Thursday, July 31, 2008

Update from Joseline

Just got this painful email. Please pray for me as I consider what to do. Here is what Joseline writes:

Yes i also feel good now that you have answered my mail and you are praying for me Mummy how are you well i really dont know what you will tell her about about the money because i have tried to talk to her bout the condition was going from bad to worse i even printed out the mail you sent to us and she just got bitter she shouted at me before all the girls that "so now you have printed out this mail stupidly to show me how right you are" she even told me that my greed and narrow mindedness should not should not ruin her ministry.

Mummy she said alot and i have been in alot am just recovering from the shock so i really dont know how you are going to talk to her because i see my future is at steak and i think you should pray to the holy spirit to give you the right words that may not put my future at steak again because i know you are really hurt by what she did .

of recent when i took my list of requirements she quarreled and said you see how stupid you are now you needed this much it was 200,2000 shillings i was trying to save for your requirements you see how shallow minded you are but Mummy imagine she told me i have sponsors this is a man and woman sometime which are supposed to cater for all my school and am sure these people catered for the requirements and very thing even then, imagine if you had not left that money 760000 wouldn't i have gone to school with the requirements to say all that i now she was guilty and she was trying to make me think that she is right by the way, she even told me that she actually needed my mother to come because she wanted to beat me before my mother because am not great full for all that i get from her meanwhile i haven't yet settled am still so stressed because i have to spend the whole day without lunch and break fast and am scared i may get ulcers well she is saying that she is trying to save for my own good but i don't know whether it will be cheaper to sustain me with ulcers you still have to pray for me alot and by the way she warned me about writing to you which she called going behind her back ans spoiling her name so am really scared .

do you know what there is a time i have not been going to school waiting for my requirements when i went back to school people thought that i was sick because every one was telling me that am so skinny now and there is now life in my smile ok dear bye love you and am praying for you too

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pray for Zimbabwe

Excerpted from the NY Times this morning:

Zimbabwe Devalues Currency; $10,000,000,000 Now $1
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 10:27 a.m. ET

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe will drop 10 zeros from its hyper-inflated currency -- turning 10 billion dollars into one -- the country's reserve bank said Wednesday. President Robert Mugabe threatened a state of emergency if businesses profiteer from the country's economic and political unraveling.

Shop shelves are empty and there are chronic shortages of everything including medication, food, fuel, power and water. Eighty percent of the work force is unemployed and many who do have jobs don't earn enough to pay for bus fare.

One third of Zimbabweans have become economic and political refugees. Another third is dependent on foreign food aid. But Mugabe barred non-governmental organizations from handing out food last month, claiming they were supporting the opposition.

***

Mugabe has blamed profiteering and sanctions by the United States and the European Union for Zimbabwe's economic collapse. Critics have blamed mismanagement by Mugabe's government and a land reform program that has slashed Zimbabwe's agricultural output.

***

Mugabe went on television just as South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki was jetting in to meet with him about stalled power-sharing talks. Mbeki was greeted by Mugabe at Harare airport Wednesday afternoon. The two shook hands and briefly embraced before leaving together.

Mbeki has insisted the power-sharing talks which started last Thursday were going well and had simply adjourned on Monday.

But several officials said Mugabe's negotiators returned home and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai went to South Africa, the venue of the talks, after they deadlocked over who would lead the ''inclusive'' government under negotiation. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because all parties agreed to a media blackout surrounding the talks.

***

Mugabe and Tsvangirai, bitter rivals, met for the first time in 10 years last week and agreed to have their negotiators hammer out a formula to share power and halt the southern African nation's political and economic disaster. The talks came after three months of state-sponsored electoral violence that killed more than 150 opposition activists, injured thousands of people and drove tens of thousands from torched homes.

Both men say they won elections this year and should lead the government.

Considering...

Since my last entry, I could have noted any number of things, but I felt they would be a rehash of previous entries or else not considered enough to be of use.

I've heard from Joselyn, but not from Sally as the email did not go through. I need to call Sally, but am not looking forward to the prospect.

