine Communiqué, is also committed to the listening process to the experience of homosexual people, and people may have very clear, what I may call traditional views about sexuality, but we as a Communion are actually committed to listening to the experience of homosexual people. You can’t do that on one hand and then have language which in many ways seems to suggest that all these people are not children of God. I mean, they are valued by God, they deserve the best we can give in pastoral care and friendship and I’m quite sure that the response the Church of Uganda will make in due course will have to take account of all these realities.”

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Conservative Christian desperation 2: In the UK

The Christian Institute

The Christian Institute reports that Michael Foster MP, a Government equalities minister, when asked whether the Equality Bill would lead to legal action between churches and atheists, admitted that churches should be “lining up” lawyers to defend themselves against secular legal challenges. Both sides “need to be lining up (their lawyers) by now,” he said, adding: “The secularists should have the right to challenge the church and if the church’s argument is good enough – which I believe it is – then the church should win through.”

The Christian Institute claims that the Equality Bill will dramatically shrink the liberty of churches to insist their staff’s conduct is in accordance with the Bible’s teaching on sexual behavior and will lead to legal action against the church. A Christian Institute report claims to reveal the extent to which Christians are being marginalised by equality and diversity laws which leave them the first to be punished and the last to be protected.

The Christian Institute is a self-appointed conservative voice on these issues. Changing Attitude is an alternative Christian voice, and we disagree. We value the legal changes being made by the Government which will afford greater protection to LGBT Christians, protecting us from abusive language and behavior towards our sexuality and from abusive uses of the Bible and so-called ‘orthodox’ Christian teaching.

LifeSite News

Hilary White writing for LifeSite News adds to the hysteria by reporting that Christians in the UK are warning that the government’s equality legislation will drive Christian believers out of public life. Some Christians, Hilary, a minority who are homophobic and anti-gay equality fear this. Many other Christians will feel liberated by the legislation and be more able to participate in public – and church – life.

I hate the arrogance of the way UK conservative Christians report their views as being held by all Christians as much as I hate the way in which some African Christians lie so easily. People only need to lie and distort the truth when they feel threatened. Conservatives are clearly feeling very threatened indeed. Do they have a case? Are all Christians disturbed by the proposed legislation and joining a campaign including all Christians? No. It is the prejudice of a small minority of conservative Christians that is under threat.

Conservative Christian desperation 1: In Uganda

The Daily Monitor in Uganda has a headline today about the reports that President Museveni has assured American authorities that he will veto Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay law. The online newspaper DC Agenda reported on December 19 that Mr Museveni had assured the US State Department of his willingness to block the Bill.

The newspaper reported: “Jon Tollefson, a State Department spokesperson, told DC Agenda that Mr Museveni has pledged on several occasions to the top US diplomat engaged in Africa that he would stop progress on the anti-gay bill,” and “Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson received this assurance from Museveni on Oct. 24 during an in-person meeting with the president in Uganda and again during a phone conversation with Museveni on Dec. 4, Tollefson said.”

Yesterday Mr Museveni’s spokesman, Mr Tamale Mirundi, said he was not aware the President had spoken to Mr Carson: “But if it was a discussion between two elders about a serious matter, then it should be kept private.”

According to DC Agenda, Mr Tollefson said when the Bill started gaining international attention, Mr Carson on Dec. 4 contacted Mr Museveni by phone “to reiterate US concerns, and the president again expressed his commitment to stop the Bill from becoming law”. “So that being said, the assistant secretary is expecting the President to live up to that commitment and … he expects President Museveni to live up to his reputation as a leader in the HIV/AIDS struggle,” Mr Tollefson was quoted as saying.

The Daily Monitor continues its report with the news that yesterday the Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo “named three civil society organisations allegedly promoting homosexuality activities in Uganda. He said Sexual Minorities Uganda, Integrity Uganda and Gay Uganda had been given $20m to promote the practice.”

Gug, the gay Ugandan blogger, is not a civil society organisation but a lone individual with the courage and determination to reporting in detail on the Bill from inside Uganda. He doesn’t think Museveni is happy that that particular cat is out of the bag. Not surprisingly, he thinks the most amusing, the most flabbergasting and hilarious piece of news comes at the end of the article, the news about him being the recipient of a share of $20m.

In his blog today, he sets out to correct some of the misinformation. He, gayuganda, is a single human being. He is not a group, or a family, or a cabal or whatever. He is one human being, a Ugandan, living, working in Uganda, who happens to be gay. He is certainly not a Civil Society Organisation.

In his dreams, he’d like a share of $20million. He’d settle for much, much less! Christmas is here, and the bills are not completely paid. Hi lover wants more than he can give him and if he had just a fraction of that total, he’d would be really, really happy.

Why, asks gug, in the name of all that is holy and true, why does the Honourable Minister of Ethics & Integrity, Dr. Nsaba-Buturo tell a LIE like that, of a small Ugandan guy like me? He says he has been in contact with him for some time, sending him helpful updates. So he immediately sent Buturo a note saying that he was really disturbed by the lying Christians of Uganda.

Martin Ssempa also mentioned GayUganda as one of the organisations that spread homosexuality in Uganda in his letter posted on Warren Throckmorton’s blog. Martin knows perfectly well that gug is just one single, ordinary human being, but chose to lie again.

In a final flourish, gug says that Martin Ssempa once accused him of conspiring with some friends to kill him and Nsaba-Buturo.

Why do Christians and politicians in Africa need to lie to try about those whom they claim at one moment, don’t exist, or are creations of western influence, or are an insignificant minority? I know this is another dimension of “African culture” which has to be accepted, the ease with which stories can be invented and lies told by those who claim the moral, Christian high ground. I hate it. And I hate the way western conservatives support, fuel and fund those who live with a false Christian morality and witness.

Will Museveni kill the Bill?

Monday 21 December 2009

What happens when Christians transition from the privileged to the equal and ordinary

‘Sapphire’, a writer living in Plymouth, has commented on the post " Christian Institute claims Christians are being marginalised by equality and diversity laws" His comments deserve a wider viewing and therefore a blog of their own. He writes:

The whole point of living in a society that is governed by rule of law is that individuals and groups give up some of their freedom in order to be protected from the results of unfettered action by all. Thomas Hobbes wrote "Leviathan" explaining just that concept noting that life otherwise would be "nasty, brutish and short."

The problem that Christians have is in making the transition from the privileged to the ordinary. Not so long ago the church could say pretty much what it liked about individuals and whole classes of people because it held the moral high ground. People, even if they didn't actually believe, nevertheless looked to the church for moral leadership.

That's changed. The church is only one among many claiming to have the answer to our moral dilemmas. In fact the church doesn't even have a single voice any more. There are many competing perspectives within Christianity. There are different views on what the Bible says and even on what it is.

Some Christians think they are marginalized. Perhaps they are but as Merseymike commented on the same blog, they have marginalized themselves if they think they still live in the world of privilege.

[Mike commented that what is notable is that it is only religious extremists who are in the least bothered about these laws - for everyone else they have caused no problem at all.]

Equality laws are tricky things and best avoided if there is another way of protecting minorities. I'm not convinced that this raft of regulations is the best way but we're stuck with it and we all need to try to make it work whenever we come into contact with it. Getting involved in a few doubtful cases and giving them a higher profile than they deserve is not going to help the legislation work, whoever is using the tactic. All it does is set up a "tit for tat" game that nobody can win but everybody loses.

Christians are not the "last to be protected". They have enjoyed positive discrimination for centuries. Not so long ago Islam, Judaism and the major Eastern religions were, if not illegal, unrecognised. They were not allowed to build their mosques and temples and no provision was made for observance of their traditions and ceremonies.

