Thursday, November 25, 2010

Report from the African Commission on Human and people’s Rights

Banjul
24 years after its inception, the African Commission on Human and People’s rights had its 48th 0rdinary session in Banjul the Gambia on 10th November 2010. The commission was started in October 1986.
The countries under review in this session were the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.
As is the custom, the NGO forum took place before the commission, starting 7th to 9th November 2010.
The issue of denying the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) observer status at the commission was the most contentious issue with NGOs demanding an explanation from the commission for their decision. In line with this, a demonstration by African LGBTI activists was held on 8th at the forum, this prompted the forum to give five minutes of their time for the activists to make their case. It is within this time that Fikile Vilakazi and Kasha Jacqueline asked for the continued support of the NGO forum to the LGBTI community in Africa – it should be noted that this forum has been supportive and provided space for dialogue on LGBTI issues.
Ironically some people were still asking about procreation in the context of same sex relations with someone suggesting that since LGBT issues are so un-African, they (LGBT) should be shipped to Europe where it all came from.
On the morning of November 9th 2010, there was a meeting to discuss how best the LGBTI people of Africa could benefit from the newly formed HIV/AIDS working group at the commission. This meeting was attended by Commissioner Malila who is also the focal point for Uganda at the ACHPR and is one of the three commissioners on this working group.
This working group was established to bring HIV/AIDS to the fore at the ACHPR hence we wanted to find ways of maximizing benefits to the LGBT community from this working group and it was agreed that we come up with a working paper which we will use to initiated dialogue with the commissioners and committee members on this working group.
A taskforce was formed to draft a document and work plan for dealing with the working group and a list serve was started for consultations around this document.
The NGO steering committee on 9th November 2010 decided against homophobia and homophobic attacks in response to repeated attacks from some individuals on the flour. A copy of the code of conduct of the NGO forum will now be given to every participant to ensure that participants are respectful of others and diversity.
On 10th November 2010, the 48th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights was opened by the chairperson commissioner Gansur Alapini in the presence of the attorney general of the Gambia and several government and NGO representatives from all over Africa. The NGO report was read and it twice mentioned LGBT issues.
The NGO report indicated that the NGO forum had passed a couple of resolutions which included resolutions on children, disability, death penalty, freedom of association, human rights defenders, indigenous people, torture prevention, refugees, sexual orientation, African court and the SADC tribunal.
Meddy Kagwa of the Uganda Human Rights Commission represented national Human Rights organizations but said nothing about LGBT issues.
Hon. Freddie Ruhindi represented the Ugandan government and tried rather unconvincingly to defend the government actions in different aspects.
As far as NGO statements are concerned, almost all of them stated their disappointment at the commission’s refusal to grant the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) observer status without giving any reason. It overwhelming support for LGBT people from the NGOs.
A book about LGBT issues and suffering in Cameroon was launched on 11th November 2010.
On 12th November 2010, there was a ceremony to Commemorate of 30 years of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights which came into effect in 1970.
There after it was straight to private sessions.
From Banjul the Gambia, aluta continua.
Prepared by Dennis Wamala
Icebreakers Uganda

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does Oral Roberts University Support Killing Gays in Uganda?

by Michael A. Jones

You've probably heard of Oral Roberts University before. The school, located in Oklahoma, was founded and named after one of the 20th century's most prominent evangelical leaders. Back in the day, Oral Roberts was a force to be reckoned with, having been one of the first ministers to make it big using television as a form of evangelism. His success led him to found the university in 1963, and though the school has gone through some major financial scandals in recent years, it still boasts a student population of close to 4,000 students.

Given the political beliefs of Roberts himself, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that Oral Roberts University's identity is closely wrapped up in social conservatism. Students are required to attend religious services at least twice a week, and there are chaplains for each floor of on-campus housing. Roberts himself used to say that he was told by God to build the school.

"Raise up your students to hear my voice, to go where my light is seen dim, where my voice is heard small, and my healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Their work will exceed yours, and in that I am well pleased," Roberts documented as the message he received from on High.

Of course, one has to wonder if the God that Oral Roberts was speaking to would be pleased today, given that Oral Roberts University champions a minister in Uganda who wants to slaughter LGBT people. That minister? His name is Martin Ssempa, and he's one of the leading pastors in Uganda pushing the country to enact a harsh Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would criminalize homosexuality with life prison sentences, and in many cases, the death penalty.

Oral Roberts University recognizes Pastor Ssempa as a member of the school's Board of Reference. The position seems rather symbolic, but those who are recognized as members of the Board of Reference are considered by Oral Roberts University to be among the most influential and respectable figures in the world. These are folks who help spread word about Oral Roberts University, and according to a school spokesperson, are used "for the purpose of credibility, for reputation, and for influence."

It's kind of odd, to say the least, that Oral Roberts University would want their reputation tied to a man like Martin Ssempa. Here is a person who advocates violence against LGBT people in Uganda. A person who shows pornographic images to families and even children, in order to stir outrage over homosexuality. A person who travels from community to community in Uganda arguing that homosexuality is an import from the west, and that anybody who is gay should be murdered or jailed. And a person who is pastor to the editor of a local paper, Rolling Stone, which continues to publish the names, faces and locations of people they believe are LGBT, with a call for these people to be hung.

Now that's some figure to have on your Board of Reference, Oral Roberts University.

Ssempa's work to demonize LGBT people has been condemned by many religious organizations, including some of his former partners. Pastor Rick Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa for the work Ssempa is doing to harm LGBT people. The Philadelphia Biblical University, which had previously awarded Ssempa an honorary degree, also blasted his anti-gay work as dangerous and harmful. And one Las Vegas megachurch, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, has continued to come under fire for their financial support of Martin Ssempa. Recently, they too have expressed concern about Ssempa's work.

That's a lot of international condemnation for the work of Pastor Ssempa. Yet Oral Roberts University continues to celebrate the guy. Reached earlier this year to comment on why they have someone like Ssempa on their Board of Reference, the university issued nothing but deafening silence.

Let's fix that. Send Oral Roberts University a message that by having someone like Martin Ssempa on a prominent university board, the school is sending a message that it supports his work to criminalize homosexuality in Uganda, and murder and imprison LGBT people. Ssempa has been completely transparent about what he wants to accomplish: he wants to see police round up LGBT people, he wants to see community members report people who are LGBT, and he wants to see straight people who support gay rights punished.