Meanwhile, the only thing I feel worth noting about the Lambeth Conference as it relates to Africa is a comment from Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana. Many have noted that the Bishops of Uganda and Nigeria have boycotted Lambeth. Bishop Mwamba points out that this is not exactly the case, in an interview reported by "Thinking Anglicans"

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.”


I find this incredibly sad. What might Lambeth have been if all the bishops who wanted to come had come?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The heartbreak continues


Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about the companion relationship between the Diocese of Lui in Sudan and the Diocese of Missouri. I said that I thought this was the way to go. Which just shows how much I know.

Today's news from the Lambeth Conference is that Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul held a press conference. In it he said, not only that Bishop Gene Robinson should step down for the sake of the church, and that "Asked if he has talked to Robinson, Deng replied, 'I have nothing to say to him.'" But furthermore,
"He also said he cannot participate in the Anglican Communion's Listening Process because homosexuality is not 'approved by the Bible' and 'is not part of my culture, I cannot talk about it.' Deng said there are no gay or lesbian people in Sudan."
(This was reported by Episcopal Life Online, and more specifically by my friend and fellow CDSP alum, Mary Frances Schjonberg.)

Reading this, I zipped on over to "My Manner of Life" , written by Lisa Fox whom I quoted the other day and who chairs the companion diocese committee. It's pretty devastating, in several senses of the word, and I encourage you to pop over there to get Lisa's view on all of this.

My own view is, How can he have visited the Diocese of Missouri, met Lisa, met gay clergy, had members of the diocese come to his diocese, shared and prayed with and gotten to know all these people and not be changed at all? How is that even possible? How can you completely shut yourself off from listening? I simply do not understand, and I cannot imagine the amount of effort it takes to hold yourself with such forced rectitude that you cannot bend no matter what you see or hear or do. It just baffles me.

I continue to realize that I don't understand much at all. Which is not going to stop me from trying. But I begin to wonder if I personally will make any headway at all, or if any headway is even possible.

Monday, July 21, 2008

An email

This is an email I wrote this morning. I'm posting it here because I think it gives a sense of the complicated nature of the relationships between Africa and the West in a rather personal context.

**
Hello, Sally and Joselyn!

Grace and peace to you both.

I have gotten word from Joselyn that she has been having trouble getting money for transport and lunch for her beauty training school. What Joselyn doesn't know, Sally, is that I gave you 760,000/= before I left so that she wouldn't have to worry about transport money. I didn't want to tell Joselyn because I wanted our friendship to be simply friendship and not based on any kind of patronage. I could understand that you might want to give her word that there was money for a month at a time, but I simply do not understand what is going on that Joselyn is so anxious about getting the money for her transport. Is there really is a problem or is there a misunderstanding? If someone is misrepresenting something, that would break my heart. I cannot believe it, but I cannot understand it any other way at this time.

It is really distressing to me because I don't know what's going on. I love you both so much, but there is obviously some difficulty here. I really don't care what's going on; I just want Joselyn to have the resources she needs to get to school and back and to have lunch.

Please make sure that Joselyn has the money that she needs for food and transport. I will expect Joselyn to report that she has what she needs. Also, Sally, please do let me know your perspective on the situation. I honestly have no idea what's really happening there in Kampala and may never know, and that's not important, actually. But I do know that I want Joselyn not to have to worry about food or transport and I think it should be possible for us as sisters in Christ to make that happen without difficulty or constraint.

At 5,000/= per day, which is what Joselyn has told me she needs, 760,000/= should last 152 days. Even with the 7 weeks gone by in the training, that should still leave enough for the rest of the calendar year.

Please know that both of you continue to fill my thoughts and my prayers. I so value and respect both of you. I hope and pray that this will be resolved happily for all of us, and I wish you every blessing in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.

In His name,
Laura

**

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The way forward

The Lambeth Conference started this week and it has been amazingly quiet. They're on retreat, don't you know, and many of the Anglican websites report how the press is upset there is no NEWS (meaning no kerfuffles).

One of the blogs I read is called "My Manner of Life," written by a woman in Jefferson City, MO. Her diocese has a companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui in the Church of Sudan, and she reports of her reaction to seeing a photo of Bishop Daniel, waiting for a bus to go to the Lambeth retreat. It's quite lovely, and I do recommend a trip over there to read it. Here is the link. (My life has changed since I found out how to use that link function.)