Christians, on the other hand had the Sunday trading laws and the Lord's Day Observance Act to make sure no one enjoyed themselves on a Sunday. I'm not ancient but I can remember when the swings in the park were chained up from Saturday evening until Monday morning. Blasphemy laws have only just been removed from the statue book yet anyone could say whatever they wished about Hindus, Sikhs or Moslems even calling their faiths Satanic if they so desired.

Mike Judge (spokesperson for the Christian Institute) and the others never mention one point. They could invoke the same legislation against their "persecutors" if they so wished.

One of the speakers at Spring Harvest this year advised Christians who felt marginalised to stop complaining and get on with the job of showing the love of God to those who need Him. And that means being genuine and knowing when to back off. The Christian Institute and others may like to get their noses out of their law books and start doing just that.

Shepherding the sheep: Trans people's right to protection

The Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, has made an interesting speech, during the Lords Second Reading of the Equality Bill, in which he rightly highlights how the widening gap between rich and poor in the UK represents a fundamental inequality that is hardly touched by the extensive provisions of the Bill.

Well said, Bishop Peter.

Where I began to feel less comfortable with the Bishop’s words was towards the end, where he says that the Bill tends to see society as a collection of individuals with rights, rather than as an ‘interplay of individual rights with the rights of other individuals, and the broader rights of society and the socio-cultural and religious communities in society’.

The example he brings forward, and hence my concern, as a Changing Attitude Trustee for Trans people, are ‘the provisions in relation to those who are undergoing, or have undergone, a change of gender’.

The Bishop continues: ‘society holds different views about the basis of gender reassignment, and there are different views in some of the faith communities’. Even if the latter point is true - and Chapter 7 of Some issues in human sexuality does indeed document, what are basically two ‘opposing’ Christian views, one in favour of medical intervention, with hormones and or surgery, the other antagonistic to this approach - it seems disingenuous to imply that they command ‘equal’ weight and endorsement. We don’t really know what the majority in the Church think about the basis of gender re-assignment because this conversation has hardly begun.

However, what we do know is that society at large, in the UK and beyond, seems to have accepted the validity of Trans people’s experience, and that a gender transition, is, in many instances, a therapeutic and authentic journey to make. Think only of popular culture: For many years now a Trans person has been a much-loved character in a television soap opera; a Jewish Trans woman won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998; and millions voted a Portuguese Trans woman – a Roman Catholic Christian, who often prayed on screen – as the Big Brother winner in 2004.

We have come a long way from the freak show reporting of the tabloids of yester year, and while red tops can still slip in the occasional sensational headline, most people seem to recognise the normality of gender reassignment for those who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria - a persistent dis-ease or dis-comfort with one’s assigned gender.

To his credit, the Bishop says that he accepts the possibility of gender dysphoria and the psychiatric and medical treatments on offer for it. What troubles him is that the Bill, if passed, would extend legal protection to those who express an intention to transition, or who do so without recourse to medical intervention or supervision. In fact, these are the most vulnerable type of transgender people you will come across, and they are badly in need of whatever protection is going.

In this instance, I think, the Bishop is being misled by the drafters of the Bill who have opted for the phrase ‘gender re-assignment’ - perfectly applicable in the case of transsexual people who do transition - but here in the legislation used inappropriately, as a catch-all term, to include anyone who adopts a gender variant expression, and which could, in certain circumstances, provoke physical or verbal abuse. See my earlier post on this problem of terminology

Anyone at the beginning of transition, who must dress in the clothes of the gender to which they aspire, but without the benefit of the hormone therapy that will masculinise or feminise their face and body, can be a prime target for such abuse. So too can the occasional cross-dresser, who represents a very different constituency from that of transsexual persons who transition. What the Bill is trying to do, albeit clumsily in its use of words, is to offer protection to as many Trans people as possible.

That, I would argue, is the main motivation for this section of the Equality Bill, not, as Bishop Peter suggests, simply to safe-guard individual rights, but because Trans people are regularly attacked and murdered simply because of their gender variant behaviour and expression.

I hope to discuss the rest of the Bishop’s remarks on this subject in a second post (after Christmas), but for now I would just like to note that Jesus once told a parable about a shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep in order to search for the one that had gone missing.

Likewise, we look to our shepherds, the bishops, to speak up for minorities who are bullied and picked on just because they are different.

Facing fears, campaigning for global justice

There is an element of fear on many sides in the reactions of groups and individuals to the final draft of the Anglican Covenant. Conservatives fear that the Covenant is toothless, that it won’t do what they require, it will not provide a solution to their demands that the Communion conform to their version of tradition and orthodoxy and therefore discipline or exclude the Episcopal Church for consecrating one bishop who is partnered and gay, electing a partnered lesbian and continuing to develop liturgies to bless gay relationships.

Pro-LGBT, inclusive church groups and individuals fear the Covenant will, at worst, deny LGBT people ANY place in the church, and at a lesser extreme, prevent the church from engaging with the expectations of LGBT members of the Church of England for the foreseeable future. The process in which we have been engaged, of listening to and developing understanding of the place of LGBT people in God’s creation, becomes impossible under a Covenant which liberals fear will be used to inhibit the place of LGBT, restrict conversation and the development of honesty and integrity in the church. This is my fear.

None of the scenarios, none of the fears, may turn out to be accurate or justified. Most reactions to extreme scenarios turn out to be wrong, in hindsight. But the authority structures of the Communion, the newly-titled Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, indicate that the place of LGBT people is to be further inhibited and progress towards our full inclusion curtailed.

The safety, let alone the full inclusion, of LGBT Anglicans in Uganda and other African countries is to be sacrificed for an indeterminate period to satisfy the traditional prejudices of African culture and the claimed greater good of maintaining unity in the Anglican Communion.

LGBT advocacy groups such as Changing Attitude will continue to argue and work for the global Communion to recognise that we will not rest until the church welcomes and accepts us as we know ourselves to be welcomed, accepted, blessed and unconditionally loved by God. Many LGBT Anglicans do not believe themselves to be so loved by God, having been taught how much they are hated and despised by God and the church because the Bible says ....

We seem to be on a collision course with conservatives and the hierarchy of the Communion. Conservatives think they are heading for a collision but from the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, the Indaba listening process continues. The Communion is still committed to listening and to ‘Don’t Throw Stones’, the outworking of the commitment not to diminish, victimise or demonise LGBT people. These threads of hope continue to be worked out but are mostly invisible to the majority of LGBT Anglicans who are at present unaffected by them.

Meanwhile we confront the extreme challenge presented by the Ugandan, Rwandan and Nigerian Bills and the comparatively lesser problem of the Church of England opposition to the employment provisions of the Equality Bill.

The challenges faced by LGBT people on our different continents are totally different.

How can life be made safe for LGBT Africans living in intolerant cultures under punitive legal codes?
How can LGBT people in Africa be helped to find the confidence to come out, circle by circle, to become more visible, available for conversation?
How can African Anglicans be given a safe space to bring their experience and wisdom to the table – in their own dioceses and Provinces?

In England, how can we face the Church of England with the reality of LGBT ministry in its midst and help it become truthful and honest?
How can we open church buildings and free clergy to perform blessings of gay relationships?
How can we end the present discrimination against vocations to ministry for LGBT people?
How can we change the culture which inhibits the appointments system for LGBT ministry?
How can we encourage LGBT people to respond to their natural spirituality and the call of God in our lives?
How, above all, can we make the Church of England a safe and welcoming place for LGBT people and our families and friends?