Now let's see if Oral Roberts University can be transparent. Will they condemn the work of Martin Ssempa, and remove him from their Board of Reference? Or will they lend credence, and their name, to the work that Ssempa is doing in Uganda to imprison and/or kill gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ugandan anti-gay measure will be law soon, law maker says

Article by: David McKenzie, CNN
According to Behind the Mask, this entry was posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010 at 11:26 am and is filed under Breaking News, Uganda

The member of the Ugandan Parliament behind a controversial “anti-gay” bill that would call for stiff penalties against homosexuality – including life imprisonment and the death penalty – says that the bill will become law “soon.”

“We are very confident,” David Bahati told CNN, “because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children.”

See this article in full as posted in Behind the Mask 

Suing Rolling Stone Uganda

This event was posted on Facebook by Bombastic Kasha and SMUG:

Suing Rolling Stone Uganda
Time Monday, November 1 · 10:00am - 7:00pm
Location High Court in Kampala,Uganda
Created By Bombastic Kasha
More Info You are all invited to come and support us in suing the Rolling Stone Uganda Tabloid at 10am on 1st Nov 2010.Join Kasha Jacqueline,David Kato and Patience Onziema aka Pepe on behalf of many others in seeking media Justice and fundamental Human rights.  Your presence and support in whichever way means alot.

Courtcase: LGBT Activists Vs Rolling Stone & Giles Muhame
Time Monday, November 1 · 10:00am - 5:00pm
Location HIGH COURT of Uganda, Constitutional Square, Kampala, Uganda
Created By Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)
More Info In an issue dated 02 -09 October 2010, The Rolling Stone newspaper published names and photos of people they called "Top Homos" calling for their hanging. Three of the activists Kasha Jacqueline, David Kato and Onziema Patience aka Pepe mentioned in the paper are seeking media Justice and respect of fundamental Human Rights on behalf of many others. His Worship Judge Kibuuka Musoke will preside over the case. Your presence and support always makes a difference. Thank you in advance for all your solidarity.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo named "100 Top Homos - hang them" by Uganda's "Rolling Stone" paper

by Albert Ogle, VP of National Affairs for Integrity USA, October 25, 2010
------------------------------------------------------
Mon, October 25, 2010 10:17:30 PM[iNYC-Metro] [iNYC: Integrity NYC Metro] Bishop Christopher, Under Threat, Returns to the USA

From: CJJD Add to Contacts
To: integritynyc@googlegroups.com
------------------------------------------------------

What follows 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.

"100 Top Homos - hang them"
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.

The Civil Society Coalition of 34 partner organizations
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.

Bishop of New York expresses concern
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”.
No outrage from African fellow bishops
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.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda continues to speak out.  He will return to America in November
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.

Posted By CJJD to iNYC: Integrity NYC Metro at 10/25/2010 10:17:00 PM

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rev. Makokha's last full day in the USA, October 27, 2010


 
Makokha at Parelli's desk area
on interview with OUTTAKE
by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Other Sheep Executive Director, Bronx, NY

A big thanks to all those who helped in NYC with arranging for John's speaking engagements

Together, and with the help of many friends in New York City, John Makokha and Steve Parelli were able to present Other Sheep Kenya in four church settings and one home setting: The Riverside Church, where we presented to Maranatha - Riversiders for LGBT Concerns; Rehoboth Temple in Harlem; Metropolitan Community Church of New York; Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, United Methodist (SPSA); and the Parelli-Ortiz home in the Bronx.



Makokha presenting at SPSA,
October 26, 2010
 Many people participated in making possible these events: The Convener of Maranatha, Karen Taylor; the pastor of Rehoboth Temple, Elder Joseph Tolton; Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of MCC-NY; Bridget Cabrera, associate pastor of Young Adult Ministry at SPSA; Dr. Dorothee Benz of MIND; and Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep Coordinator for Africa. Rev. Stephen Parelli coordinated John’s visit to NYC.


Makokha with Dorothee
Benz of MIND
John 's last day: an interview and an evening meeting  (See photos of this event on Facebook)

Tuesday, October 27, was Rev. Makokha's last full day on this, his first visit to the United States of America. He spent this day at the Parelli-Ortiz home --- first, with an interview with OUTTAKE that Steve had arranged in advance; then, by spending the afternoon working Other Sheep Kenya at Jose's desk and computer; and briefly, by providing photos for the PowerPoint presentation Steve was finishing up for the evening meeting at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew.

Attendees at Makokha's Other Sheep Kenya presentation, hosted by
the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, United Methodist,
October 26, 2010

To the airport - And a special thanks for Jorge Lockward for providing lodging

The following day, Wednesday, October 27, Steve went to the home where John was staying - the home of Jorge Lockward on the Upper West Side in Manhattan - and helped John with his luggage and accompanied him to the JFK airport by way of the A train. The luggage was full with many books, other resources and a laptop -gifts from individuals and Other Sheep to take back for the Other Sheep Kenya resource center.

Makokha with Kent Klindera
of amfAR Aids Reserach
After checking in, John and Steve lunched together in the airport and discussed further the needs and goals of Other Sheep Kenya.

John Makokha at the desk of
Jose Ortiz, Parelli-Ortiz home,
Bronx, NY, October 26, 2010
Another great visit from Africa ...

Rev. John Makokha's visit to NYC -- and to Tennessee, Ohio and other parts of the Mid-west -- was much appreciated. Once again, someone from Africa has personally, and effectively, made known the LGBT needs and other social needs in Kenya, and in Africa in general.

Another individual (name withheld) coordinated John’s visits outside of New York City.


Rev. John Makokha (right) with Steve Parelli,
on the A train to JFK airport, with suitcases
packed with rescource materials -- And a lot
of good contacts from networking.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

With only a two-week notice, much was accomplished in NYC

John's visit to America was from October 12-27.  He purchased his tickets on Oct. 9, having learned perhaps just three days earlier that he was being invited by friends of Reconciling Ministries Network.  His trip included a visit with the board of RMN.  Much was certainly accomplished in view of the fact that Other Sheep in NYC had just a two-week notice before his arrival in NYC. 







Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dinosaur bones, African mammal exhibits, and the marginalized of East Africa

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director, Other Sheep

“The greatest religious problem today is how to be both a mystic and a militant; in other words how to combine the search for an expansion of inner awareness with effective social action, and how to feel one's true identity in both.” – Ursula K. LeGuin

From the C train to a classy burger joint, and business talk

Rev. John Makokha at
 the Museume of Natural History,
New York City, 2010
see photos
After having spent the morning hours working on Other Sheep at our respective laptops, I met up with Rev. John Makokha, Other Sheep Coordinator for Kenya, and took him to the Museum of Natural History.

