Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Voices of Witness Africa Helps Church Keep Commitment to Listen

contact: Rebecca Wilson, 330-524-2067,
Voices of Witness Africa documentary tells stories of gay Anglicans
CHICAGO--As long ago as 1978, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Communion
bishops urged the church to listen to Anglicans who are gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender (GLBT). However, as the Rt. Rev. David Russell,
retired bishop of Grahamstown, South Africa, says, "We made some very
definite decisions that we need to be listening, and precious little
listening happened. There was a huge reluctance to listen."

Now a new half-hour documentary film helps Episcopalians keep the church's
commitment to listen. Voices of Witness Africa, produced by Cynthia Black
and Katie Sherrod, interviews gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
Africans about their lives and their relationships with God and the church.

Viewers who have followed the plight of GLBT people in Africa will hear
familiar and tragic stories of fear, imprisonment and abuse. However, they
may also be surprised by the support and hope voiced by some of the film's
subjects, including African Anglican bishops and priests.

"I'm sorry about what the church is saying. God loves you, God loves you,"
says the Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop of West Buganda
Diocese in the Anglican Church of Uganda, who leads a study and prayer group
for gay Anglicans. While acknowledging that speaking out for GLBT Christians
has been "very risky," Bishop Senyonjo says that "When you know the truth,
it should make you free."

Although the situation for GLBT Africans is dire—two-thirds of African
countries still criminalize homosexuality, according to the International
Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission—several people in the film cite
cause for hope.
"Many, many years ago, when the townships were in smoke and people were
dying, we never thought that we would be where we are now," says Yvonne
Daki, manager of iThemba Lam Center of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries in
South Africa. "We will have one day a situation where gay people can speak
openly about their sexuality."

Voices of Witness Africa is being released just before the Episcopal
Church's General Convention, scheduled for July 8-17 in Anaheim, California.
At the meeting, deputies and bishops will discuss both the church's mission
in the developing world and the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people. The film is being mailed in advance to all deputies and
bishops. It is also being mailed to all bishops of the Anglican Communion,
including those who lead churches that are hostile to GLBT Christians.

Near the end of the film, the Very Rev. Rowan Smith, dean of St. George's
Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, offers some words of advice. "I would
like to say to the church, 'Learn what we have learned in South Africa, that
things like sexual orientation or gender or race are immaterial before God.
God delights in all that God has made.'"

Voices of Witness Africa is a production of Claiming the Blessing and was
made possible with support from The Chicago Consultation, Integrity and many
individuals. More information on the film, including a study guide for use
in Episcopal parishes, is available at and

Currently scheduled screenings include:

May 24: St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church, Toronto, Ontario
May 27: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Cleveland
May 30: Church of the Incarnation, Santa Rosa, California
June 5: All Saints Church, Pasadena, California
June 6: Christ Episcopal Church, Dearborn
June 7: Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge
June 8: All Saints' Episcopal Church, Chicago
June 10: Church of the Ascension, Silver Spring, Maryland
June 12: Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri
June 14: St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas

To schedule a screening of Voices of Witness Africa in an Episcopal parish,
please talk with Chicago Consultation communications consultant Rebecca
Wilson at or 330-524-2067.

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy
and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican
Communion. We believe that our baptismal covenant requires this.

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