A gay wedding in Uganda

Gug, the gay Ugandan, reports that a Gay Wedding took place in Uganda on Saturday.

A traditional Ugandan wedding begins with the Introduction Ceremony when the girl introduces the boy to her parents. This happens before the Church or mosque wedding ceremony. The ‘Introduction Ceremony’ is a must. For various reasons many don’t go beyond this stage, but, once the Introduction is done, the man and woman are one, part of the family in the eyes of the community. It is for Ugandans the most important ceremony.

Two guys, two kuchus wanted to celebrate their love. And on Saturday they did it, in full awareness of the bill in parliament and the current climate of hostility, homophobia and violence being cultivated in Uganda.

The couple came out to their parents, an amazing thing in itself because it never, ever happens for most kuchus. It is too dangerous and courts the risk of being thrown out of their tribe and losing everything.

With their parents’ permission this couple planned and went ahead with their wedding, a gay wedding in Uganda. Gug discovered they had been planning it for most of the year, despite all the impediments, fears and the risks. Traditionally the whole community fundraises for the couple but this gay couple couldn’t risk that so they raised the money on their own.

They informed their parents who acceded to the wedding. The couple informed a few other kuchus who joined whole heartedly in the preparations. The secret was closely guarded, usually an impossibility because kuchus are notoriously bad at keeping secrets – but they are unfailingly good in the party organizing business.

A week before the wedding invitations were given out, not written cards handed to people but personal invitations delivered face to face.

Gug and his partner were informed by one of the grooms. He wanted them to grace his ceremony with their presence, an invitation, though gug, delivered from the groom’s side. Gug had a prior commitment but his partner reluctantly decided to attend without him.

There comes a time when the family demands that a man gets married, straight or gay – and they do get married - to a woman. Marriage has never meant marital faithfulness, says gug - that is a foreign concept. Polygamy is part of a man’s heritage. For a kuchu man in Uganda to be married to a woman is accepted as part of life, a necessary rite even when they know they are different. Gug and his partner assumed that they had been invited to a conventional, male/female wedding ceremony - the prospective groom didn’t bother to tell them that this was going to be different.

Gug’s partner told him what happened. The wedding took place in an enclosed compound which was secured. There were two armed policemen at the gate – police can be hired – even for an event such as this turned out to be.

Guys arrived in their ‘introduction ceremony’ traditional wear. ‘Kanzus’ for the men, white ankle length shirts like a dress with a jacket over them, a little tuck in at the waist exposing the ankles discreetly and allowing the man to walk without impediment. The most expensive are silk. The women wear ‘gomesis’, another very traditional Ugandan costume.

The ceremony started on time. It was long, with lots of gift giving, hyperbole and laughter. The grooms were not visibly present. It is an elaborate ritual of give and take, laughter, noise, story telling, introductions, rules of ceremony, with a master of ceremony on both sides whose job is to make it as lively and interesting as possible. Each competes to outdo the other.

It is not until the end that the ‘shy’ bride is brought out of the house. That is when gug’s partner realized that it was a groom introducing a groom - a gay introduction ceremony. The secret had been so well kept that a number of people didn’t know. Gug’s partner’s anxiety levels shot into the stratosphere!

People were peeping through the fence and the secret was out. A crowd was gathering and the policemen were overwhelmed. The kuchus were by now happy that the secret was out, they were delirious with joy. Two kuchus were actually coming out and making their partnership official in the traditional way.

Gossip has wings and the crowd at the gate grew. They wanted to know what was happening inside the compound. The rumours were too tantalizing and the music and atmosphere of gaiety too tempting. Gug’s partner decided it was time to leave before it got violent – and the signs were that it would.

Those kuchus who stayed told gug and his partner that they started sneaking out, one by one, leaving the food and drink on the tables. They feared being photographed in all their finery, photos which would be damning if published in the local tabloids. Hearing the buzz of the crowd, many decided to disguise the fact that they had been at the wedding, taking off their kanzus, mingling with the crowd and slipping away. One who was foolish enough to remain in his kanzu was attacked. It was torn off his body by the crowd outside.

It was, says gug, pure madness, absolute, sweet madness, to have such a ceremony in Uganda at this moment. No amount of security could keep such an event secret. “We kuchus, we gay Ugandans, we are also human beings who seek the simple, wonderful small pleasures that all other Ugandans have. Nothing shows that like our desire to be known in the eyes of our parents, as a couple. We want to be acknowledged in the ultimate way, as groom and groom, husband and husband, wife and wife.”

The punishment for this ‘gay marriage’ in the Bahati/Benson Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament is life imprisonment for the happy couple and 3 years in prison for those who participated in the ceremony if they fail to reveal the marriage to police within 24 hours. That’s if they hadn’t already been lynched by the enraged crowd.

Now the couple have to deal with the expected backlash. The wedding was an exceedingly stupid, incredibly foolish thing to do, gug says, but it was, and is, human - poignantly, absolutely, completely human.

Friday 18 December 2009

A Covenant of life or death?

This morning a resolution was passed by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion meeting in London.

It resolved that, in the light of the recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate, the decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings and continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion, the Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.

This afternoon the final version of the Covenant was published and will now be sent out to the Provinces. I have read the final version of section 4, but haven’t had time to compare it with the previous version; tomorrow, maybe. The day has been taken up attending to Uganda and responses to the Bill.

I wondered what would constitute an action deserving of referral to a body now called 'The Instruments of Communion' that might endanger the Anglican Communion - or individual members of the Communion. Is Uganda breaking Anglican policy by effectively supporting a Bill which I believe is clearly in contravention of Anglican policy on homosexuality? Those Ugandan bishops who have spoken about the Bill have all given it their total support.

The Covenant has been introduced in response to actions by the Episcopal Church. Those supporting the Covenant will use it to discipline or exclude the Epsicopal Church because of the election of Mary Douglas Glasspool as the next Bishop Suffragan in Los Angeles.

As Bishop Jon Bruno says, the Episcopal Church has been working on the gradual, full incorporation of gay and lesbian people for more than 30 years. It is part of an evolutionary change moving from tolerance to full inclusion. The Diocese of Los Angeles is moving forward in supporting the full inclusion and full humanity of all people in the Church.

The actions of the Episcopal Church bring life and hope not only to LGBT members of that Church but to LGBT members of every Province of the Communion and most particularly in Uganda, Nigeria and Rwanda where their lives and freedoms are most under threat.

It would be madness, wouldn’t it - a travesty of God’s justice - to discipline a Church for bringing justice to a once-persecuted minority in the USA but not to bring to justice those Provinces and their leaders which actively seek to extend the persecution of and discrimination against LGBT people.

Don’t sit back and think it won’t happen – become a supporter of Changing Attitude and help us argue the case and work for a real covenant of justice, God’s holy, sacrificial, life-giving and transforming justice.

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill is an open invitation to a witch-hunt

This is the dramatic judgment of The Times today in a leading article about the proposed Bill. “It must be seen for what it is: a bigoted and inhumane Bill that will cause suffering for thousands of innocent people.”

The Times reminds readers that the deep prejudice against homosexuality in Africa has been fanned by the row within the Anglican communion over gay clergy and by the tentative attempts by a few gay Africans to call for greater tolerance. Political groups have seen easy advantage in exploiting this prejudice. Branding homosexuality as a Western perversion is an easy way to hit out at perceived Western cultural dominance for the Church. The link has been reinforced not only by the recent visit of leaders of US conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual but by the campaign waged by Anglican conservatives in the Global South/FoCA alliances.