First we got a bite to eat at Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue. We had what I would call backyard-grilled hamburgers -- the way we would do it in the suburbs when I was a boy. The place was crowded (I have a feeling it always is, because the hamburgers are the best you'll ever have), so we ordered "take-out" and with the metal tray they provided to carry the food, we made our way across Columbus Avenue and sat on a sidewalk bench along the museum grounds.

And we talked. About Other Sheep Kenya. About family. About raising funds. About the United Methodist Church. About Other Sheep in Asia and Latin America. About grants and the financial history of Other Sheep in the USA. About the staff that was in the making in Nairobi for Other Sheep Kenya. And more.

The vital intersecting of the needs of all the marginalized and LGBT concerns

A school for children in Uganda, 2008,
visited by Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz
Together, as John and I talked, we found that there was wonderful agreement between us on what Other Sheep should look like, especially in developing countries like those of Africa. Following our visit to the museum, and as we returned together on the subway and discussed this item further, it was evident that my four years of travel in East Africa and Asia had prepared me and seasoned me to understand how the general social needs of a populace often vitally intersect with LGBT concerns. (Part of my lack of insight is due to the complete sheltered life l had lived in evangelical academia in the 70s and especially in the 80s during the whole AIDS crisis, when evangelicalism was generally adverse to positive social action.)

A gay Christian’s activism is radically inclusive of all the marginalized

The Obunga slums, Kisumu, Kenya, 2008.
I remember our very first summer in Kenya, 2007. The poverty I witnessed in parts of Nairobi was impossible to describe, and the horrified feelings it left me with were insurmountable. One had to block the memory of what he or she saw in order to espcate the terror of the vivid images. Some of the LGBT community of Nairobi discussed then that whatever pro-LGBT actions gay Christians may take, that gay Christians must be actively engaged in the work of social justice for all marginalized people, not just for the gay community, but for the poor, the orphaned, those infected and affected by HIV-AIDS, the rights of women, and others.

What legitimizes an LGBT organization in the United States? And, is it the same in other regions of the world?

Children in the Obunga
slums, Kisumu, Kenya, 2008
In the United States, an LGBT organization can have legitimacy just by acting on the single issue of same-sex marriage, for example. Or, on the single issue of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In other certain regions of the world, however, it appears to me that a pro-LGBT Christian organization like Other Sheep would address other human rights and needs while keeping in balance its organizational LGBT objectives in order to have the impact it would desire. I would not want to make this a hard fast rule for every region of the world in that my experience is limited; and I would want to appeal foremost to LGBT leaders within their respective countries to vouch for, or to redirect, my thinking. However, in talking with the Rev. John Makokha and others, and in seeing first hand in my own travels the devastation caused by poverty and HIV-AIDS for example, I see more and more that wherever human dignity is reduced in any one person or people groups, it is the voice of the activist that must speak up for one and for all, whatever that activist’s special interest may be in activism.

Steve Parelli with Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks,
Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006
What I am suggesting about Other Sheep is not really new to Other Sheep. I have only to read the earlier newsletters of Other Sheep before I became the executive director in 2005 to learn how the Other Sheep board in St. Louis has, in its past, at times, seriously addressed HIV-AIDS. And, in coming to know Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks, the founder and theologian and mission director of Other Sheep, I have had, through him, some of my first glimpses of HIV-AIDS activism and women’s rights awareness.

The call to activism that comes from seeing and knowing first hand

Jose Ortiz t0 religious leaders in
Kisumu, Kenya bringing awareness
about what psychology says
about same-sex attractions, 2008
Jose Ortiz (left), acquiring awareness
about the Obunga slums,
Kisumu, Kenya, 2008
It is perhaps more often the hands-on experiences of life, and the maturity that the passing of time brings, rather than the lectures of the classroom, or the call from the pulpit or the editorial page, that grip the heart and call us to be one with humanity. Some do hear the cry of the suffering human spirit from afar; theirs’ is the heart that all human beings were meant to have: to love thy neighbor as thyself. Others, like me, may fail to recognize as fully as they should the hurting segment of humanity, whether afar or close at hand, until they’ve stepped onto another continent or into another realm of living. In this realm, life does not exist on the plane that is sane, human, and dignified, where all should live, including even the very least of these of the marginalized.

And so it was today that . . .

Rev. John Makokah
at the Mueseum of Natural History,
New York City, 2010
see photos
In visiting with Rev. Makokha today (October 25, 2010), we discussed this item and, through his eyes and experience, we envisioned Other Sheep Kenya as the activism it is for LGBT concerns, but also to see the LGBT religious community actively engaged in the Christian endeavor of working on behalf of all the marginalized, to be one with those whom are lost, because the world - though hardly all - has left them where they are to struggle hopelessly alone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday Open House and Sunday Church Services with Rev. John Makokha

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Other Sheep Executive Director


The Rivers of Living Water
Family Worship Center
Dance Ministry
Rev. John Makokha arrived at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, Friday evening, Oct. 22, 2010, and went immediately to The Riverside Church where he spoke to a small group of people in a meeting hosted by Maranatha, the LGBT group at Riverside.  (See photossee blog.)

Saturday evening, Rev. Makokha was in the Parelli-Ortiz home in the Bronx to meet friends of Other Sheep. Four guests were in attendance; other would-be guests sent their greetings. The interaction with Rev. Makokha and those present was stimulating and informative. (See photos.)

Sunday was a busy day with Rev. Makokha speaking at a pre-service brunch and attending three church services. He began his day by meeting the Pastor of New Day Church (see photo) in Bedford Park in the Bronx (a UMC church), where Rev. Steve Parelli caught up with Rev. Makokha to accompany him throughout the day and take him to meetings Other Sheep had arranged.


Brunch at Rehoboth Temple where John spoke
Rev. Makokha's major speaking opportunity was at the leadership training brunch hosted by The Well Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church where young people of the church and others joined in hearing Rev. Makokha speak of his personal journey and the ministry of Other Sheep. Rev. Makokha related how a personal friend of his during their teenage years committed suicide after being outted as gay young man by the leadership of the school where he was boarding. Rev. Makokha said this left him deeply concerned for the welfare of sexual minorities and the part that the church must play in addressing homophobia.

In attendance at the brunch were Adam and Jendi Reiter, strong supports of Other Sheep. John lit up with a huge smile when he personally met the Reiter because they had sent him his first laptop computer for the Other Sheep Kenya ministry.  (See photos.)

