Friday, November 20, 2009


Press Statement from
1st African Dialogue on Sexuality and Christian Faith
Hosted by Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) in partnership with The Rainbow Project (TRP) of Namibia from 2-5 November 2009, Stellenbosch.

The past few days 77 participants from 13 African countries met for the first time ever to dialogue about the issue of sexual orientation from a Christian faith perspective. The participants included clergy (pastors, Bishops, National Church Council leadership and Academics) and an equal number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersexed (LGBTI) people, of whom a few were also clergy. The countries represented were Botswana, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
During the Introduction we discussed Faith, Cultural and Human Rights issues that made this dialogue necessary: polarization in the Church, diversity in Bible interpretation, patriarchy, lack of knowledge, the fear of persecution of LGBTI people and all those in solidarity with them, laws criminalizing homosexuality in most African countries and right–wing USA groups influencing the agenda of Church and Politics, as in Uganda (read statement attached as appendix).
We introduced the method of DIALOGUE as the preferred Biblical way in which people of faith should discuss this very sensitive, and to many painful, issues – as opposed to DEBATE which only polarizes, rather than pull us together. During the very first session the participants grew to appreciate the safe space that this method of dialogue offered them and started to share freely and often very personally.
Participants moved from a place of fear to a place of empowerment and hope. LGBTI individuals were initially fearful, because of their history of rejection and persecution by the church or government laws, were apprehensive of their fellow clergy participants and on the other hand some clergy admitted that they have never before been exposed to LGBTI Christians.
We experienced dialogue as a way to grapple with the challenges we are facing regarding sexual orientation and our faith. We were able to listen to the stories and testimonies of painful and challenging journeys that touched us all, without fear of rejection and condemnation. The dialogue offered us for the first time to be hopeful of a journey that can bind us together as fellow Christians, rather than divide us.
We therefore affirm and call upon all fellow African Christians to engage in dialogue in finding our way forward, together. There is a great need for safe spaces for dialogue within our faith communities. We need to listen more deeply to all the diverse journeys fellow Christians on our continent are finding themselves on regarding their spirituality and sexuality.
We acknowledged that there are major stumbling blocks that hinder us from fully engaging in dialogue, these include:
· lack of knowledge about sexual orientation,
· scriptural interpretations,
· silence and often invisibility of LGBTI people within faith communities,
· taboo’s on discussing sexuality in Africa,
· hierarchical church structures,
· oppressive laws etc.
These stumbling blocks forced most of the Church into debate ABOUT the issue rather than engage WITH fellow brothers and sisters who happen to be LGBTI.
We entered into a hopeful journey of finding and discussing stepping stones for us in Africa to enable us to start a long and rewarding dialogue process.
· provide information to lessen ignorance
· commitment from participants to create safe spaces for dialogue in their countries
· reading Scripture inclusively that reflects the spirit of love and compassion of the Gospel
· In order to counteract stereotyping - training and education of the media
· Telling our stories through our culture and faith communities in order to bring more exposure
· The importance of self acceptance and affirmation of LGBTI people etc.
We believe God has gifted us with both sexuality and spirituality as aspects of our humanity. It is our duty and responsibility, as members of the same Body of Christ, to affirm amidst our diversity and differences that all of us are made in the image of God. We are equal in value and thus deserve to commit ourselves to this process of encounter, listening and sharing.
We belief that the Holy Spirit is guiding us through dialogue to find our way forward, even in the face of so much fear, anger, pain and even hatred.

We have asked all participants to share the letter underneath from one of our Ugandan participants with their constituencies and call for more tolerance in their country.
We also submit this letter to this press conference for the notice of the wider public in the hope that the South African Council of Churches and worldwide Christian Bodies will give it their serious attention:

“Every day millions of Christians pray to be spared from being put to the test. This prayer is especially applicable for Christians everywhere in regard to the “anti- homosexuality bill”, which has been put to parliament in Uganda, by Member of Parliament Bahati. This extremely unpleasant proposed bill targets not only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people but also Human Rights and HIV/AIDS prevention activists and people in positions of trust and authority. While some in the church are backing and propelling the bill, other Christians face a challenge to the principles at the heart of their faith.” This statement reiterates why all Christians everywhere should not support this HATE bill:

The bill breaks rather than build the family. It makes family members ‘spies’ of each other rather than “keepers” of one another. It turns parents into prosecutors of their children and siblings into accusers of one another.
It makes everyone suspicious of any kind of affection in case it is interpreted as intent to commit homosexuality.
It undermines and totally dispels the place of compassion, understanding, and love within the Christian Faith.
It totally undermines the pivotal role of grace in the Christian Faith. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us…” The work of salvation was done for us before we were aware of it or even accepted it. God’s gift of love was not dependent on our identities or sexuality or even willingness to acknowledge the gift. It was just given. The Church has the duty to exemplify this understanding and demonstration of love.