People who have written to Lambeth Palace have been receiving responses in an email from Marie Papworth:
“Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades.

“For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.

“Marie Papworth
Press Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, London, SE1 7JU”

Almost 5,000 people have joined the Facebook group Anglicans who want THIS statement from Canterbury, which calls on the Archbishop to repent of his earlier statement and issue this one instead:
"The proposed legal actions that would make homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda, and the lack of outrage regarding this proposed action by the Church of Uganda, raises very serious questions not just for the Church of Uganda and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole."

"The proposed legislation has not yet become law, and could be rejected, with the Anglican Church of Uganda leading the opposition. That decision will have very important implications. The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that offering pastoral care and listening to the experience of homosexual persons is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."

In a post to the group today in the light of the email from Marie Papworth above, Susan Russell questions how deep does concern and how unacceptable the Bill have to be before the Archbishop of Canterbury uses his moral authority to speak out on behalf of gay and lesbian Ugandans who cannot speak for themselves?

Susan believes that speaking out to protect gay and lesbian lives in Uganda is less important than speaking out to protect the Anglican Communion from a lesbian bishop and that the leader of the Anglican Communion is more concerned about preserving institutional unity than he is protecting innocent Ugandans.

She invite members of the group to: Send another email; Write another letter; Post another blog; urging the Archbishop to use the power he has as the moral leader of this worldwide Anglican family of ours to speak the truth of God's inclusive and abundant love for ALL people.

I invite readers of this blog to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already, and email or write as Susan suggests, to Lambeth Palace.

The Times recognizes the Bill as bigoted and inhumane, an open invitation to a witch-hunt that will cause suffering for thousands of innocent people. It will cause suffering for tens of thousands in reality, not only those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered but their parents, brothers, sisters, extended family, teachers, pastors and priests. The Bill will solve none of the problems it claims to target but will criminalize innocent people because of their sexual identity.

It will also exacerbate the potential for schism in the Anglican Communion between conservatives who want to further criminalise LGBT people and those working not only for full inclusion but for Christian truth, justice, the protection of human life and fidelity to those elements in church teaching which affirm these core values.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Christian Insitute claims Christians are being marginalised by equality and diversity laws

The Christian Institute has issued a report which claims that Christians are being marginalised by a raft of equality and diversity laws which leave them the first to be punished and the last to be protected. They link the report to the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the weekend that the Government treats Christians as eccentric oddities.

The report, called “Marginalising Christians”, catalogues numerous cases of Christians being sidelined by public bodies, popular media, employers and barriers to public funding and charts examples of Christians being violently attacked in ‘faith hate’ assaults.

The Christian Institute says faith groups fear the Equality Bill currently being debated will further erode ‘their’ liberty because the Government is using the Bill to drastically shrink the freedom of churches to insist that their staff’s sexual conduct is in keeping with the Bible.

Let’s get this straight. A minority of Christians, those who are conservative in theology and literal in their reading of the Bible fear being marginalized by the proposed laws.

Other Christians, the majority, live and work in UK society where equality in law for gay people, women, ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, is taken as essential to the health of our society and those who, in the past, have been subjected to discrimination. Elements in the Church insist on maintaining taboos and prejudices. More, they insist on legal protection for their prejudice.
The majority of Christians welcome the way in which legal equality and protection has been extended to groups who in the past had been discriminated against.

Many Christians do not feel marginalized in modern Britain as Mike Judge, from the the Christian Institute, claims. A minority feel marginalized because they adhere to discriminatory Christian belief systems.

The “... stream of equality and diversity laws [that] have failed to reasonably accommodate the rights of religious believers [and]. Christians in particular [who] feel they have been pushed to the back of the queue … the first to be punished and the last to be protected”, as Mike Judge claims, are welcomed by Changing Attitude and many other Christian groups because they are making reluctant minorities within the church face the reality of their prejudice and the damaging effects of some Christian teachings once claimed to be fundamental.

The majority of Christians welcome equality and diversity legislation and want it extended to cover everyone in the church, including those in ordained ministry, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people INCLUDED!

Gug’s conversation with a Ugandan legislator

Gug, my gay Ugandan friend, has been engaged in an email correspondence with the Rt Honourable Benson Obua Ogwal. (UPC), Member of Parliament for Moroto (pictured right). This morning, he decided to make some parts of the conversation public, posting them on his blog:

The gloves have to be off, says gug, and as readers of this blog will know, I agree with him. The Uganda Bill and the reactions to it from different national leaders, Primates and bishops and Christian organizations reveal fault lines that show what we LGBT Christians and others are confronted with. Gay Ugandan lives are in the balance as a result of the Bill. The ability of Anglicans to honour the sanctity of all life and the teaching of our Communion about LGBT people is also in the balance.

Gug became concerned to ensure that the reaction of the rest of the world was made known to Ugandan legislators, so he started sending a few of them emails with the Rick Warren letter, the Rachel Maddow links, and the update on the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Vatican, etc.

The correspondence reveals gug’s increasing courage in confronting the MP and the MP’s growing frustration and intolerance. He arrives at the conclusion that the whole world must be wrong about homosexuality and Uganda alone is right. Gud reminds us that is his life and the lives of LGBT Ugandans which are ultimately in the balance.

In reply to gug’s first email, MP Benson replied:

Dear Anonymous Gay,
And you think this will deter us?
There are a very few aspects of the Bill that we can concede on like the Death Penalty and Extra-territorial Jurisdiction, but Gays won't have a field day in this country, try as they would. It is not about any of those Anti-Gay activists being attacked in the media. It is about Uganda. If only Gays could do it behind closed doors and not try to lure the innocent poor youth, it would be a different matter. But they are becoming bolder and bolder.

MP Benson’s next email picked up on gug’s self-reference:

Hey Gay Pervert,
How about this one coming from all religious leaders across board right here at home?
We love gays, but hate homosexuality which has no place here.
Forget about the Bill being withdrawn, for it will be passed in due time.

Here is gug’s reply:

Hi Honourable MP,
Yes, I have noted the pejorative term you have used.

Personally, I think it shows some very fine defects in your intellect. But, I cannot say so. I am the pervert, arent I? You, sir, and all the ones you have copied this letter, are shaming my beautiful country. Yes, I am gay and Ugandan. And, you are shaming my country, before the whole world.

Rick Warren has denied Ssempa, and come out against the Bill. So will the rest of the world. The Catholic Church is going to come out against the bill. And, you will continue calling me a pervert, dear honourable MP. Dont think it takes much intelligence to work out who will be the dishonourable person and who will not.

Thanks for your nice comments, dear esteemed honourable.

There followed a long period while the Rt Honorable gentleman was silent. He was eventually apparently irked by gug’s reference to himself as the gay pervert. It irks, gug wrote, when one embraces the spear instead of shying away from it, doesn’t it?

In his next email the MP responded as follows:

It is not me who calls gays perverts. It is the Bible, and I believe in the Bible. Gays and lesbians are perverts. And I cannot call you "Gay Uganda" because Uganda is not gay. What is your real name?

The religious groups in Uganda who met at Entebbe under the aegis of Inter Religious Council of Uganda and endorsed the Bill were represented at the top-most levels in person: the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church, the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala who is head of the Catholics in Uganda, the Mufti who heads Muslims of Uganda, the head of the Seventh Day Adventists and the President of the Born Again Federation of Uganda.
Think about it.

Gug replied:

Hi Benson,
My name is gay Uganda the pervert.

I happen not to be a Christian. It is a foreign religion. I don’t believe in it. Does that make me less a Ugandan?