Adam and Jendi Reiter
with Rev. John Makokha, left.
see photos
Following the breakfast, Rev. Makokha and Rev. Parelli attended the regular church service of Rehoboth Temple. Elder Joseph W. Tolton, the pastor, received a call during the service from a brother in Uganda who gave us greetings. The youth of the church who were graduating from their leadership training were recognized. (See photos.)

Immediately following the service, Rivers of Living Water Family Worship Center entered the sanctuary to celebrate the 40th birthday of their pastor, Vanessa M. Brown and to show their deep appreciation and love for her. Yvette Flunder was the featured speaker. In her opening remarks, Bishiop Flunder recognized other clergy, including Rev. John Makokha and Rev. Stephen Parelli and gave comment on the work of Other Sheep. (See photos, including the Dance Ministry photos.)

Rev. Makokha of
Other Sheep Kenya
speaking at MCCNY
see photos
From there, Parelli and Makokha went to Metropolitan Community Church of New York (MCCNY) where John gave a brief welcome and status of Other Sheep Kenya to the evening gathering (see photos). He spoke just following the preaching and just prior to receiving the communion. The Rev. Dr. Edgar Francisco Danielsen-Morales gave the sermon. Rev. Pat Bumgardner introduced Rev. Makokha to the congregation by giving a brief bio of Rev. Makokha and the history of the beginnings of Other Sheep in Kenya.


Freinds of Other Sheep at the Parelli-Ortiz open house
for Rev. John Makokha of Other Sheep Kenya
 The Saturday and Sunday events were remarkable, and Other Sheep thanks all those who received and welcomed Other Sheep Kenya and Rev. John Makokha.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Riverside Church Maranatha hosts Other Sheep Kenya presentation with Rev. John Makokha of Kenya as speaker

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli

Left to rights, standing: 
Rev. Steve Parelli, Jose Ortiz;
seated:  Rev. David Cockcroft, Rev. John
 Makokha, and Jorge Lockward


     Last evening, October 22, 2010, Rev. John Makokha, Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya, spoke to a small, but very attentive and interested group of individuals at The Riverside Church, Manhattan, New York. The meeting was sponsored by Maranatha - Riversiders for LGBT concerns, and Other Sheep. Attendees included a professor from Union Theological Seminary; a Riversider who lived in East, Central and South Africa for more than twenty years; a second individual who also lived in Africa as a medical doctor; Jorge Lockward -the newest member to the board of Other Sheep; and Rev. David Cockcroft, one of the first New Yorkers to financially support Steve and Jose in their 2007 and 2008 endeavors in East Africa.



The small, but attentive attendees of the October 23, 2010
Maranatha-Other Sheep meeting with Rev. John
Makokha at The Riverside Church
 
     Karen Taylor, Maranatha Convener, briefly introduced Other Sheep and Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep. Parelli then spoke briefly about the beginnings of Other Sheep Kenya in East Africa in 2007 with Anglican priest Rev. Michael Kimindu. Parelli said Rev. John Makokha first learned about Other Sheep in December of 2007 through the Other Sheep Kenya website and contacted Parelli via email. Soon after, Makokha became part of Other Sheep Kenya working with Rev. Kimindu who, like John, lives in the vicinity of Nairobi, Kenya. In a short time, Rev. Kimindu became Coordinator for Other Sheep East Africa and Rev. Makokha became Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya. Steve and Jose returned to Kenya in 2008 and worked personally with Rev. Makokha in conducting a seminar in Nairobi and Kisumu.


Rev. John Makokha: 
The Riverside Church
bell tower

     Rev. John Makokha gave a PowerPoint presentation, prepared by Parelli, in which he highlighted Other Sheep Kenya accomplishments in 2010. This included several seminars conducted throughout Kenya, a dialogue with a local evangelical college in Nairobi, and the establishment of Other Sheep Kenya facilities for offices and a "Safe House" which is a small room for lodging for guests for for LGBTI people in need. The seminars and facilities are funded through grants. The grants also provide for stipends for staffing the office. Other Sheep Kenya conducted seminars in Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kisumu for LGBTI groups, Christian leaders and clergypersons, and Muslim religious leaders. Reports on each seminar, along with a bio on Makokha, can be found on Rev. Makokha's home page of the Other Sheep East Africa website.



Riversider P. David Wilkin, right,
with Rev. John Makokha
 
     Other Sheep thanks Maranatha and The Riverside Church for hosting this meeting for Other Sheep Kenya.




Monday, October 18, 2010

"Ex-gay" leader John A Murphy calls gays "deniers of the Word of God" in letter to Coordinator of Other Sheep Kenya

by Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep

In an email dated October 17, 2010, John A. Murphy, Founder of the Brentwood, Tennessee, “ex-gay” ministry Rock House Way, called upon United Methodist minister of Kenya, Rev. John Makokha, Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator, to repent of his pro-LGBT religious activism, saying there is “far more support” if he does so.

Mr. Murphy heard Rev. Makokha speak at Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN, on Sunday, October 17, 2010. Rev. Makokha is an advocate of same-sex marriage and nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mr. Murphy says, “I am not in favor of supporting or justifying any sin,” and he pleads with Rev. Makokha to change his views claiming there will be “far more support.”

He asks Makokha to denounce gay Africans as “self-righteous, justified, deniers of the Word of God, rebellious against God and as forcing the government’s hand to protect them.”

Of course, if Mr. Murphy’s ministry of “transforming” gays “to the glory of God” is a reality, why would he need to lure any true minister of the gospel to endorse his ministry?

This all smacks of financial enticement, something that is not unheard of when religious organizations from developed countries attempt to attract religious organizations from underdeveloped countries.

Rev. Makokha will refuse the offer. His long standing record is clear: he does not see same-sex love as coming under God’s condemnation.

Mr. Murphy’s email is at Other Sheep Exec Site blog, October 18, 2010. Rev. Stephen Parell is Executive Director of Other Sheep.

There is " far more support" for religious African organizations that will name the gay communities of Africa as self-righteous, justified, deniers of the Word of God, rebellious against God, and as forcing the government's hand to protect the human rights of sexual minorities, says Rock House Way, "ex-gay" ministry of Tennessee.

Reporting: This blog features Rev. Steve Parelli's brief observations, highlights and excerpts from the John A. Murphy email forwarded to him from Rev. John Makokha. John A. Murphy is Founder of "ex-gay" ministry Rock House Way. Murphy heard Rev. Makokha preach at Edgehill UMC in Nashville, TN, on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.