And here, I think, is the key point.

Folks like to draw a thick line between the Episcopal Church and the churches of the "Global South." But I met this man. I spent a lot of time with him. I have no doubt that he will argue for the Gospel. From what I heard in my time with him, that means feeding people who are starving in Sudan, bringing them water and education and health care, and building a healthy society in Sudan. Those are the priorities I heard from him. When it comes to the "issues du jour," I hope his view will be informed by the time he spent in Missouri, where many folks introduced themselves and their partners.
And to me, this is key: actually meeting face to face, getting to know one another as members of the family of God. Some of them you like and some of them you don't, and that's not related to race or place of birth. But you can love one another all the same.

It's a shame that the bishops of Nigeria and Uganda (alone of all the African nations) are completely boycotting Lambeth. I wonder if deep down the real reason for doing so is that if they met those with whom they disagreed, these bishops might find they actually like them, and the internal conflict would be unbearable.

Kudos to Missouri for making connections with Sudan. For what it's worth, I think this is the way to go.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Perhaps there are other issues in Africa?

This morning, thanks once again to "The Lead," I found another African website of note: the African Monitor, "African voices for Africa's development." Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, is a regular contributor (some readers may remember that Archbishop Ndungane visited the Diocese of California at the time of our convention last year). Why, astonishingly, he seems to be more interested in issues of hunger, poverty and disease than with human sexuality.

That's one thing, upon reflection, that I noticed about the Top 50 list: where were the people who were making a difference in, oh, I don't know, alleviating suffering. It would be kinda nice if the Anglican Communion were notable for that.

At any rate, Archbishop Ndungane has a thoughtful piece about the recent G8 summit, which points out in its own way how issues of hunger, poverty, and disease get highjacked by sexier concerns. Ndungane reports that the G8 countries are way under target in meeting promised levels of aid; at current levels, they will fall an estimated $40 billion dollars under their target. Ndungane writes, "Notably, collectively, the G8 has delivered just $3 billion of the $25 billion that was pledged to Africa in 2005."

He goes on to say,

Africa’s problems were eclipsed by the Zimbabwe issue. There is nothing wrong about focusing attention on Zimbabwe- there is certainly a need to be concerned. However, to allow one country’s problems to take precedence over the rest of the continent, given the gravity of problems in Africa and the vastness of the continent was a big disappointment.


***

Archbishop Ndungane was not in the Telegraph's Top 50. I have no idea whether that's a correct assessment or not. But I do think allowing the issue of sexuality to overshadow everything else of interest and importance to Anglicans in the Anglican communion is, ultimately, a disappointment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In the top 20

In case you were wondering what happened with the last of the 50 most influential Anglicans, etc., etc., here are the Africans in the top 20:

10. John Sentamu - Archbishop of York

Yorkshireman of the Year in 2007, the Ugandan-born John Sentamu has become immensely popular in Britain - his adopted country after being forced into exile following incurring the wrath of dictator Idi Amin.

A high court judge in the country, he was locked up for 90 days and beaten before he escaped to England, where he read theology and trained for ministry in the Church of England.

His enthusiastic brand of learned and muscular Christianity quickly brought him to notice. He was appointed Bishop of Stepney in 1996 and at that time served as advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Enquiry, he later chaired the Damilola Taylor review.

In 2002 he was appointed Bishop of Birmingham and in 2005 became Archbishop of York.

In an interview before his enthronement he gained the affection of the British public by calling for a rediscovery of pride in their cultural identity, warning against multiculturalism. He has also become well known for his symbolic protests.

In 2006 he pitched a tent in York Minster and fasted in solidarity with those suffering from the Middle East Conflict. In a BBC interview with Andrew Marr, he cut up his dog collar as a symbol for the way President Mugabe is stripping Zimbabweans of their identity. He also campaigned for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

He is a loyal supporter and friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury and widely tipped as a potential successor.

6. Desmond Tutu - Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town

The Nobel Peace prize winner is widely regarded as the greatest Anglican of the 20th century, and still commandss enormous influence, affection and respect today.

