Monday, October 25, 2010

Bishop Christopher, Under Threat, Returns to the USA

Below is a message from Albert Ogle, VP of National Affairs for Integrity USA as posted this evening on Walking With Integrity. As you may know, Bishop Senyonjo visited the New York area this past June, speaking at St. Luke in the Fields and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This article is also of additional interest, as Bishop Sisk of New York has addressed concerns related to Bishop Senyonjo's safety to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When Bishop Christopher Senyonjo’s picture showed up on the front page of a Ugandan paper under the headline, “100 Top Homos - hang them,” Integrity supporters of the bishop and his work became ever more concerned about the growing climate of homophobia in Uganda.

Other LGBT leaders were also targeted and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) has been providing emergency counseling and shelter for some of the victims of this latest wave of public violence.

The inflammatory story in “Rolling Stone” (no connection to the USA version) was published just as I returned from a visit to Uganda with Pastor Joseph Tolton of The Fellowship in New York. I quickly made contact with the bishop and his staff. So far, they are all safe and are asking for our prayers. I now try to communicate with him on a daily basis.

Our trip to Uganda was very productive and informative. Organizers in Uganda, including Integrity Uganda, have formed a Civil Society Coalition of 34 partner organizations.. This coalition successfully challenged the “Rolling Stone” in Ugandan courts and it was mandated to close its doors. The coalition will also consider additional legal strategies and will make all legal resources available to stop this latest phase of the anti-gay witch hunt which appears to have support from some American based churches.

Earlier this week the Rt. Rev, Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, wrote a private letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his concern that Bishop Senyonjo had been so publically targeted in the newspaper. Sadly, the Archbishop has remained silent on this. Instead, he voiced his concern about the election and consecration of Mary Douglas Glasspool as Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Here's what he had to say:

“The decision of the American Church to go forward, as it has, with the ordination of a lesbian bishop has, I think, set us back. At the moment I'm not certain how we will approach the next primates' meeting, but regrettably some of the progress that I believe we had made has not remained steady. Alongside that, and I think this is important, while the institutions of the Communion struggle, in many ways the mutual life of the Communion, the life of exchange and co-operation between different parts of our Anglican family, is quite strong and perhaps getting stronger. It's a paradox”.

Yes, well, here's what I find as a paradox: that a photograph of heterosexual bishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda appears on the front cover of a magazine with the headline: "Hang Them" without any outrage from his fellow bishops. This story made international news, was reported on CNN, in the UK and in the Washington Post, yet, no-one within Anglican Church leadership circles rose to his defense, except Bishop Sisk.

Regardless of his lack of church support, Bishop Christopher continues to preach an inclusive gospel of a loving God to everyone, including his enemies. Please keep him and his persecuted community in your prayers. Write to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Let him know of your support for Bishop Christopher and ask him to join all of us in respecting the dignity of every human being.

You will also have another opportunity to support the brave bishop and his work. Bishop Christopher will soon return to the United States along with his wife Mary (an equally brave and courageous leader who has watched their beloved Church of Uganda’s behavior towards her family). They will arrive in California on November 14th and will be visiting New Orleans (December 5th at St. Anne’s) Atlanta (St. Bartholomew’s on December 12th) and will have two consultative meetings in New York and Washington DC around immigration and asylum issues for the USA around LGBT people. For more information on his visit and an update on the difficult legal situation he and his friends are facing, stay posted or join his Facebook page.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rev. John Makokha, UMC Pastor and LGBT Rights Activist in Kenya to Speak in New York

On Tuesday, the 26th of October 2010, at 7:00 p.m., the Rev. John Makokha, will speak at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew (UMC) located at 263 West 86th Street (West End Avenue).

Rev. Makokha is in the United States to meet in Ohio with the Reconciling Ministries Network of the United Methodist Church and is in New York at the invitation of the Rev. Steve Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep, a cross denominational Christian ministry to LGBT persons, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. You can find out more about Other Sheep at:

This would be a great occasion for Integrity to learn about what is happening in Kenya and to support our fellow Christians as we all Believe Out Loud together.

The following article was submitted by Anne Baraza (John’s wife) and edited by Rev. Steve Parelli, Bronx, NY, Oct. 15, 2010.

"The Rev. John Makokha is senior pastor of Riruta UMC in Nairobi, Kenya. He is the African correspondent for Reconciling Ministries Network and the Country Coordinator of Other Sheep Kenya Trust, a faith-based LGBTI organization.

"John earned his B.Ed. Degree at the University of Nairobi and has served as graduate teacher in various high schools in Kenya. He was ordained a minister in the Triumphant Pentecostal Church and served as a pastor in a Free Methodist Church. After earning an M.A. degree in Missions at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology, he started Riruta United Methodist Church, the only Reconciling Ministry (RMN) in Africa. Anne Baraza, his wife, also a graduate of Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology, is the Counselor for Other Sheep Kenya and the CEO of Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme.