Do you represent only Christians in your Constituency? So you confirm that the Catholic Archbishop was amongst the 200 church leaders and the Moslem leaders. Was the Cardinal there?

Tell me, Benson, do you really think there is nothing wrong with this bill of yours, the Bahati/Benson Bill? I am just curious. So many people from all over the world have condemned it that I am curious about your view. Do you think Uganda must be right and the world MUST be wrong?

The MP replied:

Why are panicky, Mr who? Why don't you wait and see what MPs are going to do with this Bill as representatives of their people? These protracted and winding arguments are not going to be very helpful because they are simply convoluted.

Has it ever occurred to you that the whole world could be wrong and only Uganda right on this gay thing? Why must we see things through the lenses of the WORLD that might be totally lost? Does it not bother you that it is evil, wrong and dirty to use an organ meant for egesting (ejecting?) something dirty? Give me a break!!
I represent all in Moroto, but will be disappointed to find that there is a gay there. My people are very happy with my stand on the Bill.

I do not know the difference between the Cardinal and the Archbishop, but I know His Eminence the Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala retired recently and was replaced by Bishop Kizito Lwanga. I am inclined to think the latter was there.

I know what you want to say, but spare yourself the trouble; The Vatican may have a position that is different as you are trying to say, but this is Uganda.

I think this debate is up. It is taking me nowhere!! There is nothing new coming here. It is beginning to irritate me that you keep flooding my inbox with your mails. Remove me from your mailing list.

Gug posts his last reply but doesn’t expect to hear from the MP for some time:

Hi Benson,
So, there are no gay people in Karamoja? I dont really know how to reply to that. The best answer would be that I am from there. But, you will not believe a gay Ugandan pervert, will you?

Why panicky? The MPs in my country have tabled a bill in which I and any other Ugandan who is like me is to be imprisoned or killed. Because we are different.

You know, I have too much evidence and knowledge that Uganda is in the wrong here. That is why I am asking you for your take on it. So, you do think that Uganda is right and the world is wrong?

I see life through my own eyes. I happen to be too independent not to question what people like Mr Langa tell me. I question, I listen, I look, I observe. I come to conclusions. For example, I am not a Catholic. But I know the difference between the Archbishop and the Cardinal.

Benson, I am a Ugandan. The law of the spear prevails. You have one to my throat. My life. That is the option you give me with a Bill which gives me life in prison or death. For you it might be an academic thing. For me, well, it is not, Mr Member of Parliament.

Which reminds me that you are supposed to represent all Ugandans who are in your Moroto district. Not only those who are in UPC, or those who are saved, or Christian. That is our right as Ugandans. And we are Ugandans.

So, the shame, Mr Member of Parliament, is squarely in your corner.

I remain
gay Uganda the Pervert

Gug acknowledges that he is provoking the lion in his den, but that even a mouse can fight when it is the mouse's life in balance. He asks for prayers for this mouse...

Would that western Christian leaders (and Ugandan Christian leaders) had the courage to oppose the bill in the name of the humanity and love of Jesus Christ and free from the ignorance and prejudice which is claimed as a Christian ideal by Global South leaders, fuelled by their western schismatic allies.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill is clarifying Anglican attitudes towards LGBT people, Anglican policy, and God

The proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda is helping me to see with greater clarity the fault lines in the Anglican Communion which are driving us, in one direction, towards possible schism and in the opposite direction towards a growing determination to uphold the sanctity of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Changing Attitude is of course committed to the sanctity of LGBT people. We do not accept that verses in the Bible prohibit, judge or condemn LGBT people who commit themselves to loving, faithful, intimate same-sex relationships. We do not believe the Bible condemns people who are born intersexed or experience themselves as transgendered. There is nothing in all creation that condemns people because of their sexual identity nor for loving, intimately, another person, whatever their gender or identity.

That’s the Changing Attitude position. We uphold the sanctity of all life, the diversity of God’s creation, the freedom God gives us in creation to relate to God as people with total freedom to accept or reject, love or hate, respect or despise. We believe ourselves as Christians to be called by God to accept, love and respect one another, unconditionally, however challenging that may be.

Anglicans in Uganda, the Global South and the networks around the Communion claiming orthodoxy and fidelity to scripture, take an entirely different stance, although they do not all stand on quite the same spot. All believe the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality is clear and unambiguous, they believe that homosexuality is a sin and condemned by God. Some believe all ‘active’ homosexuals will go to hell. Others believe ALL homosexuals will go to hell. There are people in these categories, including those Ugandan bishops who have expressed an opinion, who support the Bill and its punishment of homosexuals and anyone who tolerates a homosexual person. This is the position maintained by many African bishops who have voiced their opinion.
Others in the GAFCON/FoCA/ACNA axis would not go as far as that. But they haven’t expressed disagreement with their allies in Uganda, leading to the conclusion that they do indeed, implicitly support the provisions of the Bill.

Then there is a rather more traditional Anglican category, the leaders who believe that quiet diplomacy achieves more than making public statements. Some FoCA/ACNA leaders may fit this category. They may be involved in quiet diplomacy behind the scenes, trying to persuade Archbishop Henry Orombi and other Uganda bishops to modify support for the Bill.

If so, Ugandan church leaders are telling them to mind their own business. Mr Joshua Kitakule, the Secretary General of IRC has said people should not interfere in the process of legislation in Uganda, the Bill has not been understood by human rights activists and homosexuals and people need to be educated on the proposed law.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has the responsibility of negotiating between these, at present, irreconcilable positions. When he did comment about the Bill, he was critical but did not commit himself to oppose it. He prefaced his remarks in the interview with the word ‘overall’. “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades.”

Changing Attitude can’t see any elements of the Bill which could be supported by an Anglican committed to what the Communion has said in Lambeth 1.10, Windsor and Dromantine. I have said this before and I will continue to repeat it, because this is where the Communion stands and this is the position the Archbishop has repeatedly called the Communion to respect.

If there are elements of the Bill which do not contravene Anglican policy, they need to be identified. I don’t believe there are. I am not arguing for obedience to Lambeth 1.10 etc. That is impossible for LGBT Anglicans. I am arguing that conservatives are ignoring primary elements of 1.10. Windsor and Dromantine while condemning Changing Attitude, LGCM, Integrity and other LGBT organizations for our pro-LGBT stance, and the Episcopal Church in general for daring to allow the election of a partnered lesbian as a bishop.

How has it come to pass that the majority in our Communion claim to be following Biblical values and faithful to the teaching of the Church when they aggressively support the persecution, incarceration and dehumanizing of LGBT people and ignore essential elements of the very teaching they claim to uphold, let alone treat with disdain scriptural teaching about the sanctity of all human life and the universal condition of sin?

I can acknowledge that the Archbishop of Canterbury has made a statement which is more helpful than unhelpful and I have learnt this week of further, very proactive and helpful behind the scenes initiatives between the Church of England and the Church of Uganda. I am grateful for initiatives which may help modify the Bill and give Christians in Uganda pause to reflect further on the implications of what they are doing.

I am still left feeling angry, furious, that Christianity is so obsessed with sexual conformity to a heterosexist norm, so blind to its prejudice and intolerance, so far from what I believe to be true, core Christian values and teaching, so indifferent to the abuse and persecution of a minority who are every bit as faithful to God as the majority, that we are all being driven to schism, the result of which would be intolerable for LGBT people living under punitive regimes in Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere.

Faced with this, for the future health of Christianity and for the protection of LGBT lives, we will continue to argue vigorously that Archbishops and bishops should condemn the Bill and use every opportunity to persuade Ugandan Christians to turn from hatred and prejudice towards the light, love and glorious freedom of life in Jesus Christ.