His courageous stand against apartheid gained him unprecedented support for the better part of three decades.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the infrastructure and closer links within the Anglican Communion grew precisely to support him as he personally risked life and limb in the struggle.

He later earned even greater kudos when he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which became the litmus test for effective mediation work between divided factions.

In retirement he became a champion of the cause of gays and lesbians comparing their liberation to the struggle against apartheid.

5. Henry Orombi - Archbishop of Uganda

Leader-in-waiting for millions of Anglicans in sub-saharan Africa as Archbishop Akinola gets closer to retirement. Archbishop Orombi represents a younger generation of evangelical leaders in the Anglican Church presiding over growth and commitment to mission and social work.

The Anglican Church in Uganda has been at the forefront of halting the country's HIV/Aids pandemic and has experienced significant growth in the number of churchgoers.

Ugandan's opposition to homosexual practice is defended in terms of its history.

Archbishop Orombi is one of the few Anglican leaders to unequivocally condemn violence against homosexuals, but recently said he didn't wear his dog collar when he is in countries where there are supporters of homosexuals.

He described "these people" as "dangerous".

3. Peter Akinola - Archbishop of Nigeria

Peter Akinola represents for many commentators an epochal shift in the centre of gravity for Christianity from western dominance to what is now commonly known as the 'Global South'.

With 18 million committed churchgoers, the Church of Nigeria dwarfs any other in the Anglican Communion. After his election as Archbishop in 2000 he outlined a clear programme of evangelism, social work and self-sufficiency in the sectarian and troubled country.

At first he appeared to have a close relationship to the American Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, but that changed in 2003 when the General Convention ratified the election of Gene Robinson to New Hampshire.

Since then he has upset the American Church by intervening in its affairs with the creation of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America that he brought under his leadership.

In 2006 he was named as one of Time magazines leaders of the year, but since then his stock has fallen.

He failed to be re-elected as Chairman of the 37 million-strong Christian Association of Nigeria, and has attracted criticism for inciting violence in the Cartoon riots.

His defenders argue that he was doing no more than voice the frustration a leader of a Christian community whose members are routinely attacked in some parts of the country.

However his support for draconian anti-gay legislation has made him a favourite bete-noire for liberal anger. He has also referred to homosexuals as an 'abomination'.

One of the key leaders of the Gafcon movement, the Church of Nigeria was a trailblazer for removing the link to Canterbury from their constitution.

He is believed to be behind Gafcon's own revision of the office of the Archbishop, as merely an 'historic' one rather than an instrument or focus of unity in the worldwide church.

It seems now that after Akinola's frequent gaffes other leaders are taking over the leadership of the Communion's conservatives but as leader of 18 million of the continents Anglicans, Archbishop Akinola remains one of the most influential Anglican leaders - for better and for worse.

***
#2 and #1, by the way, are Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Update on Ugandan bishop at Lambeth

An alert blogger noticed that the story in the New Vision I quoted a few posts ago isn't quite what it was made out to be. I have cast false aspersions upon the Archbishop of Canterbury--mea culpa!

The Anglican Mainstream--yet another Anglican blog--reports the story here. Apparently, Christopher Ssenyonjo has been invited by Integrity USA to come to Lambeth and be at the Integrity booth.

Remember that thing about money? The Integrity website notes that "Bishop Christopher's trip is being underwritten thru the generous donations of IntegrityUSA's members and friends."

Let's be clear: both sides of the debate are funding both sides of the debate. And it very much complicates the relationships between the West and Africa in the Anglican Communion.

#25

From the list of 50 most influential figures in the Anglican Church.

25. Benjamin Nzimbi - Archbishop of Kenya

Archbishop of the four-million strong Church of Kenya, Benjamin Nzimbi is among those who will not be attending the Lambeth Conference.

He has backed his fellow Archbishops of Rwanda, Uganda, Rwanda and Southern Cone, in providing alternative leadership to conservative congregations in the United States.

He has also supported the formation of a new Anglican Church in North America, and has said that he will help as many churches in America as he can.