"As Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya, John passionately organizes and leads educational awareness seminars on human sexuality and gender identity throughout Kenya. Other Sheep Kenya addresses religious homophobia, transphobia, social justice, and HIV/AIDS in Kenya through capacity building and advocacy programs for LGBTI people and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Other Sheep Kenya engages in (1) promoting the recognition and solidarity of LGBT people through recruitment into the organization, counseling/information sharing, and networking; (2) participation in LGBTI activities in the country; (3) sharing information and experience between LGBT and PFLAG groups; (4) promoting the human rights of LGBTI through advocacy and campaigns; (5) training and mobilizing religious allies to win the war on homophobia and transphobia; (6) providing education, training and information on HIV/AIDS, care and treatment to the LGBTI community; (7) promoting reproductive health education; and (8) mitigating against gender based sexual violence and substance and drug abuse within the LGBTI community.

"Rev. Michael Kimindu, anglican priest, colleague and co-laborer with John and Anne in Kenya, is Other Sheep Coordinator for East Africa. Other Sheep has ministries in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Other Sheep Kenya came into existence during the 2007 Kenya summer ministry program of Rev. Stephen Parelli and Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep Executive Director and Other Sheep Coordinator for Africa, respectively.

"If you are in NYC, or have friends who live here, we hope you will avail yourself of this unique opportunity - or tell your friends to do so - and come and learn about the wonderful work that is being accomplished in Kenya for sexual minorities in a faith-based context."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Long Island, Newark, New Jersey and New York Bishops offer Statements on the Recent Suicides, Bullying, and Anti-Gay Violence

The Presiding Bishop joined with religious leaders across America in a statement of solidarity against bullying and a call for action and time of healing in the wake of the recent gay suicides anti-gay violence.  If you have not read about this, Walking With Integrity has the Press Release.

Many have also seen the "It Gets Better" video with Bishop Robinson.  If you have not, you can find it here: It Gets Better: Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire.

The bishops who serve Long Island, Newark, New Jersey and New York have also released statements that are well worth a read, and have been reproduced below.

Diocese of Long Island, 18 Oct 2010:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
October 20th has been designated as a day of solidarity, witness and prayer for those who have died and those who have been injured and victimized by hate crimes directed against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We have been asked to wear the color purple as a sign of that solidarity and witness, and so I encourage you to wear purple on the 20th as we stand together against the sinfulness of hatred and bigotry that has taken hold in our country and as an expression of our mourning for those who have been injured or died.
Beyond our participation of the events and symbolism of October 20, 2010, I am asking you to change the world. My pastoral request is that each of you commits your heart, mind and body to living in the midst of our neighborhoods and communities as people who are committed to the message of Jesus Christ. If we seriously live the gospel life, keep the promises of the Baptismal Covenant and make a commitment to turn our hearts to God, in fact we can change the world, begin to alleviate fear of others and create an atmosphere in society in which, by following our lived example, people will begin to respect the dignity of every human being.
I believe the church must lead this effort in a way that calls upon religious people and religious leaders, to live the message of faith that each teaches. The world can be changed by our living. Our words alone, our disdain, our anger, our expressions of disbelief at the actions of other, cannot and will not, serve to change the world. Our society has become accustomed to statements made following such horrible events. The words all begin to sound similar in a chorus of heart-felt feelings that almost seem to anticipate the next series of atrocities.
I am calling less for words and more for action to counter violence and degradation with faithful living, unconditional loving and the Christ-like acceptance of all God's people.
This effort must begin in our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our churches. This effort must be lived person to person. We must remove the hypocrisy of focusing on the inhumanity in the wider world while ignoring the inhumanity and lack of Christian concern in our midst. At the very least, there must be an end to the use of the gospels to dishonor, and victimize other children of God.

It is time to change the world by seriously living the Christian life in its fullness and setting aside the propensity to use the faith to win arguments, win votes or divide and conquer.
We can change the world by being Christian, always in all places and with all people. We can address violence, with love, hatred with acceptance, and death with faith in a living God, in Jesus Christ.
Let us endeavor to change the world on behalf of all those who have suffered and died because of who they were and how they lived in the image of God. Let us endeavor to change the world for the sake of all those who seek a relationship with Jesus Christ and long to see that relationship lived in the midst of God's people. Let us endeavor to change the world for the sake of all God's people. Let us truly be the church together for the world.

Faithfully, In Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island
Diocese of Newark and New Jersey, Joint Statement, 8 Oct 2010:
We write as Christian pastors who are privileged to serve as bishops of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Newark and in the Diocese of New Jersey in order to express our grief, alarm, compassion and outrage over the suicide of Tyler Clementi. We join our voices with the voices of all those concerned in Ridgewood, where Tyler grew up, at Rutgers University, where he was a freshman and across our nation. Another gay young person has died by suicide. This tragic loss of a promising life would appear to be directly related to an invasion of Tyler’s privacy and a violation of his personal life. Much remains to be considered by law enforcement authorities and the courts in order to determine whether this is also a case of bullying, a felony or a hate crime – or a combination of the three. Whatever that legal determination may be, we join with other Christian and religious leaders, with the LGBT community and with all people of good will who take their stand against hatred, bigotry and bullying; against every expression of physical and verbal violence; and against any violation of the dignity of LGBT persons. When the rights of any – especially the members of vulnerable groups who have so often been scapegoated – are threatened, the rights of all are endangered.