Okay, that’s flowery and dreamy, but I believe it with a passion. How can we be preparing to welcome the birth of God as a vulnerable baby when our church is proposing to consign many of God’s children to a life of hell?

Monday 14 December 2009

Archbishop of Canterbutry - Ugandan legislation is of "shocking severity"

In an interview with George Pitcher in the Telegraph the Archbishop of Canterbury commented publicly about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. The report says:

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

I am relieved at last to see the Archbishop recognize that the Ugandan Bill would make pastoral care impossible and cannot be supported by Anglicans who are committed to Communion statements about the death penalty and homosexuality. I have been saying this for several weeks and the Archbishop’s comment is a very important confirmation of the elements of Anglican policy which give spiritual affirmation to LGBT people and recognize that we are children of God and have a place in the Anglican Communion.

Gug believes that it is right to put pressure on religious leaders to condemn the bill because they have the moral authority to do so and are listened to in Uganda. The bill is being justified in the name of God and religion and religious leaders and community who oppose such draconian laws against LGBT people need to state their opposition. From gug’s perspective the condemnation by the Archbishop of Canterbury will have a positive effect in Uganda, even though Lambeth and other English bishops think public condemnation risks being counter-productive with the Ugandan hierarchy.

Gug speculates that the caution and delay may have given the Archbishop protection from being accused of 'neo-colonialism' by his Anglican brothers in Uganda, which is certainly the reason I was given by Lambeth Palace and by others with links to Uganda.

The engagement which is going on behind the scenes between Ugandan and English bishops and dioceses and the comment by the Archbishop add to the pressure to force a re-think of the Bill by country-mates whom gug thinks are genocidal. He says they believe they are more Christian than any other person, more morally upright, more faithful to God and to the Anglican tradition. For gug’s safety and the safety of other gay Ugandans, the defeat of the Bill is crucial. If the Bill isn’t defeated, at least the moral authority of the preachers of hate might be dented.

George Pitcher’s report says the Anti-Homosexuality Bill now looks set to become law in February 2010 if it passes through parliament unfettered. Gug wants the bill to be thrown out, of course. If it isn’t, he is confronted with the choice of settling for no death penalty while accepting that he will still be criminalised and legally hounded in his own country. With his partner, he wants the freedom to live at peace in his homeland.

Friday 11 December 2009

Knowing and not-knowing – apophatic gay activists and katophatic reasserters

What kind of faith do I have? I am labelled by conservatives as ‘revisionist’ because I don’t accept that the Bible proscribes loving same-sex relationships. I am certain they would also judge me for my core spiritual beliefs.

My life experience and my theology point to a God who is not and cannot ever be fully known in this life. My faith journey involves learning slowly and sometimes painfully that to become more like God I have to be prepared to give up parts of my belief systems about myself and God. To admit to and be open to the unknown, acknowledging even the finiteness of metaphors in scripture and in my human understanding.

I am drawn to an apophatic rather than a kataphatic life. I am drawn to images of life and faith as a journey, movement, change, growth, depth, rather than fixity and stasis. The latter qualities are what seem to be essential to those in our Communion who call themselves ‘reasserters’, ‘orthodox’, ‘traditional’.

Gregory of Nyssa writes:
“Let us change in such a way that we may constantly evolve towards what is better, being transformed from glory to glory, and thus always improving and ever becoming more perfect by daily growth, and never arriving at any limit of perfection. For perfection consists in our never stopping in our growth in good, never circumscribing our perfection by any limitation.”

Writing about apophasis and ambiguity in ‘Trans/Formations', Susannah Cornwall says Gregory’s ideas about gender undercut and subvert common ideas about hetero- or homosexual normativity,. “They refuse any sense of ‘arrival’, rejecting a climactic picture of perfection in favour of a transformative one based on uncertainty and continual journeying. It is living in the tension, the often discomforting uncertainty, that transforms us and promotes our growth as human.”

The knowing-unknowing tension begins to point to questions about the extent to which human gender is a necessary category at all, she says, particularly for humans who recognise themselves as made in the image of God.

Uncertainty about gender or sexuality is of course anathema to and something deeply feared by conservative Christians. They are addicted to a binary model, to dualism, and to fixed, lifelong identities. Male and female God created us, and whatever subtleties and nuances may be found physically in a person’s genitalia or gender or sexual identity, they must be forcibly resolved to satisfy a god to whom narrowly defined identity categories are acceptable.

Changing Attitude totally disagrees with conservatives, with their theology, biblical interpretation and understanding of human identity.

The kataphatic tradition is clearly totally dominant for conservatives, both North American reasserters and Africans who believe in the Bible as the literal word of God. The kataphatic strand became so over-emphasised in later Western Christianity with the result that the schismatic movement in the Anglican Communion claims not only dominance but sole rights to determine who is a true Christian and how they are allowed to experience God and themselves. This is, of course, intolerable for those of us drawn to the apophatic path. Not only am I unable to live with a heterosexual identity, I would die spiritually if forced to live in the cognitive, kataphatic mould.

The apophatic tradition is uncomfortable. It has the potential to disrupt accepted discourses and ideas about sexuality and gender. It confronts “unproblematized, rigidly demarcated structures.” It confronts us with the challenge that God cannot be known as neatly as humans imagine and generally like to know. It is also as traditional and historic as any position adopted by the reasserters.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Why does God call lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into ministry?

'For some mysterious reason, the Anglican Church attracts a disproportionate number of homosexuals into its leadership ranks. Once they arrive, understandably, they can’t see why their presence is resisted; even though I disagree with the promoting of practising homosexual leadership in the church, I have some sympathy with them because Anglican liberals have “included”, “tolerated” and befriended homosexuals into an illusory sense of leadership entitlement'

So Anglican Samizdat writes on his blog:

In the same vein of thought, David writes on Ruth’s blog:

“I still can't work out why … "liberal" bishops and senior clergy continued to encourage gay people to offer for ordained ministry, without asking them to consider whether they would be able to cope should they have to continue to live an abstinent, single life."

David Cohen says:

Colin Coward has always known the church's teaching about homosexuality, but has nevertheless infiltrated himself into its ordained ministry - and now complains because of the compassion he has been shown along the way!
“Whatever his sexuality, his duplicity and disloyalty to his friends ought to disqualify him from serving as an ordained minister in the Church of England.”

I used to puzzle about this when I was young and in Southwark – why so many gay priests in the church? There could only be one answer – because God called them.

David Cohen, you are wrong. I did not know in 1957, the year I was confirmed, became an altar server and realized I was gay, the church’s teaching on homosexuality. The church did not have a publicly articulated teaching on homosexuality then. It came later, driven by conservatives in response to the development of gay visibility in society and campaigns for gay rights and equality.

I did not ‘infiltrate’ myself into the church’s ministry. What a foul phrase, David, and one that confirms all my prejudices about conservative evangelicals being nasty, prejudiced people struggling with the Bible and the teaching of Jesus.

I very tentatively offered myself for ordination at the age of 29 to Canon Nigel Harley, Rector of St Michael’s Basingstoke. In truth, it was Nigel who pushed me, and he is now proud of having done so, retired and still happily married (before other nasty thoughts arise in David’s mind.

I went through a rigorous selection process in Winchester Diocese, ACCM, and at Westcott House. At each stage my sense of the rightness of my vocation increased and I became convinced that I was being called by God. This is a truth so difficult for many to accept – God calls, unconditionally, LGBT people into lay an ordained ministry. God does not impose the conditions now being imposed by the church. Their formulation is more recent than my ordination.