What the Archbishop doesn't know..., or thoughts on money

Archbishop Orombi stated that he didn't want the Church of Uganda accepting tainted money from those who support homosexuals--"with strings attached." Well, apparently he doesn't know his daughter, Sally Orombi, at whose home I spent Maundy Thursday and had Easter dinner, accepted a donation from me. Horrors!

But money is a very sticky business and I do think the Archbishop has a point, even if I don't agree with his stance. There's still an incredible patronage system that's apparent in Uganda. There are lots of strings attached to money: "We'll give you money if you do it our way." And it's understandable, too, because the patrons, whoever they may be, don't want to see their money wasted.

As far as the church goes, this is a very, very complicated issue--complicated by morality and perceptions of the wealth of the West. This is second-hand, but one church here in California with long-standing ties in Uganda was told they could no longer donate to a diocese there. The bishop told the rector of the church, "When elephants battle, the ants suffer," as I recall (I'll need to ask if that's the exact quote).

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed "orthodox" Anglicans are apparently offering a great deal of financial support, according to the Archbishop. A quote from the aforelinked interview: "... they support us, they give us money. Oh they give us money. Since we began to relate with our orthodox brethren they have given us much more money, much more money, oh yeah, much more money. They have given us more money."

Are there strings attached? And to what purpose is that money used? Here's hoping and praying it goes to relieve suffering and help those in need. I'm not sure I care where the money comes from as long as it's going to that purpose. I doubt that any money from anyone is totally pure.

How most people spend their time

 
This is a picture of the store next to my apartment in Bukoto. I went there all the time to buy vegetables or fresh eggs (one egg cost 200 shillings). My neighbor who worked there would be there in the morning when I left for the office and there when I got back in the late afternoon. Occasionally I would go out at night, and I would see her there in the dark with a kerosene lantern for light. Most of her day seemed to be spent sitting and waiting for customers to come by. She sat on the floor behind the counter where she had half-cakes (a kind of fry bread) in a glassed in case.

If there's one thing I learned in Uganda it's that life is hard there. I got an email from my friend Joseline describing how she is probably going to have to choose between transport to and from the beauty college and lunch (I'm working to make sure she doesn't). This is not an exceptional choice. God only knows how many thousands of people are making choices like this all of the time.

Posted by Picasa

Bigger fish to fry

"The Lead" led me yet again to another worthwhile story entitled "Mwamba dismisses doomsayers." They quote Musonda Trevor Mwamba, a bishop in Botswana, who spoke at the Modern Churchpeople's Union in England on July 9.

Among other things he said, "The simple reality is that the majority of African Anglicans, about 37 million of them, are frankly not bothered with the debate on sexuality."

My own experience is that the subject never came up in my personal interactions in Uganda. I never heard it spoken of in churches I attended. No one asked me about it, even though they asked about a lot of things related to the U.S. The issues of homosexuality was in the papers and I heard about it in the church on a macro level, but on the ground, this is not on the top of people's lists. It's really not headline news. There were too many headlines related to (violence in) Zimbabwe, Kenya, Somalia and South Africa to bother with this rather obscure scuffle.

And as far as most people go, they have other things to occupy their time. I'll have something to say about that in the next post.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

#39

From the London Daily Telegraph series on the 50 most influential Anglicans:

39 Ian Earnest - Primate of the Indian Ocean, Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA)

Based in Mauritius, Archbishop Earnest represents a small Church in comparison to Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa, yet his chairmanship of CAPA gives him a considerable influence over troubled relationships between the Churches of the West and the developing world. Chosen as a member of the Covenant design group, which was set up to restructure how the Anglican communion operates, many believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury regards him as a leader who can mediate in the current crisis.

One Ugandan bishop (maybe) at Lambeth

Man! So many articles! So little time!

I found this article on The New Vision website, dated July 6, with the mild headline, "Bishop Ssenyonjo invited to Lambeth."

The contents, though, are a bit more interesting: "In 2002, Archbishop Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo (now retired) defrocked Ssenyonjo because of his support for homosexuality.

"Ssenyonjo, formerly the bishop of West Buganda Diocese, in 2004 formed a new denomination called the Charismatic Church of Uganda and was consecrated bishop.

