Thursday, May 20, 2010

Integrity Sponsored Tour with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo continues in San Diego

From San Diego Gay & lesbian News

SAN DIEGO -- The Right Rev. Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda has risked his own life and the lives of his family, for speaking out against the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda’s Parliament.

The highly respected Anglican bishop is visiting Southern California this month and will be one of the featured speakers at San Diego’s annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast on Friday, May 21.

Senyonjo will also attend a reception in his honor, hosted by HRC San Diego and Integrity USA, from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 19, at Top of the Park, 525 Spruce St.

The reception is part of an American and European tour by the bishop to raise awareness of the "Kill the Gays" bill being contemplated by the Ugandan legislature. That bill has been universally condemned, including by the U.S. Congress and the European Union.

Senyonjo is also speaking out about the connection between the "ex-gay" movement in the U.S. that is being exported to Africa and the rise of virulent homophobia in African nations that many blame on American evangelical missionaries.

For speaking out in Uganda in support of the LGBT community and human rights, Senyonjo was expelled in 2006 from the Church of Uganda by Archbishop Henry Orombi. Senyonjo remains chaplain to Uganda’s chapter of Integrity.

If Uganda’s controversial bill passes, Senyonjo’s ministry with Integrity would be outlawed and he could be imprisoned for lending support to gays and lesbians.

Senyonjo, 78, was ordained to the diaconate in Uganda in 1963 and to the priesthood in 1964 in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

He studied at Union Theological Seminary in 1963 and received honorary degrees from Yale Divinity School and Harford Seminary Connecticut. He became a bishop in 1974 and served in the West Buganda Diocese until his retirement in 1998.

As a bishop, Senyonjo was considered controversial because his teachings on matters of sexual ethics over the place of gays and lesbians within church and society.

In 1998, at the Lambeth Conference, a meeting of all bishops and archbishops throughout the Anglican Communion, Resolution 1.10 was passed that called for a genuine listening process to voices of gays and lesbians throughout the Communion.

Yet at the same time, then Ugandan Archbishop Livingstone Nkoyonjo supported Uganda President Musevene’s call for greater criminalization against homosexuality. Bishop Christopher was the only bishop who took the full text of the Lambeth Resolution to heart when it said: “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 the baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

He not only provided a safe place for LGBT Ugandans to come to listen, be counseled and to share in the sacramental life of the church, but he also opened a therapy practice as a marriage and family counselor to support his family.

The bishop’s respect for the full interpretation of the resolution brought him censure from his own denomination. This has caused him great personal hardship and persecution in the past five years as increasing hostility towards homosexuals and progressive human rights organizations has been noticeable. Recently, local politicians and church leaders were encouraged to increase criminal penalties against known homosexuals and their supporters, including organizations like Integrity.

The bishop has remained consistently critical of this legislation and is calling upon the international community and faith communities to oppose its passage and implementation.

“I want to assure you that there is no turning back on this road to full inclusion and pastoral sensitivity to all God's people in our church and therefore, I call upon the good leadership of my Church in Uganda to respond pastorally and quickly to all these unfortunate and open-ended forms of anarchy, which only serve to dent the good image of the church,” said Senyonjo, who is married and has 11 grandchildren.

On Saturday, Senyonjo attended the ordination of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as assistant bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church during an elaborate ceremony attended by 3,000 people at Long Beach Arena. Glasspool became only the second openly gay or lesbian bishop in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

The bishop will be visiting these communities after departing from San Diego:

• Orange County, May 15-16 and May 21

• San Francisco, May 22-26

• Minneapolis, Minn., and Kalamazoo, Mich., May 27- 31

• New York, June 6-8 and June 13-17

• Belfast and Dublin, Ireland, June 18-21

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