Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Summer of Reflection: Bishop Christopher's visit to SF

The Rev. John Kirkley
San Francisco, California

In August of 2007, I had the privilege of visiting with members of Integrity-Uganda in Kampala. During my two weeks there, I was continually struck by the fortitude and courage of gay and lesbian young adults who were taking great risks for the sake of human rights in their country. Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, as chaplain to Integrity-Uganda, was their spiritual mentor, pastor, and guide. His love for these young people - at great cost to his reputation and security - is an inspiration. The hospitality that he and his wife, Mary, offered to them and to me is a memory that I cherish.

It was a great joy to be able to return this hospitality when Bishop Christopher visited the San Francisco Bay Area in May. Our celebration of the feast of Pentecost was especially grand with the Bishop as the guest preacher at St. John the Evangelist y El Buen Samaritano, San Francisco. A bilingual liturgy (Spanish & English) with the Gospel lesson spoken in 14 languages was the perfect setting for Bishop Christopher's prophetic witness to the power of God's love to transcend differences and unite us in common mission.

That evening, Bishop Christopher was the guest of Bishop Marc and Sheila Andrus for a reception at their home. He spoke with humility and gratitude about the difference we can make in Uganda by opposing the anti-gay legislation proposed there. His profoundly moving stories about the need for dialogue, education, and advocacy regarding LGBT human rights in his home country underscored the importance of our continued financial support of Integrity-Uganda's work. It is a matter of life and death.

For the next two days, Bishop Christopher zoomed around the Bay Area in partnership with Equality California - speaking at the Pacific School of Religion, the San Francisco African-American Cultural Center, the San Francisco LGBT Center and City Hall. Everyone he met - politicians, activisits, reporters and religious leaders alike - came away impressed by his eloquent and passionate commitment to justice and human rights for all. He gave a very human and Christian face to the struggles of LGBT people in Uganda, a much-needed perspective for both secular and religious leaders in the United States.

Bishop Christopher made me feel proud to be a part of the Anglican Communion, and grateful for the opportunity it has afforded me to know him as my brother and friend. My prayer is that, in time, he will come to represent the future of our Communion.

The Rev. John  Kirkley was an openly gay candidate for Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

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