"In 2004, Archbishop Luke Orombi wrote to Ssenyonjo informing him that he was 'no longer entitled to wear the robes of a deacon, priest, or bishop in the Church of Uganda.'

"He was later excommunicated."

Excommunicated??? I didn't know we did that in the Anglican Church.

Although I'd like to think that Bishop Ssenyonjo was invited because the Archbishop of Canterbury supports him, I suspect it's because the Archbishop wasn't au courant with the doings in Uganda.

Not much room for disagreement here, is there? Makes all those complaints about how MEAN PB Katharine Jefferts Schori has been to Bishop Schofield, et al., seem silly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

#44 and #42

As the Lambeth Conference approaches, the Daily Telegraph is publishing a series on the 50 most influential Anglicans in the world today, can you believe. Two Africans are in the list from 41 to 50, published today:

44 Esther Mombo - Dean of St Paul’s theological college, Kenya

A vital member of the Anglican Communion’s doctrine commission, Esther Mombo has taken issue with the view of many African bishops that homosexuality is a Western phenomenon.

She says that it’s not a Western issue but a human rights issue.

She was also a member of the group that produced the Windsor Report, which attempted to heal divisions in the Church after the consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual cleric, as the Bishop of New Hampshire. A campaigner for women’s ordination.

42 Davis Mac-Iyalla - Changing Attitude, Nigeria
One of the few black Anglican gay activists, Davis Mac-Iyalla, has endured death threats and attacks since he founded Changing Attitude Nigeria in 2005.

He now lives in exile in Togo but remains the most visible critic of the anti-gay Nigerian leadership.

Originally accused by Archbishop Peter Akinola of being a con-man, he has shrugged off these claims and is to be found campaigning at Synods, Bishops’ meetings and will be present at this month’s Lambeth Conference.

***
Which just goes to show that "The African Church" is not one huge block with one perspective. I'm thinking some more conservative Africans will be higher on the list. I'll keep you posted.

A lead from "The Lead"

The Lead is a newsy bit of a website called "The Episcopal Cafe" which had a relevant entry today entitled "Archbishop Orombi believes gay people are out to kill him."

Archbishop Henry Orombi is the Primate of Uganda, in case the name doesn't ring a bell. He is quoted in the New Vision, a Ugandan daily, saying that he doesn't dare wear clericals when in countries that have supporters of homosexuals. “I am forced to dress like a civilian because those people are dangerous. They can harm anybody who is against them. Some of them are killers. They want to close the mouth of anybody who is against them.”

Lead has this trenchant comment: "One might have supposed that Henry Orombi could have walked down any street in America wearing a t-shirt that said, 'Hey, I'm Henry Orombi' and people still wouldn't have recognized him." Here's his picture so that you can indeed identify him, though I guess he won't be wearing the purple and collar.

A couple of thoughts:

One--one of the things I came to realize during my time in Uganda is that the perception is almost (and I emphasize almost) as important as the reality as far as the West is concerned. (More on this later.) Now, it is possible that the Archbishop has received threats, and if so, that is deplorable.

Two--on the other hand, is this merely demonizing "those people"? This is the same kind of language used to support bigotry the world over: Those people are dangerous. There's a significant difference between saying, "I am afraid" and "People are trying to kill me." It's the difference between saying honestly where I am and projecting motives onto other people, and it is an important and significant difference.

Three--I think he's in more danger for being black than for being anti-homosexual in most of these supposedly "gay-supporting countries." And, as the Lead says, "the instances of violence against gays and lesbians are likely to remain more numerous than the instances of violence by gays and lesbians against Anglican archbishops." One comment I read on this is that this kind of speech may very likely spark violence against homosexuals in Uganda (because, of course, they are threatening killers, the Archbishop says so) than it is to provide the Archbishop with any needed protection, if indeed he needs any.

Four--it seems like the way to counteract this kind of perception is for the Archbishop to meet and know gay and lesbian people, to love and be loved by them, to take away the demon mask that he sees them wearing.