The other David wonders why liberal bishops and senior clergy continue to encourage gay people to offer for ordained ministry. It is because they recognize that gay people offering themselves for ordained ministry have an authentic vocation. They also represent that tradition in the church in which I grew up, that God welcomes and blesses the loving relationships of lesbian and gay people. They disapprove of the prejudice based on a false reading of scripture which has intimidated the Church of England hierarchy.

Finally, Anglican Samizdat thinks Anglican liberals have “included”, “tolerated” and befriended homosexuals into an illusory sense of leadership entitlement There is nothing illusory here. God presents lesbian and gay people with our vocations and some of us are called by God to become not only priests, but bishops and archbishops in the church (and even, dare it be said, Primates). Most of them believe that a healthy human being is one who is integrated, loving, honest and compassionate. They may be celibate themselves, but would not believe it wrong for a partnered gay person to become a bishop.

I am not tolerated grudgingly by the bishops I know well. I am genuinely befriended and welcomed. And we live in this semi-private world of awareness of the hundreds of lesbian and gay priests in the same position, me frustrated, they compromised by church rules.

Ex-pisky writes:

“It is obvious that Rowan would like full "inclusion" of the GLTBQ crowd. He would like to do it, however, without destroying the Anglican Communion, minimizing the schism. But for the likes of Colin Coward, they simply don't care. They will destroy the CoE and AC to carry out their radical agenda...NOW.”

The LGBTQ crowd cares deeply, very deeply, about the pain and distress we experience, the terrors experienced by LGBT people in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, we care deeply about the way in which reactionary conservative forces have grabbed this issue and are using it to drive us out of the church and the church itself to schism, and we care deeply about the destructive path they pursue.

I received an email this morning in response to yesterday’s blog:

“For this gay man I find the increasing misfit between the wonderfully inclusive congregation where I worship and what is coming out of Lambeth and elsewhere, including our own Bishops, deeply confusing, distressing and dis-heartening.”

My anonymous writer expresses the feelings of tens of thousands of English Anglicans. We can worship in wonderfully inclusive congregations and are distressed by the misfit. God has called us into the church in faith, and we are NOT LETTING GO of our ministry, faith, or vocations!

Struggling to live in a flexible tent craving for the infinite

Before picking up yesterday’s thread on ‘betrayal’, I want to reflect for a moment on my own Christian faith and experience. My faith can feel vulnerable and fragile when it is being bashed around by prejudice in the church and the storms which fly around LGBT issues, as they did yesterday and will continue to rage in the foreseeable future. I need to be reminded that I am not isolated or misguided in my attendance on the God of profound depth, stillness and presence whom I encounter in contemplation and meditation each morning.

This morning, before entering silence, I finished reading ‘Unutterable Love: The passionate Life and Preaching of FW Robertson’ written by Revd Christina Beardsley, a trustee of Changing Attitude representing trans issues and experience. Robertson began ordained life as an evangelical but ended up closer to Unitarianism, drawing towards but not embracing the Oxford movement on the way, a theological liberal who trusted his feelings and intuition and explored the relationship between masculine and feminine.

Ideas on p178 of the book express something of my own faith and experience of God and the Christian path I follow. I need reminding of my own core experience when a storm breaks and I find myself hounded towards a prison of false orthodoxy and Biblical conservatism or literalism.

Robertson was a friend of Lady Byron and explored his theology in correspondence with her. He expressed the view that:

“The tragedy was that faith in the Bible, or even a particular interpretation of the Bible, was frequently substituted for faith in Christ, and in those circumstances he agreed with her “’better no Bible’ indeed.”

“Discovering the fallibility of the Bible had led him to seek God within himself and this subjectivity enabled him to feel that his faith was truly his own.”

“His emphasis on religious interiority, supported by the tenets of idealistic philosophy, [will, through introspection], prove that the deepest human desire is ‘a craving for what is infinite.’”

I turned from Robertson to begin reading ‘Trans/Formations’ edited by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Lisa Isherwood. Lisa writes in her introduction about Trans-theology, transsexuals and the debate about transgender issues.

“The author of St John’s Gospel tells us that God pitched his tent among us, that is to say a very flexible structure, one that moves with the winds of change, one that is mobile, one that can be pitched in many different locations and one that is permeable yet firm. There are absolutely no fixed boundaries in this performance of salvation history among us but rather an ongoing performance of flexible boundaries which successive generations of believers have tried to fix for their own security.” Lisa refers to Bob Goss: “Christianity does not offer security or even survival; there is no survivability ethic at its heart but rather disruptions to fixed and known cherished ways.”

I am with those travellers in the Anglican Communion who are seeking not to abandon faith in God or scripture but to escape from false security, tradition and literalism and expose ourselves to God who loves and nurtures, draws us irresistibly towards the infinitely divine and on the way, painfully transforms us. I wish, as I am sure +Rowan does, that we weren’t in the middle of this chaos and the painful conflict which infiltrates friendships – but we are.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Betrayed by the Church’s stance on gays

Ruth Gledhill, the Religion Correspondent of The Times, phoned me late yesterday afternoon and interviewed me at some length. The result is an article in today’s paper which pretty accurately reports what I said.

In the interests of total accuracy, ‘a close friend of the Archbishop’ is pushing it a bit, and I was in parish ministry for 17, not 15 years, 3 as a curate at St George’s Camberwell (where Geoffrey Beaumont and Canon Eric James had previously been incumbents) and 14 years at St Faith’s Wandsworth. I didn’t actually tell Ruth that Bishop Mervyn Stockwood knew I was gay. Lowly curates like me didn’t share that kind of information with Mervyn.

I grew up in Southwark Diocese and at the age of 22 became involved with the cathedral and diocesan networks. Southwark obviously had many gay priests then and still does, despite Bishop Tom Butler’s initial reign of terror, a period now thankfully in the past.

When I returned to Southwark from Cambridge to serve my title, two of the bishops were known to be gay and my post ordination training group (in my memory) was between one third to a half gay. The gay sub-set was divided in two – the camp, closeted, Anglo-catholics who sat clad in black in the back row, giggling, and ‘my’ set, those who were less ashamed of being gay and seemed more mature. There was a good support network in the diocese for those gay priests who wanted to engage with each other, reinforced by the twice-yearly meetings of the Clergy Consultation for gay priests convened by Malcolm Johnson.

I have to confess astonishment that at least one of the gay men I remember sitting in the back row is now married and a bishop in the Church of England, but that’s another story. Well, perhaps it isn’t another story but in truth, THE story. The story of what has happened in England in the 40 plus years since I first became involved with the wider diocese in Southwark.

Then to be gay was to be closeted. It was a widely known semi-open secret to those in the clergy networks, the deanery, POT, the bishops. Let’s list those who were my area bishops in the time I was there – Michael Marshall, Keith Sutton, Peter Selby and Martin Wharton. The diocesans were Mervyn Stockwood, Ronnie Bowlby, Roy Williamson and Tom Butler. I was out to all of them. Bishop Roy was hugely supportive at the time Changing Attitude was being formed. The others were all pastorally affirming.

And now? There are still affirming and supporting bishops, but they are in the closet. Some actively encourage their clergy to contract a Civil Partnership knowing that it is healthier and holier to be in a faithful, loving, committed relationship rather than footloose and cottage-or-sleezy-night-club free. There were and are many clergy in the Anglo-catholic black-cassocked, ‘Father knows best’, misogynistic sets in London and Southwark, Forward in Faith to the core, who lived deeply dishonest and unhealthy lives. And there are gay (or ex-gay) bishops, married, acceptable to the hierarchy and those who compile the potential bishop list.