The same scriptures that are being used to persecute and demonize LGBTI people are very clear on the duty of all Christians to bear with one another’s differences - to be tolerant, to desist from judgment, and to practice the golden rule where we give others the treatment that we would have

Some people think that being homosexual, we are sinners but many people know that we are children of God created in God’s image. Whatever you believe, we call upon you to appreciate that Bahati’s bill is not about any of this; it is not even about homosexuality. It is about politics. It is about hate. It is about intolerance. Among its draconian and hate-inciting provisions, the bill proposes that;

Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty;

Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;

Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;

And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts to combat the spread of HIV;

God calls on all of us to act with compassion, not to call for unfair treatment and oppression of those with a minority voice. God calls on all of us to build family, not to tear it apart by sowing seeds of discord, hatred, suspicion, and intolerance. God calls on all of us to understand and appreciate our differences not to use these to oppress one another.
Even if you think that homosexuality is a sin, we call upon you to oppose this bill.


Groundbreaking PRA Investigation Exposes Influence of U.S. Religious Conservatives in Promoting Homophobia in Africa

Groundbreaking PRA Investigation Exposes Influence of U.S. Religious Conservatives in Promoting Homophobia in Africa by Kapya Kaoma.

U.S. Christian Right also mobilizes African clerics in U.S. “culture war” over ordination of LGBT clergy

Sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars as U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight, a groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) discovered.

Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia, a new report by PRA Project Director Reverend Kapya Kaoma, exposes the U.S. Right’s promotion of an agenda in Africa that aims to criminalize homosexuality and otherwise infringe upon the human rights of LGBT people while also mobilizing African clerics in U.S. culture war battles.

U.S. social conservatives who are in the minority in mainline churches depend on African religious leaders to legitimize their positions as their growing numbers makes African Christians more influential globally. These partnerships have succeeded in slowing the mainline Protestant churches’ recognition of the full equality of LGBT people. It’s working despite the real movement toward full equality within deonominations because of the sensitivity of liberals to the question of colonialism. Are we being insensitive to the realities of Africa? But, Kaoma argues, although U.S. conservatives have organized African religious leaders as a visible force opposing LGBT equality, it is not true that all of Africa takes this stand.

In the United States, Kaoma focuses on “renewal” groups in The Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church USA, and Presbyterian Church USA; U.S conservative evangelicals; and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a neoconservative think tank that has sought to undermine Protestant denominations’ tradition of progressive social justice work for decades.

In Africa, Kaoma investigates ties U.S. conservatives have established with religious leaders in Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya and the impact of homophobia exported from the United States to these Anglophone countries.

As Kaoma argues, the U.S. Right – once isolated in Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, White supremacist regimes – has successfully reinvented itself as the mainstream of U.S. evangelicalism. Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials, U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals and present themselves as the true representatives of U.S. evangelicalism, so helping to marginalize Africans’ relationships with mainline Protestant churches.

The investigation’s release could not be timelier, as the Ugandan parliament considers the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Language in that bill echoes the false and malicious charges made in Uganda by U.S antigay activist and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively that western gays are conspiring to take over Uganda and even the world.

"We need to stand up against the U.S. Christian Right peddling homophobia in Africa," said Kaoma, who in recent weeks asked U.S. evangelist Rick Warren to denounce the bill and distance himself from its supporters. "I heard church people in Uganda say they would go door to door to root out LGBT people and now our brothers and sisters are being further targeted by proposed legislation criminalizing them and threatening them with death. The scapegoating must stop."

While the American side of the story is known to LGBT activists and their allies witnessing struggles over LGBT clergy within Protestant denominations in the United States, what’s been missing has been the effect of the Right’s proxy wars on Africa itself. Kaoma’s report finally brings this larger, truly global, picture into focus.

“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” writes PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos in the report’s foreword. “Africa’s antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A.”
Leaders within mainline Protestant denominations hailed the report.

"The exploitation of African Christians by right-wing organizations in the United States is reprehensible. Where were these individuals and organizations and their leaders during the struggles against colonialism and apartheid? They certainly were not standing in solidarity with the people of Africa. Today, they use a variety of corrupt practices and methods in a vain attempt to turn back the tide of history. This report reveals the truth about what is going on and should be required reading for American church leaders," said Jim Winkler, the general secretary of the international public policy and social justice agency of The United Methodist Church.

For his 16-month investigation, Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, traveled in the United States and Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria, attended the notorious antigay conference of Uganda’s Family Life Network in March, and documented concerns among the region’s clergy that U.S. conservatives are contributing to corruption among bishops with their lax requirements for donated funds.
Although written primarily for a U.S. audience, Globalizing the Culture Wars is certain to cause a stir in English-speaking Africa, where conservative U.S. evangelicals have for too long escaped the close scrutiny of African social justice activists and movements.

Kapya John Kaoma
Project Director Kapya John Kaoma is an Anglican priest from Zambia now leading churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. A doctoral candidate at Boston University School of Theology, he has studied in evangelical schools in Zambia and the United Kingdom. From 1998 to 2001, he served as dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Mutare, Zimbabwe and lecturer at Africa University, where he coauthored a text in ethics, Unity in Diversity. From 2001 to 2002, he was academic dean of St. John’s Anglican Seminary in Kitwe, Zambia, where he launched its women’s studies and church school training programs. An active campaigner for women’s reproductive rights, Kaoma is a passionate activist for social witness in the world.

Political Research Associates
Political Research Associates (PRA) is a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights, with a focus on the U.S. political Right. Political Research Associates seeks to advance progressive thinking and action by providing accurate, research-based, information, analysis, and referrals.