And finally, on a different note--I didn't take my clericals to Uganda, not knowing how the people there would react to a woman in a collar. I was fearful, and it turned out to be unnecessary. And I did the very same thing I suspect the Archbishop of doing: instead of saying, "I am afraid," I immediately went to "What will they do when they see me?"

Perfect love casts out all fear. That's what I'm praying for. For all of us.

Polygamy and homosexuality...discuss

A brief note.

Last Friday, July 1, there was a press conference at All Soul's, London, held by various leading lights of GAFCON, now FOCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans). I was struck by this portmanteau question during the panel discussion:

"Q: Would the panel unequivocally condemn violence against lesbian and gay people, and how do you handle issues of polygamy in African culture."

(courtesy of notes from "The Ugley Vicar.")

This seems like a typically Western question to me. It's a real slap against Africa, isn't it? The question about violence against gay and lesbian people is very worthwhile (and unfortunately necessary), but why is it instantly followed by a question about polygamy? I would propose it's because tacking on polygamy to any debate is meant to put African speakers on the defensive.

I am constantly amazed at how any critique offered by the African church against Western mores is met with, "Well, yeah, but what about polygamy?" As if any imperfection in one culture means it may offer no rebuke to any other. To which I would like to say, "Pot? Meet kettle."

These two issues are both large enough to warrent their own discussion. I would like to see a moratorium on putting homosexuality and polygamy in the same sentence.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Listening Process

As many of you know, every 10 years the bishops of the Anglican Communion are invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to what’s called the Lambeth Conference. The next one is coming up in mid-July; some bishops are refusing to attend, including many African bishops. But more on this later.

Right now I’m more interested in looking back at Lambeth 1998. Although lots of other business got done, I would guess nothing has gotten as much attention as Resolution 1.10: Human Sexuality.

Now, I’m not doing a whole lot of research here, but as I remember it, the general feeling was that the group that had spent the entirety of the conference crafting language for this resolution was outvoted by a new Global South majority. Ten years earlier, in 1988, the North and West still held most of the seats, but that had changed by 1998. A more moderate view that allowed for differences of opinion on the subject of human sexuality was taken out of the resolution and replaced with the unambiguous stance of “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.”

I’ve been looking the resolution over again as I write this and it’s a much less violent statement than I remembered. The debate at the time was so very impassioned--even harsh. But looking merely at the language that is left in the resolution without the painful context of the actions around it, there's a lot that is commendable. That statement I just quoted is not the sum total of even that subsection of the resolution, which says “while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.” Certainly there’s some of value in that, if one could indeed minister pastorally and sensitively to people under these circumstances.

Reading it now, I was intrigued by a statement from the resolution offered by the West African region that I had never seen before, which “accepts that homosexuality is a sin which could only be adopted by the church if it wanted to commit evangelical suicide.” I’ll want to think more about that.

The main reason, however, that I called up Resolution 1.10 was to talk about the “listening process,” oft mentioned when talking about homosexuality in the Anglican Church. Certainly this part of the resolution is both hopeful and charitable. Here’s what the resolution called for:

We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.

A couple of things. First of all, this resolution says the bishops will listen to the experience of homosexual persons, not vice versa. Oft times it has seemed that there’s been serious resistance to that with a call for equal time for those who have (truly) suffered under colonial powers. But the resolution doesn’t say this should be a two-way street.

Second, one of the struggles in this listening is that the experience of homosexual persons very often comes from the West. I’m generalizing here, but some African bishops refuse to listen to anyone from the West saying homosexuality is a Western deviation and doesn’t exist in Africa. And anyone who is gay in Africa is assumed to be corrupted by Western influence. It’s kind of a no-win situation, there. Katie Sherrod who writes a blog called Desert’s Child out of Fort Worth, Texas, has gone to Africa to interview LGBT Africans. You can read about what she did here.

I have to go back to the West Africa resolution’s comment on “evangelical suicide,” because I do have to wonder what the African church loses by listening, or by changing its mind. I’ll be curious to learn more about this. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What "liberal" means

My first Sunday in Kampala, Palm Sunday, I met with the Provost of All Saints Cathedral. There was nothing special about this; each week, newcomers are invited to meet with the Provost in his office.

