The aroma of the incense hung heavily in the hot, humid air as the Ugandan prelate mounted the steps of the pulpit in the old village church, St. Luke in the Fields, in New York’s Greenwich Village last Sunday [June 6, 2010].
The Right Reverend Christopher Senyonjo, the retired Bishop of the Diocese of West Buganda, Uganda, took as his subject the second reading of the day: Galatians 1:11-24; Paul discussing his conversion from his former life as a persecutor of Christians. The congregation listened in rapt attention as the bishop spoke of his own "conversion" and how, by listening to the stories of LGBT people, he came to believe that LGBT Christians are full members of the body of Christ. He told of how he also has been persecuted and how, if a new bill proposed in the Ugandan Parliament becomes law, he himself may be jailed for his inclusive stance. He also spoke of how, in Uganda, openly LGBT persons are not able to receive any treatment for HIV/AIDS.
The Rev. Mary Foulke, Senior Associate for Pastoral Care and Outreach at St. Luke’s "was delighted to welcome Bp. Christopher to St. Luke’s and to make this connection with those around the world who embrace a critical Biblical theology in support of liberative practices of welcoming and standing up with those on the margins. Bp. Christopher is a wonderful example of many grassroots priests, bishops and lay leaders in the Southern Hemisphere that are doing great work and who don’t get the press or attention that others with more conservative American support seem to attract."
Paul J. Lane, the Chair of the parish’s LGBT Life @ St. Luke’s Committee and Diocesan Organizer for Integrity for the Diocese of New York says that "as a parish, this is only the beginning of our relationship with Bp. Christopher and Integrity Uganda. Our goal is to be able to raise $1000.00 for Bp. Christopher’s ministry and we began that journey today. The stories of our LGBT brothers and sisters around the world must be brought to the attention of those of us who live in more accepting societies." St. Luke’s history as been one of full inclusion as well as support of such organizations such as Integrity USA and Changing Attitude Nigeria, having in the past hosted Mr. Davis Mac-Iyalla, the exiled leader of CA Nigeria.
After the service, Bp. Christopher was an honored guest at the annual parish picnic, where he was able to speak directly to many parish members, including a group of seminarians from his own alma mater, Union Theological Seminary.
Integrity USA, a 35-year-old LGBT advocacy group within The Episcopal Church, is the sponsor of Bishop Christopher visit.