Tennessee “Ex-gay” ministry Rock House Way calls upon UMC Kenyan Other Sheep Coordinator Rev. John Makokha to Repent of his pro-LGBT religious human rights activism, saying there is "far more support" if he does so.

Excerpts from the following letter: 

"Is it to love them [LGBT people] to wholeness or add to their bondage with the chains of self-righteousness, justification, denial of His Word, rebellion against God and activism to force the protection of the government?"

"I can assure you that if you were to appeal to organizations that seek to minister to the gay community in such a way as to help them break free of their sin you would receive far more support..."

From: John R Murphy of "Ex-gay" Rock House Way, email: john@rockhouseway.com
Subject: RE: UMC Pastor Makokha meeting in Nashville
To: Rev.John Makokha, UMC Kenyan Minister and Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator, email: jmakokha2000@yahoo.com
Date: Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:49 PM

Rev John [Makokha],

I have now heard your preaching this morning and reviewed the two websites on your email. I am all for loving people no matter what sin they are in because we are all in sin to some degree. I am not in favor of supporting or justifying any sin.

Rev. John Makokha,
Coordinator for
Other Sheep Kenya.
 July 2008, Nairobi 
The purpose of my work is to help people progressively, inwardly share in the likeness of Christ. He is sinless. In no way is my work to be used to give any person justification for the sin they are living in. I do not directly address any sin in my work because I see that people who progressively have the heart of Christ become less willing to tolerate their sin behavior and increasingly challenge that part of their life. I realize that the organized church has struggled to help people with overcoming their sin pattern. But what you have to understand is that Christ is not the church and He does have an answer. As we are obedient to seek His heart we are empowered to overcome the behavior that grieves Him. You must avoid becoming pro-sin just because you see no way to help people out of their sin. You are not a blessing to people who are suffering the consequences of their sin pattern by helping them feel justified. You should be loving those in their suffering and helping them overcome the root causes of their condition. This is what Christians should do for people who are suffering from any sin.

I can see from the information I heard this morning that you are either mostly or completely seeking the support of organizations that are fighting for gay rights instead of the will of God. I can assure you that if you were to appeal to organizations that seek to minister to the gay community in such a way as to help them break free of their sin you would receive far more support and would also be working in cooperation with the will of God to set all people free of any behavior that dishonors Him and causes the suffering of those He loves. And yes He does love ALL PEOPLE.

I appreciate that you like my work and materials but if you are somehow using them to help people to accept their sin as ok, please discontinue using my materials. Unless you understand that my teaching is about change to the Glory of God, then you do not understand my message.

I think it is time for you to ask God what he wants you to do with your calling to serve LGBT people. Is it to love them to wholeness or add to their bondage with the chains of self-righteousness, justification, denial of His Word, rebellion against God and activism to force the protection of the government?

In 1 Peter 4:1 we are called to have the mind of Christ. This is one who is willing to suffer before they disappoint God. I suggest that you get quiet before God and ask Him how he wants you to proceed with no regard for your agenda or what you want. He will tell you what to do if you will let Him rule your life.

Respectfully,
John

John R. Murphy
Rock House Way, LLC
P. O. Box 0187
Brentwood, TN 37024-0187
john@rockhouseway.com
www.rockhouseway.com

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Other Sheep addresses LGBT/SOGI human rights consultation meeting, June 14, 2010, at Church Center of the United Nations, United Nations Plaza 4.

By Rev. Stephen Parelli, Bronx, NY.  June 15, 2010

On June 14th, 2010, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office hosted a day-long consultation on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and the international decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity with Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, LGBT advocate, ally, and exiled Bishop of the Church of Uganda.

Executive Director of Other Sheep Rev. Stephen Parelli, a panel member of the first session, citing Mary Wangila, author of Female Circumcision, The Interplay of Religion, Culture, and Gender in Kenya, said the problem of, and the answer to, homophobia in East Africa is one and the same: religion. Citing Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity, and concurring with Julius Kaggwa the panelist who spoke before him that Uganda is an evangelical country, Parelli referenced "The East African Revival" of the 1920s as the historical reason for the present day evangelical fervor in East Africa. Parelli said evangelicals believe in the final authority of the Word of God and that when addressing evangelicals about homosexuality one need's to understand the evangelical's starting point: the Word of God.

Parelli provided two hand outs to the participants: A critique on Ysufu Turaki's featured article on homosexuality in Zondervan's Africa Bible Commentary and "Kenyan Coming Out Stories: Creating Communities of Listeners."

Parelli, referring to Ysufu Turaki's homophobic, intolerant article as an example of how religion is the problem, said the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Dr. Douglas Carew of Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology endorse Africa Bible Commentary. Parelli said Other Sheep, in view of the intolerant article on homosexuality, has written board members of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa asking them to give their position on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and that no reply was received.

By contrast, showing how religion is part of the answer, Parelli said on May 27, 2010, Other Sheep Kenya held a discussion with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School Apologetics class on human sexuality, gender identity and Christianity and that one student said this was her first time to learn about homosexuality in an academic setting.

In addition, Parelli referenced two seminars on homosexuality and religion conducted by Other Sheep Kenya on the cost of Kenya as an example of how education is crucial. Parelli, reading from the recommendations of the Other Sheep Christian Religious Leaders' Seminar (March 5, 2010) and the recommendations of the Other Sheep dialogue with Muslim Religious Leaders (March 6, 2010), said Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Kenya are asking for more seminars and educational materials that will address their respective sacred writings, sexual orientation, human sexuality and religion.

Parelli said that Other Sheep has distributed in Africa The Blue Book and The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships. Parelli said in 2008 Other Sheep conducted a full day seminar in Kampala, Uganda, on the Bible and homosexuality with 40 plus LGBT Christians in attendance. Parelli indicated the teaching on the Bible and homosexuality was liberating for Ugandan LGBT Christians. Parelli, reporting on the Other Sheep seminar on the Bible and homosexuality in Rwanda 2008, showed how the Bible, in its literal usage, as is the evangelical custom, has a far reaching impact for good or for ill.

Parelli, citing Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe's book Boy-Wives and Female Husbands as his source, said the African language has many native words that refer to same-sex sex which were in use before the white man came to Africa.  Europeans brought homophobia to Africa, not homosexuality, he said.  Homosexuality was there before the white man came.