There were just three of us: a woman visiting Kampala whose brother had been buried from the cathedral, my then-new-acquaintance Joseline, and me. The Provost was very amiable and talked with each of us about our interests and backgrounds. Since this was during the presidential primaries, he asked me about Clinton and Obama. “The only problem with Obama,” he said, “is that he’s too liberal.” Diplomatically, he added, “Of course the conservatives can be too conservative.” I just nodded.

What I wish I had said, just to blow the Provost’s mind, was, “I had no idea that the Ugandan church was so liberal.” I doubt I could have ever said that; it’s so far from my nature. I certainly couldn’t have said it my first week there.

But I had been astonished when I showed up at the cathedral that morning to find that their vicar was a woman. In my mind, I had linked “conservative” with opposition to women’s ordination as much as with opposition to homosexuality. From my perspective, that whole liberal-conservative continuum has a lot of room on it with little side alleys. But at this point it seems to me that “liberal” in the Anglican Communion is a code word for support of gay rights, no matter what else is on the table. It’s not a particularly traditional definition of liberal at all and I think it explains both the hard-line refusal to share the table and the strange bedfellows that the “conservative” churches make.

The other day on the BBC, the Right Rev. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, had this to say about the recent GAFCON thingeymajigger (conference? pilgrimage?) and its final statement:

"The coalition of Gafcon is a very odd combination of hard-line evangelicals, who would never use incense in a communion service, who would never wear Eucharistic vestments, along with Anglo-Catholics from America for whom those things are absolutely de rigeur.

"You've also got people who are totally and passionately opposed to the ordination of women, and others who are not only happy with it, but promoting it. That's not a coalition that's going to last very long, to be honest. The idea that they have a monopoly on Biblical truth simply won't do and we must stand up to this, it's a kind of bullying.”

I’d add to Bishop Wright’s statement that it’s also an odd coalition of people who claim to be resisting the last gasps of colonialism and very colonial style bishops and church leaders.

More about all this later, but the point to be made here is that calling the African church “conservative” is a very sketchy definition at best. It’s a rather dishonest shorthand for the issue of homosexuality, which is why homosexuality will get a lot of virtual ink in this blog.

Introduction and disclaimer

This blog is going to take quite a turn at this point.

Up until this point, as you see, I have been writing about my experiences during a brief sojourn in Uganda. But for a long time, I have been very interested in the political imbroglio in the Anglican Communion, much of which involves the Anglican churches in Africa. With some trepidation, therefore, I’m going to offer my opinion on the subject.

First of all, a disclaimer: I do not claim to be any sort of expert in the areas of Africa, politics, the Anglican Communion, or even the Episcopal Church. All I can claim to be is an interested observer and an informed layperson, except for the being ordained part.

Second, this is a blog and a hobby and so my entries are likely to be limited in scope and fairly infrequent. I’m not quitting my day job to write about this. Blogging simply doesn’t pay the bills.

Third, if you’re reading this, well, I’m astonished and pleased. I’d be very grateful if you would identify yourself at some point. It’s a thrill to know I’m not talking in an echo chamber. And I hope you find this a worthwhile use of your time.

Video! Entrepreneurs

These last two videos are clips I took of two of the women I interviewed about their loans. One woman makes mats woven from drinking straws. The other is making paper beads.
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I continue to say that the very best thing about my time in Uganda was meeting women like these, being invited into their homes, seeing how they live, learning what they do and how they accomplish it. For that I will be eternally grateful. I'm glad you get to see a little glimpse of that in these videos.

Videos! The Ndere Center

Alternate title: My Hips Don't Move Like That
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Videos! Children's program in Acholi Quarters

Now that I am back in the land of high speed internet access, I can upload the videos I took at various points during my time in Uganda. Let's see how this works.
videoIn this entry, I hope to upload three short videos I took during the Saturday children's program in the Acholi Quarters. You'll see two songs they performed plus a traditional Acholi dance.
videoThe dance is accompanied by a whistle and drums. The round hollow drums that you see are made from a dried pumpkin shell. One of the things I thought was very cool is that kids there still did learn traditional tribal dances, and that everybody seems to know them. And that whole conception of African drumming? That is real. Enjoy!
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