Kenyan Anglican clergy, gays and allies are sending a strong message of affirmation and inclusiveness to the bishops at the forthcoming Lambeth conference in July-August, 2008 according to a Press Release from Other Sheep. A video is being produced of personal stories of gay and lesbian Kenyan Christians.
The Rev. Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod from Integrity USA carried out the personal interview of the participants using video recording. The objective of this program was to take the voices and faces of gays, lesbians and allies to the Lambeth conference for the Anglican bishops to see and hear from the horse’s own mouth.
Rev. Michael Kimindu, an Anglican priest and Other Sheep East Africa Coordinator said that it is hard for young people to discover that they are gay in Kenya. They come to fear God and hate themselves. And society and religious condemnation causes young gay people to live in isolation, depression and subsequently commit suicide in schools, colleges and homes.
“Religious teachings are against homosexuality, and for us allies we are looked at as people promoting a gay movement in Africa,” said Kimindu. You cannot discourage or promote what you cannot change. It is not a choice, it is inborn.
His message to the bishops was that they should be bishops and not judges. They should appreciate the diversity of God’s gifts in relation to the clergy and laity in the church without being dictators. The bishops should commission well educated people to conduct a research on homosexuality. The findings can help remove grey hairs in their approach.
Kimindu said that the church in Kenya has lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons who have questions and are seeking answers. They are living in the closet due to fear of stigma and condemnation propagated by religious homophobia.
He said the bishops should stop thinking that homosexuality is unAfrican. The truth of the matter is homosexuality is part of human history and since civilization started in Africa, therefore homosexuality started from Africa. We should not blame the West for introducing homosexuality.
Other Sheep is an ecumenical Christian ministry that works for the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faiths worldwide.
Katie Sherrod says, “Please pray for me as I madly edit all the HOURS and HOURS of
interviews into a manageable size to show to the bishops at Lambeth. And pray that we can raise enough money to send a copy to every Anglican bishop. Most of all, pray that I can do justice to the stories of these sweet, gentle, brave people.
Voices of Witness: Africa, featuring GLBT persons throughout Africa, on the 23rd of July at 8pm as part of the official fringe events. In the Fall it will be distributed to all the Bishops in the Communion according to Cynthia Black.
To donate to Voices of Witness: Africa click here.
Black reports on another offering for Lambeth from Kalamazoo, MI. Seven Passages, a play developed and performed by students at Western Michigan University. It features seven actors portraying stories of 100 gay or lesbian persons living in Michigan. The “Seven” in the title refer to the seven verses of the Bible used to exclude and marginalize gays and lesbians.
Watch the TV report here.
More of the Other Sheep Press Release below:
Rev. John Makokha, a United Methodist minister and Other Sheep Coordinator in Kenya said that the church historically has been an instrument of injustice towards gays and lesbians and allies. He said that the religious people should focus on serious issues affecting the continent of Africa such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, political violence, peace and reconciliation, famine, etc. rather than wasting time and money on homosexuality which is a non doctrinal issue.
He recommended that deliberate effort should be made to start a theological school that will have a curriculum on the Bible and homosexuality. We need serious training and education on homosexuality for our clergy and laity. The existing theological schools are a big impediment to these successes because they are so homophobic in their teaching and instruction. It is not a question of being liberal or conservative. The six million dollar question is; Would Jesus discriminate?
Both Kimindu and Makokha and their families have suffered intense persecution in terms of loss of income, threats, hate emails and sms (short message service) and discrimination because of their outspoken stand on being allies in their respective denominations.
Anne Baraza, a United Methodist and wife of Rev. Makokha said she lost her teaching job at a local evangelical college because of her husband’s association with Other Sheep. She said that the church should show love, mercy, love and compassion to LGBTI. “We are all disciples of the living Christ that shares God’s grace unconditionally, to all.”
Peter Wanyama and Fabian who are Anglican partners hope that the church will one day bless their union. They have been partners for two years and they love each other so much.
Wanyama said that there are so many gay and lesbian people in all cadres of leadership in the society and the church in Kenya. “The church receives our offerings, tithes and utilizes our gifts and yet discriminates against us.”
His message to the bishops is that they should represent Christ holistically. They should stop looking at gays and lesbians as enemies. “We need to be inclusive and accepted in our church where my late father was a priest.”
Maxi who is a lesbian said she knew her sexual orientation when she was 8 years in a boarding school. This caused her to live in isolation until she met her lesbians in high school, college and community. She used to be Catholic but drifted because of anti-gay sermons. She is the secretary of PFLAG (Parents, Friends of lesbians and gay), a ministry of Other Sheep in Kenya. The aim is to seek allies in the society, church and the government, to understand gay and lesbian people in a positive way.
Solo who is gay said he does not go to any church because of the spiritual violence spearheaded by anti-gay sermons. He said he is ready to go to church if there is affirmation and acceptance of gay persons. “They should stop seeing us as the worst sinners when they are wallowing in the miasm of tribalism and corruption.”
Ben who is gay and Pentecostal said he knew he was gay when he was 7 years old. His twin brother is also gay. He met so many gay friends in high school. He said he is tired of staying in the closet. “For a long time I was suicidal without seeking a solution from the church. It has been a real struggle”.
He said that his contact with the Other Sheep leadership has really helped him in terms of pastoral counseling, teaching and fellowship.
Rev. Kimindu advised that there is a serious need for a multidimensional and interdenominational approach to address successfully the LGBTI issue in Africa, and Kenya in particular. “We need the Anglicans. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics and Muslims. We need Integrity, Changing Attitudes, Reconciling Ministries Network, Soulforce, etc., collaborating and working together to address homophobia and other LGBTI concerns.”
Rev. John Makokha, author of the Press Release is Other Sheep Coordinator in Kenya and United Methodist Minister.