Parelli read three written testimonies of LGBT Christians in East Africa whose lives were changed because of the educational materials or teachings they received on homosexuality and the Bible from Other Sheep. Parelli, quoting from the first testimonial, read "You gave me a book, The Children are Free. Very inspiring. Talk of people who have been transformed by the book . . . here I am. Kindly return to Africa . . . I appreciate your Other Sheep ministry . . . Good job." Quoting from a second testimonial and highlighting the idea of education, Parelli read, "We thank God for sending Jose and Steve to this country in such a time. We're blessed and going back to the glory that we'd left because of ignorance." Quoting from a third testimonial, Parelli read "I've been with Other Sheep for almost four months now. Other Sheep East Africa, through Rev. Kimindu, enabled me to reconcile my Christianity with my homosexuality. I've come out to my sis. … I just wanted to thank people like you for what you do. It saved this life. Glory be to God."

In the final session of the day, Parelli said the most valuable resource for the battle against homophobia in Africa is already in place, i.e., the religious leaders and the LGBT activist in the pew in East Africa. Parelli said, they are educated, they know their region and their people; they know how to work their situation. It is for us to learn from them, understand them and the strategy they would employ; to work with them and to provide the tools they require and need.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kenyan Clergymen Urged to talk about Sexual Orientation and Equality in Church

Rev. Michael Kimindu of Metropolitan Community Church and Coordinator for Other Sheep East Africa speaks on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)'s weekly morning family talk show.

Article by Ken Were (BTM) Correspondent   
June 6, 2010 at 5:10am
Courtesy: Mask Newline.

Religious Organizations in Kenya have been urged to promote human rights and embrace lesbians, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people who are part of religious groups.

This, according to reverend Michael Kimundu of Metropolitan Community Church, will not be promoting gay marriages or homosexuality, but will be advancing awareness on sexual orientation, human dignity and rights amongst Christians and Muslims.

Speaking on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)'s weekly morning family talk show, the Kimindu, also coordinator of Other Sheep East Africa, called on Churches to talk with zeal and openness about fundamental human rights and not use the bible to demonize members of the LGBTI community who are members of their churches.

Kimindu, challenged clergymen to accept realities of sexual orientation and its diversity in human beings.

"The bible or God did not discriminate any one. It talks of love, care and peace for all. This is the point my organization is trying to tell fellow clergymen and Christians and Muslims across the country that it is against the biblical teachings to chase away, isolate , hate and discriminate a member of the LGBTI community based on their sexual orientation ", Kimindu told the audience.

He also revealed that he has initiated an outreach mission to meet Church leaders with a view to provide civic education on human sexuality and sexual orientation in relationship to Christianity and the gospel.

He added that many clergymen in Kenya are in support of the course but are reluctant to speak publicly about the topic in their churches for fear of being sacked or excommunicated.

Rev. Kimundu, who was a senior clergy at the Anglican Church of Kenya in Nairobi, was excommunicated from the communion more than five years ago for openly supporting rights of LGBTI people in the Church.

"We are calling on church pastors, leaders and Imams in Mosques to help root out stigma directed at LGBTI members in their faith organizations. This is how the church can promote equality and human rights as is written in the holy scripture and the Koran that all human beings are the same in the eyes of God", Kimindu concluded.

Article by Ken Were (BTM) Correspondent

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kenyan Coming Out Stories: "Creating Communities of Listeners"

A Research Project by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli and Jose Enrique Ortiz

"By presenting a gay self, an individual alters social reality by creating a community of listeners and thereby establishing the beginnings of a new gay-aware culture."

Research Question
From our sample of Kenyan coming out stories, to what degree is there the "creating [of] a community of listeners” (CCL) in Kenya in five different areas of society: civil government, church and seminary, boarding school, family, and friends?

The Importance of the Research Question
According to A. C. Liang, by creating a community of listeners (CCL) around the topic of one's gay self, the LGBT individual establishes the beginnings of a new gay-aware culture which alters social reality (ASR). See Figure 1.

Method, Participants, Setting and Related Activities
For four weeks in the summer of 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, my partner Jose Ortiz and I, by invitation of a local HIV-AIDS education/prevention organization, conducted discussion groups with LGBT Kenyans. In our second story two-bedroom, suburban, gated community apartment, we recorded more than 30 coming out stories. Our apartment had become a virtual gay community center with people coming and going, at times, 14 hours a day. People signed up in advance for participation in discussion groups. In addition, mini-teaching sessions were conducted on the Bible and homosexuality, strategic organizational meetings were held, one for starting a Nairobi P-FLAG. Amazingly, one historic session with 18 LGBT people sharing their story with a leading religious leader from an influential and prominent main line denominational church in the city of Nairobi was miraculously orchestrated.

The private manicured grounds of the apartment complex included an outdoor pool with sauna and a grill and patio lounge area which was used to host a party for roughly 60 new-found friends at the end of our stay.

The 30 LGBT participants who agreed to be recorded were between the ages of 19 and 31. Most were college grads or attending college. All were gay except for three straight friends. All, for the most part, either at the time of the recording or formerly, could be characterized as religious or as deeply committed to their place of worship. Most had attended boarding school for primary and high school education.

After returning to our home in the Bronx, we transcribed the recordings into a manuscript of 74 pages. Our findings, as related to the research question, are presented here.

Data Collected
From the quotes that follow, we've tagged each excerpt as "creating a community of listeners" (potentially or in actuality) within one of five social areas: civil law, church and seminary, boarding school, friends, and family.

Some accounts are categorized as potentially creating a community of listeners (the gay self yet unpresented publically), while other accounts (the gay self actually presented publically) have, in reality, already created a community of listeners to some degree.

In some cases, individuals were forced to come out because they were found out. Others chose to come out. But whether by design or by default, the telling of one's story, feelings and thoughts establishes "the beginnings of a new gay-aware culture" which does, with time, "alter social reality."

To read the paper in full, click here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kenya leads the way in Evangelical - LGBT discussion

"Other Sheep Kenya held a discussion with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School Apologetics class on human sexuality, gender identity and Christianity on May 27, 2010."

A remarkable, timely, historic meeting in East Africa
by Rev. John Makokha, Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya, NAIROBI, Kenya
May 28, 2010.

Editor's note: There may be other formal discussions between evangelicals and the LGBT community happening in East Africa at this time, especially in light of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of Uganda, however, Other Sheep is not aware of any. This remarkable event between Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School and Other Sheep Kenya needs to be heralded as an example of what needs to take place between the Evangelical community and the LGBT community worldwide. -Rev. Steve Parelli, Executive Director, Other Sheep

Other Sheep Kenya held a discussion with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School Apologetics class on human sexuality, gender identity and Christianity on May 27. The 15-member class was accompanied by their lecturer, Prof. Bill Black.

