Friday, November 20, 2009

Turning up the heat on Uganda

Episcopal Life Online files this story about the ongoing controversy over the draconian anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda, which begins:

[Episcopal News Service] A proposed bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament that, if passed, would extend prison sentences for homosexuals and introduce the death penalty in certain cases has generated outrage from a number of religious groups while some Anglican leaders are being more cautious with their responses.
"The Episcopal Church, like the Anglican Communion as a whole, is very clear in its support for the human rights of all people, including gay and lesbian persons," said Alexander Baumgarten, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations. "For us in the Episcopal Church, that means we oppose all abuses of human rights, whether in our own midst or in other parts of the world, and we seek to make that opposition known through our ministry of advocacy."

from our UCC/Disciples of Christ colleagues:
Global Ministries Responds to Uganda's Bill on Sexual Discrimination

Dear President Museveni, Prime Minister Nsibambi, and Speaker Kiwanuka,

On behalf of Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, we write to share our concern about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which was tabled on October 14, 2009.

Global Ministries has, for many years, been in solidarity with Uganda on HIV/AIDS campaigns. We, along with the global community, have celebrated you as a model for Africa in the fight against HIV & AIDS. You have effectively addressed the pandemic with strong government leadership, broad-based partnerships and effective public education campaigns, all contributing to a decline in the number of people living with HIV and AIDS. You have also helped other African nations to respond to the crisis and reduce the number of new HIV/AIDS infections. Given your years of leadership to Africa in the fight against HIV, we want to share our concern about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009.

It is our humble opinion that the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 violates the rights of God's children in Uganda. It punishes the free association and expression that is necessary for a flourishing civil society, and creates a climate of fear and hostility which undermines the citizenship and solidarity of all Ugandans. We agree with Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) that this bill will "set a dangerous precedent and send a signal that any Ugandan's privacy is unguaranteed—all of our civil society could be put under attack. If this bill is passed into law, it will clearly endanger the work of all human rights defenders and members of civil society in Uganda."

Because the bill also prohibits any organizing around sexual orientation, it will make it difficult, if not impossible, to do effective HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to talk frankly about sexuality and provide condoms and other safer-sex material. "The proposed bill also support stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people, and would undermine years of effort to tackle the epidemic, " according to Solome Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe, a human rights activist, and Frank Mugisha, co-chair of SMUG. Further, we believe this bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. Discrimination aimed at people who are most affected by HIV drives people underground which research consistently shows facilitates the spread of HIV

We request that you consider the concerns raised in this letter, which are also the concerns of many throughout world who are committed to creating a community of peace with justice for all of God's children.

Rev. David Vargas - Co-executive of Global Ministries
Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte - Co-executive of Global Ministries


And this from the Chicago Consultation:


Group Sends Letters to Presiding Bishop, House of Deputies President,
Archbishop of Canterbury, and Archbishop of Uganda

CHICAGO, IL, November 20, 2009—The Chicago Consultation today asked the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; President of the House of Deputies Dr. Bonnie Anderson; and the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, to speak out against draconian anti-gay legislation introduced in the Ugandan Parliament last month.

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and Jesus teaches us to care for the vulnerable and the marginalized. The proposed Ugandan legislation is as far from those commandments as it could be,” said the Rev. Lowell Grisham, co-convener of the Chicago Consultation. “The Anglican Communion has committed itself to the pastoral care of gay and lesbian people. At a time like this, we implore its leaders to speak out.”

Uganda’s so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” proposes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for touching another individual with homosexual intent. Belonging to a gay organization, advocating gay rights and providing condoms or safe-sex advice to gays and lesbians could result in a seven-year prison sentence. Failing to report violations of the law within 24 hours would be punishable by a three-year prison term. In contravention of international law, the new legislation would also apply to Ugandans living in other countries.

In 1998, the Lambeth Conference, a worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops passed Resolution 1.10, committing themselves to the pastoral care of gays and lesbians. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed legislation (D005) in 2006 opposing the criminalization of homosexuality.