We want to call attention to another, potentially deeper, issue here. It is the invasion of intimacy. Intimacy is a holy place within every human being; an innermost sanctuary where we develop our ultimate beliefs and values, nurture our closest relationships and maintain our deepest commitments. No one has the right to disclose that intimacy for someone else without consent. Such a violation is tantamount to the desecration of a sacred space. It is, in fact, a sacred space. It is the territory of the soul.

Technology, however, now provides tools to record, seize and disclose the most intimate matters of our lives without our consent. Identities can be stolen, hearts broken and lives shattered. Technology has placed powerful tools in human hands. Will they be used for building-up or for breaking down our neighbor? Tyler Clementi’s death certainly poses some important legal issues, but it also raises some critical moral concerns. Hubris has outstripped humility. And that is a serious problem. We can do better. We must do better, with God’s help.

In our Episcopal tradition, whenever we reaffirm our faith in worship, we are given a challenging question: “will you respect the dignity of every human being?” And we answer, “I will, with God’s help.” It is an important commitment. Whatever our religious tradition, we can agree on the need to respect one another’s dignity. With God’s help, we can stand together and stand up against bullies who would damage and destroy the lives of LGBT persons, their partners and families and friends. With God’s help, we can offer safety, support and sanctuary to all LGBT persons who are at risk. With God’s help, we can remind our society that every LGBT person is made in the image of God. The world needs our witness.

The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, Bishop of Newark
The Rt. Rev. George E. Councell, Bishop of New Jersey

Diocese of New York, 8 Oct 2010:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of New York

No doubt you are aware of the recent widely reported incidences of bullying and invasion of privacy that resulted in the suicides of five young people in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Texas. The tragic story of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge last week, may have struck closest to home. But each of these deaths strikes at the body of Christ, and calls us as Christ’s disciples to answer cruelty and intolerance with loving compassion.

The Episcopal Church has long affirmed the dignity, equality and inclusion of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. That these latest deaths should occur so near to the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Wyoming 12 years ago (Oct. 12, 1998) reminds us that there is much work yet to do to instill these values in the communities we serve.

Last month, New York Gov. David Paterson signed the Dignity for All Students Act, which bans harassment and discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion, disability and other characteristics, and requires the state’s school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

I urge all institutions to be responsive to calls for help and relief by any and all who are threatened and treated with contempt.

Our faith communities must also do our part to uphold our young people, particularly those most vulnerable to intimidation and threats of violence in their schools and neighborhoods. We can begin by condemning the attitudes of intolerance and acts of aggression that deliver too many youth into despair.

I urge you to remember lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in your prayers. May Christ comfort and heal the hearts of those most affected by these recent tragedies. And may their memories inspire us to more vocal expressions of justice, compassion and love.

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Message from Integrity NYC Metro on the Anniversary of the Death of Matthew Shepard

The Passion of Matthew Shepard
by Father William Hart McNichols
We address this message to you on the anniversary Matthew Shepard’s death The brutal murder of this young gay man (coincidentally an Episcopalian) in 1998 sparked a conversation with mainstream America about violence against LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people.

This past weekend, members of your Integrity NYC Metro Leadership Team had the privilege of meeting with over 300 Christians from more than 12 denominations at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit in Orlando, Florida. This extraordinary opportunity for worship, witness and networking is just part of an historic nationwide ecumenical inclusive church movement that is still unfolding. It was the birthplace of numerous local and regional initiatives about which you will be hearing in the next few months.

Our collective and individual joy was tempered by the continuing barrage of news stories about violence and prejudice towards LGBTQ persons, much of it in our own area. In just the past few weeks we have seen a number of suicides, three separate acts of anti-LGBTQ violence, and a string of hateful rhetoric by a high-profile political candidate.

None of these are new phenomena. LGBTQ people of all ages (and those perceived to be “queer” simply by the way they present themselves) are far more likely to commit suicide than other populations. Violence against our communities persists, in part, because it is still considered “okay” by many in our society to make hurtful and biased statements about us, and in many cases they do so without censure.

Much progress has occurred in the years since Matthew’s murder. Some feel the burst of violence we are witnessing be may be a reaction to that progress. Much remains to be done. To that end, Integrity, the leading voice for full inclusion within the Episcopal Church, has joined with its ecumenical partners in adopting the Believe Out Loud program to create visible and intentional congregational welcome. An Integrity representative will be contacting your congregation in the coming months to discuss this program and encourage you to consider taking part. We hope you will see this -- as we do -- as a witness of our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being.