Rev. Michael Kimindu [Other Sheep East Africa Coordinator] gave his personal story in view of human sexuality and development. He recalled how he discovered his sexuality through socialization with his peers and not just acquiring it. He encouraged theological students in Africa to take education on human sexuality and identity seriously since ignorance has no place in the church and society.

David Kuria [General Manager, GALCK] said there is a lot of hate and spiritual violence in the church against sexual minorities. He noted that love is missing in the church and the same love can now be found outside the walls of the church. He gave an example of an ugly incident in Mtwapa, a coastal town of Mombasa where some Christian and Muslim religious leaders led mobs to stone to death suspected gays. He said that a suspected gay young man missed lynching by a close shave after being saved by a prostitute who embraced him and restrained the mob's action. "I am persuaded to think this female prostitute was a Good Samaritan", said Kuria.

Rev. John Makokha went through some of the clobber passages in the Bible [Leviticus 18-20, Romans 1: 26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 6: 9-11 and Jude 7] and said he is strongly persuaded that none of these biblical texts speak of homosexuality as a sexual orientation the way we understand it today.

He said that these biblical texts speak of creation narrative and the origin of humanity where there was no gender differentiation between man and woman, and there was no distinction between their sexuality [Genesis 1].

He noted that according to his understanding the second clobber passage talks about attempted gang rape, inhospitality, greed and lack of compassion to the poor and vulnerable households and not homosexuality [Genesis 19]. Prophet Ezekiel [16: 48-50] and even Jesus [Mathew 10: 14-15] himself make reference to inhospitality and greed as reasons for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

He said that the third clobber passage reflects the holiness code that comprises of cultural rituals of Israelites in their effort to be a distinct race and divinely favored race of people in their environment. The Levitical rules were meant for the Jewish people. Some of these holiness codes are cultic, cultural and criminal, and even modern Jewish people do not practice them. He asked, "How come the church is not practicing all the more than 613 holiness codes/rules, leave alone all the Ten Commandments?"

He noted that Paul speaks about pederasty, temple prostitution and idolatry. The people broke away from their natural sexual orientation, engaging in sexual infidelity with anyone [Romans 1: 26-27, I Corinthians 6: 9-10, 1 Timothy 6: 9-11]. Paul was addressing the model of homosexual behavior associated with idol worship, and religious rituals associated with their idolatry of his time and not homosexuality as sexual orientation the way we understand it today.

He said that he is strongly persuaded that Jude 7 speaks about heterosexual sex between male angels and human women, and not homosexual sex between humans.

He blamed the early fundamental evangelical Christian missionaries who brought the gospel wrapped up in homophobic and trans phobic attire. The same has happened to the established theological colleges in curricula design, planning, implementation, translation and interpretation of various bible versions.

Anne Baraza [CEO, Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme and LGBTI Counselor] said science rightly interpreted has much to offer when it comes to questions on human sexuality and gender identity. Scientific findings may today inform the church and society on sexual orientation issues. "I am aware that science can't resolve all our value questions but we need to regard homosexual orientation as a normal variation as we did with left handedness", she said.

She said that research has shown that environment influences sexual behavior and not sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is innate, discovered and not a choice as many people tend to think.

Baraza said empirical evidence has indicated brain anatomy influences one's sexual orientation. The research done by Simon Le Vay showed that brain cluster cells were larger in heterosexuals and smaller in homosexuals. Gay men simply don't have brain cells to be sexually and emotionally attracted to women. Lesbians may have more of a typical male anatomy and this could explain why they are attracted to fellow women.

Fabian Wangare [Other Sheep Kenya, MSM HIV/AIDS Initiative Officer] said that he is living positively with HIV as a gay man and pleaded with the church leaders to initiate HIV/AIDS programs with a focus on sexual minorities in their respective denominations. Stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual persons is increasing the spread of new infections of AIDS in Kenya at the rate 15.2%. He said "I stopped going to all churches due to stigma and discrimination by the clergy, but after several counseling sessions, I now attend an affirming and welcoming church."

One NEGST student said that they had learned a lesson on sexual orientation for the first time in their academic life. They requested more resource materials so that they can study further since they were still digesting what they had acquired from the fruitful discussion. This served as an eye opener to them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Other Sheep Kenya to Conduct Gay-Topic Workshops in Mombasa, Kenya, for Sheikhs, Imams and Christians

by Rev. Steve Parelli, Bronz, New York

Rev. John Makokha of Nairobi, Kenya, Coordinator for Other Sheep Kenya announced today that Other Sheep Kenya will conduct workshops in Mombasa the first week of March (2010)  for Sheikhs, Imams and Christians. 

The announcement read:  "Other Sheep Kenya has organized a workshop for 30 Sheikhs and Imams in the Coastal town of Mombasa and another workshop for 30 Christian leaders during the first week of March. These workshops will address issues of sexual orientation and homophobia and transphobia in view of religious dogma."

Rev. Makokha noted:  "Pray for OSK as we take peace, justice and reconciliation with the love of God to the coastal community."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Other Sheep Kenya Conducts Nakuru PFLAG Seminar - 32 Participants Attend

by Rev. Steve Parelli, Bronx, NY.

Rev. John Makkha, Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator, in a February 21, 2010, email, reports: "Other Sheep Kenya held a seminar for parents, friends of lesbian and gay (PFLAG) persons in Nakuru, Kenya, on February 19, 2010. A total number of 32 participants attended the one day workshop. The seminar theme was 'Sexuality and homophobia/transphobia in view of religious dogma.'

"The participants were drawn from Muslim, Seventh Day Adventist, Supkem, United Methodist Church, Friends church, Reconciling Ministries Network, Family Hope, Human Rights Network, Mid Rift Human rights Network, God's Family Church, Africa Independent Pentecostal church, Catholic church, Integrity, Changing Attitude, Kinship International, Home Vision Kenya, St. Joseph Youth Center, Brahma Kumaris, Kenya Youth Alliance, Teachers, Thairira widows, and Anglican church."

Speakers at the Other Sheep Kenya Nakuru PFLAG Seminar included: Rev. Michael Kimindu, Rev. John Makokha, Ann Baraza, Pastor Jackson and Peter Wanyam.

The seminar participants made seven observations.

For a full report of what the speakers said, and for the seven observations of the seminar participants, go to the Other Sheep Report webpage.