Seventeen human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have pointed out that the bill would criminalize their work and significantly diminish the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. Even Exodus International, which promotes controversial therapies to change a person’s sexual identity, opposes this bill because it is so harsh.

“Across North America, Europe and Africa, people of goodwill oppose this draconian legislation,” Grisham said. “But within the Anglican Communion, only the Church of Canada has found its voice. We are eager to hear our leaders speak out on behalf of frightened, isolated and persecuted gays and lesbians in Uganda, and on behalf of all Anglicans who believe in the dignity of every human being.” Grisham said.

Spokesmen for the Church of Uganda initially supported the bill, but advocated that the death penalty provision and extradition provisions be removed. As the international backlash against the bill has intensified, the Church has retreated from its original position and now says it has no position on the bill.

American evangelist Rick Warren, who has close ties to Archbishop Orombi and the Ugandan church, has refused to condemn the bill, saying he has no position on it.


But wait -- there's more! Episcopal Cafe has this "breaking news:"

A special session of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has been called to discuss the church's position on the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" currently before the Ugandan Parliament. The meeting will be conducted via conference call on the afternoon of December 7, according to numerous sources.
. .
Special sessions of Executive Council can be called by the Presiding Bishop or, as in this instance, by a petition signed by at least nine members of the council.
Council members have been discussing the Ugandan issue informally among themselves for more than a month. Some members of the council were eager for the church to join 17 human rights organizations and the Anglican Church of Canada in condemning the bill, while others argued that such action would do more harm than good.


Meanwhile, here's the VERY folksy, personal note I got from the Presiding Bishop's office in response to my email urging TEC to speak up:
To: Susan Russell
Subject: From the Office of Bishop Jefferts Schori
Dear Canon Russell,

Thank you for your recent email to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. This is to confirm that it has been received by our office.

Once again, thank you for writing.

Miguel Angel Escobar
Office of the Presiding Bishop


I keep remembering the text Bishop Katharine picked for her investiture:

Luke 4:14-21
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a hard time reconciling those words with the actions (or lack thereof) coming from 815 on this to-me-oughta-be-a-no-brainer-of-course-we're-against-this-and-we're-called-to-use-our-moral-authority-to-speak-out-for-those-who-can't-speak-for-themselves issue.

Stay tuned. And if you HAVEN'T taken the few minutes it'll take you to add your voice to those urging action from our leadership, there's no time like the present. Click here to email Bishop Katharine's office and let her know that we expect more than this from those we've elected to lead TEC!

AND be sure to quote from Resolution D005 of the 2006 General Convention: "Oppose Criminalization of Homosexuality"

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention adopt the following statement:

The 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church declares that efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, incompatible with resolutions at successive Lambeth conferences including the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10, and incompatible with the Primates’ statement from Dromantine which declares that the, “victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”

In affirming these consistent statements we declare our opposition to the imposition of civil or criminal penalties, especially imprisonment and execution, upon gay and lesbian people and our opposition to laws anywhere in the world that specifically target and impose imprisonment for homosexual behavior, speech, or assembly of gay and lesbian people and their supporters; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention commend the government of Brazil for it courageous efforts to extend the protections of the U.N.’s Declaration on Human Rights to include gay and lesbian people and that the Secretary of Convention convey this resolution to the Brazilian Ambassador to the United States and the Episcopal Primate of Brazil. We commend to their attention Lambeth 1998 I.1, which affirms and adopts the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention direct the Executive Council to monitor the progress of efforts to criminalize or decriminalize homosexuality and efforts such as Brazil’s to extend the protections of basic human rights; and be it further

Resolved, That the Secretary of the 75th General Convention convey this resolution to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, all Primates in the Anglican Communion, the President of the United States, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary General of the United Nations, Anglican Observer of the United Nations, heads of state of all nations represented by Bishops and Deputies, all U.S. Senators and Representatives and the Governors of all states or territories within the pastoral jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church.

1 comment:

Rev. David Justin Lynch said...

Isn't the Anglican CBurch in Uganda poaching on us by trying to take our buildings? If so, their failure to oppose this terrible legislation is consistent with their unacceptable behavior pattern,