I feel more angry this week than I have for a long time. Mature, intelligent, totally committed LGBT lay people and priests in the Church of England are totally fed up with the context in which they have to minister. They allow themselves to be compromised by church attitudes driven by conservatives, knowing that they could be more Christian, more true to God and themselves, more integrated and emotionally healthy, were they to give up parochial ministry. Sadly, many are doing just that and the church is achieving by a slow process of erosion a reduction in the percentage of LGBT clergy in ministry.

What would the Church of England be like without her LGBT clergy? She might lose at least 10% of those currently in post. She would lose many of her most dedicated, spiritual, reflective, pastoral clergy - and she would be left in the hands of the spineless or the tyrannical, the dishonest, the closeted, the unhealthy.

Monday 7 December 2009

The crisis, and the outrage - continued

On her blog, Ruth Gledhill says “frankly, there seems little point in the Anglican Communion bothering to exist any more.” “To many Anglicans, embarrassed and ashamed by a Church that knows not which minority it stands up for or which tradition it is prepared or not to breach, the Catholic option must seem increasingly attractive.”

The Catholic option is no option for me. Changing Attitude isn’t about to capitulate to Rome nor to abandon our work for the full inclusion of LGBT people. The further the Communion moves towards judging and marginalising the Epsicopal Church of the USA on the one hand, and being held captive by the wholly unChristian homophobic, cruel and abusive anti-gay prejudices of the reactionary conservatives on the other, the more resolute I become to work and pray and fight for a Christian community which knows what mercy, justice, truth and above all, love, really require of us.

It’s so blindingly obvious that the love of two women is worthy of celebrating and the threat to execute or imprison two women or men who love each other must be condemned. Yet my church – MY CHURCH – dares to condemn one and remain silent about the other.

The words on my mind and my heart are ‘evil’ and ‘corrupt’. How has become it possible in the Anglican Communion to judge TEC because a lesbian in a loving faithful relationship has been elected bishop and not totally condemn the Bill in Uganda that proposes death and imprisonment for LGBT Ugandans? Our Communion has arrived at a point where it has utterly ungodly, false priorities.
Elements of the mind of the Anglican Communion are driving it to become evil and corrupt.

The term 'gracious restraint' used by the Archbishop had become a euphemism for maintaining a status quo of evil prejudice and unjust discrimination.
The silence on Uganda, on homophobia, the false judgements about colonialism, honest relationships, the use of scapegoating mechanisms, the pagan nature of much that passes for Christianity, all are scandals in our Communion.

Ruth Gledhill write that “one blog commenter yesterday suggested that the Archbishop, instead of asking “serious questions” about the election of Mary Glasspool, might like instead to appoint her as his representative to go and lobby the Ugandan Government. What a thrilling spectacle that would be to behold.”

The task for a minority, a remnant in the Anglican Communion, is now to pray and work to maintain a worshipping presence and Christian witness to our vision of God who champions the poor and despised and loves all of us infinitely, without prejudice, until the Kingdom comes. Radical, inclusive, just, loving, truthful Anglicanism isn’t going to die, but it is facing the challenge of a lifetime.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Lambeth criticises TEC lesbian bishop but fails to criticise Uganda bill - why?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has, with great speed, issued a statement on the election of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles. The statement says:

“The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

“The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

“The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.”

Posts on this blog have been dominated by the Anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda for the last 5 weeks.

On 29 October, Giles Goddard and myself wrote to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on behalf of Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude. We asked them to speak out against the proposed legislation and to argue for the protection of lesbian and gay people in Uganda in accordance with the resolutions of previous Lambeth Conferences.

We have not received any reply to the letters and as those following this blog will be aware, neither of the Archbishops has issued a statement condemning the Bill.

Contact with Lambeth Palace persuaded Ruth Gledhill that any comment “would almost certainly be seen as white-led colonialism of the worst possible kind, as a misguided attempt to impose western liberal values upon traditional African culture. It would not help the local Anglican Church.”

The Anglican Communion’s official stance means that it is committed to oppose the consecration of a partnered lesbian or gay bishop at all costs, but not to the execution or life imprisonment of a lesbian or gay person in Uganda nor imprisonment for 3 years of any family member, church member, priest or bishop who fails to denounce a known lesbian or gay person to the police within 24 hours.

This order of priorities is totally wrong and misguided. The Archbishop allows himself to be driven by conservative forces in the Communion who wish to cleanse and eradicate LGBT not just from epsicopal office but from any role in the church – no baptism, no confirmation, no communion, no membership of any congregation.

A reverse colonialism is at work, and very effectively at work, in which the place of LGBT people in the Church of England has been severely diminished over the past 11years, starting with Lambeth 1998. This becomes more and more intolerable for us in the UK, and utterly intolerable for LGBT Anglicans in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and every part of the Communion where the church judges and condemns us.

This is made the more intolerable because those who identity with us in the counsels of the church and might counter the intense prejudice afflicting the Communion are constrained by the need to protect themselves and the corporate commitment to a policy which judges and condemns LGBT people but not States which propose the death penalty and life imprisonment.

The attitude towards the place of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion has become totally intolerable and raises new and challenging questions about the place of LGBT people in the Communion.

Thank God for the election of Rev Mary Glasspool and TEC's courage and honesty

An openly partnered lesbian priest, the Rev.Mary Glasspool, has been elected as a suffragan bishop in the Episcopal Church’s diocese of Los Angeles.

Immediate reactions on both sides were predictable. Rod Thomas from Reform in the UK said: ‘I feel deeply ashamed that this is happening in the Anglican Church.’ Canon Kendall Harmon ih the USA said: “The election represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching.”

On the positive side, Fr Ron Smith writes: “The election [of] an openly gay- partnered cleric is symptomatic of the maturity of TEC, in its determination to outlaw a culture of homophobia and misogyny within its Church family. Thank God for the fact that TEC's gay clergy are willing to be honest about their sexuality. Would that other Anglican Churches were able to be so free from an institutionalised culture of hypocrisy.”

What will be the impact of her election on the Anglican Communion? Too early to say because consent has to be given by the bishops and standing committees of the Episcopal Church's other 108 dioceses. Her ordination to the episcopate is set to take place on May 15, 2010 with the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, due to officiate.

Her election might not be given approval. That would be the end of the story, for the moment, but another election will inevitably occur and the consecration of a second partnered lesbian or gay bishop will happen one day.

If Mary Glasspool’s election is confirmed and she is consecrated bishop there will be renewed pressure from conservative Provinces, coalitions and lobby groups to marginalize the Episcopal Church or seek to evict her from the Communion.

This would temporarily satisfy conservatives who would then claim a victory for what they maintain is traditional, orthodox Christianity. This is not an unchanging tradition nor an orthodoxy which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglicans and our supporters wish to respect or maintain.

Exclusion of the Epsicopal Church (TEC) would be hailed as a further step on the road to eradicating the presence of LGBT people from the Communion. The exclusion of TEC with all her energy, gifts and prophetic vision would be a huge loss to the Communion. Exclusion would be a devastating blow to those of us working for the full inclusion of LGBT people, the majority of whom in the Communion live isolated, lonely lives and for whom Gene Robinson’s election was an incredibly powerful sign that God loves us and there is a place for us in the Communion and the Kingdom. Diane Bruce’s election reinforces that message.

The failure to confirm her election or the possible eviction of TEC from the Communion if her election is confirmed, would do nothing to change present reality. There are LGBT people baptized, confirmed, ordained, single, partnered, worshipping and ministering in every Province and every diocese of our Communion.