In 2007, Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli introduced the idea of PFLAG to the LGBT community in Nairobi, Kenya, using the Blue Book as a suggested course book for initial PFLAG meetings. Since then, the PFLAG idea of reaching family and friends with positive materials has been an ongoing thrust of Other Sheep Kenya.

Other Sheep acknowledges Rev. John Makokha with much gratitude in his accomplishment of this Other Sheep Kenya PFLAG seminar.

Other Sheep especially thanks UHAI-EASHRI for their support. Their generous grant, awarded to Other Sheep Kenya, made possible this seminar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

With the Apostle Paul at the center of the clash, Uganda Pastor Martin Ssempa and President Barack Obama are at odds with one another over the morality of same-sex sex

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli
Executive Director of Other Sheep, sparelli2002@yahoo.com. February 16, 2010.  Bronx, New York

Ugandan Christian minister Martin Ssempa claims: Same-sex sex is a criminal act contrary to nature
 
Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan Christian minister who runs the Family Policy and Human Rights Center in Uganda, recently took issue with the dissenting remarks President Obama made on the Anti-Homosexuality bill at the Washington, DC, February 4th National Prayer Breakfast.

In countering Obama's denouncement of the Ugandan bill, it is reported that Ssempa, addressing Obama's remarks, said "homosexuals and lesbians are never targeted for who they are, [but] rather [for] what they do. It is the repugnant sexual acts which they do which constitute a crime, a sin and a rebellion against the order of nature."

Ssempa's anti-homosexual rhetoric "against . . . nature" is grounded in the words of the Apostle Paul; hence, Uganda's divine call to pass its Anti-homosexuality bill

His comment, that same-sex sex is "a rebellion against the order of nature" is especially interesting to me because I am, like Ssempa, a Christian minister.

Ssempa, expounding like most preachers do, enlarged upon his "against . . . nature" assertion by calling it "repugnant," "a crime," and "a sin," so that we, his hearers, should obviously conclude that same-sex sex is the most horrendous affront possible against both God and society. Of course, being a preacher of the Book, Martin Ssempa is taking his "rebellion-against-the-order-of-nature" statement from the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans where the Apostle Paul, who is the author of the Biblical letter, refers to same-sex sex as "against nature."

So, there we have it. By the sacred text the Christian minister of Uganda speaks with absolute authority: a crime! a sin! rebellious! repugnant! Certainly, on the basis of such scriptural authority (and with the good preacher Ssempa telling us exactly how the text is to be interpreted), the Ugandan Parliament should enact certain "anti-homosexuality" laws.

Not so fast. Who is to say what the Apostle Paul meant? Certainly not the Ugandan Parliament

But that's just the point. What does "against nature" mean in the context of Romans chapter 1 (not to mention in the context of the entire book of Romans where Paul uses the phrase "against nature" in reference to other subject matters). Not all Bible scholars and teachers are in agreement with Ssempa. For these, Ssempa's inference of the passage is the least likely.

Thomas Hanks, agreeing with other Bible scholars like himself, says Paul is not condemning homoerotic acts as sin but is placing these acts under the cultural category of "uncleanness." Robin Scroggs, L. William Countryman, Robert Goss and Bernadette Broonten, James Miller, James Boswell and Daniel Halminiak all offer an interpretation of Romans 1 quite different from the Reverend Martin Ssempa. Jeff Miner very simply says that Paul is addressing a different set of facts and that therefore Romans 1 is "the easiest passage to interpret" because it simply does not apply to same-sex sex in the context of love, commitment and marriage, which is our present day context and not Paul's first century context. According to Miner, Romans 1 cannot be superimposed upon our present-day unique set of questions around homosexuality. Paul is not addressing our questions.

So now we are at an impasse. If the Ugandan Parliament is to enact laws against homosexuals because their acts are "a crime, rebellious, repugnant and a sin" based on the Apostle Paul's Roman 1 phrase "against nature;" and if the phrase "against nature" is really not as clear in meaning as it appears on the surface; then perhaps Parliament needs to step back a bit and not be so certain it's bill is somehow infallible, as Ssempa, on the authority of the Word of God, would have Parliament believe.

Enter Obama and his book The Audacity of Hope. Now two different, opposing Christian faiths appear: Obama's and Ssempa's

And as a matter of fact, that's exactly what Obama said in his book The Audacity of Hope: "I am [not] willing," he wrote, "to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans [chapter 1] to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount" (page 222, emphasis mine).

Obama would rather err on the side of loving his fellow man as himself (The Sermon on the Mount) than to accuse his fellow LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) neighbor of being a rebel, a sinner, a criminal, and just plain discussing (Romans chapter 1) as Ssempa would and does. Now we have two distinct Christian walks: President Obama's and Martin Ssempa's. And the question is how does any Parliament enact laws preferring one Christian practice over against another Christian practice? It shouldn't.

Obama: It is not the business of government to impose any stipulation upon its citizens that would interfere with the individual's right to live according to the dictates of one's own conscience

And so, Obama also comments about this - Parliament's place in all of this - in his book The Audacity of Hope: "Our argument is less about what is right [and more] about who makes the final determination - whether we need the coercive arm of the state to enforce our values, or whether the subject is one best left to individual conscience and evolving norms" (page 221). And this, too, he writes: "Contrary to the claims of many on the Christian right who rail against the separation of church and state, their argument is not with a handful of liberal sixties judges. [Their argument] is with the drafters of the Bill of Rights and the forebears of today's evangelical church" (pages 216-217, emphasis mine).

Obama is saying the question of same-sex sex between two consenting adults is a moral question for the individual to decide for himself, not a question for government to determine on behalf of its citizens. It is a private decision left to the individual. And Obama is saying the first American evangelicals knew that, so they therefore created a government where the church does not rule through legislation and the government does not dictate to the conscience of the individual. (And especially, one might opinion in Uganda, when two words - "against nature," in the context that Paul was writing - is so misunderstood and misapplied as it is today.)

The basic difference between Obama and Ssempa on their view of the relationship between the church and government

Early on when the Anti-Homosexuality bill first erupted in Uganda, I authored the following words and placed them on the Other Sheep website: "I fear for Uganda, or any state, when the church, by how it acts, might as well be parliament, and parliament, by how it acts, might as well be the church."

In the matter of same-sex sex, the question for any society to ask is not "What is right?" but rather, "Who should determine what is right: the church, the state, or the individual?" The answer is the individual.

Obama understands these sentiments and expressed them clearly in his book The Audacity of Hope. Ssempa does not.

by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep, Bronx, NY. February 16, 2010. Email: sparelli2002@yahoo.com