Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Other Sheep addresses LGBT/SOGI human rights consultation meeting, June 14, 2010, at Church Center of the United Nations, United Nations Plaza 4.

By Rev. Stephen Parelli, Bronx, NY.  June 15, 2010

On June 14th, 2010, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office hosted a day-long consultation on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and the international decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity with Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, LGBT advocate, ally, and exiled Bishop of the Church of Uganda.

Executive Director of Other Sheep Rev. Stephen Parelli, a panel member of the first session, citing Mary Wangila, author of Female Circumcision, The Interplay of Religion, Culture, and Gender in Kenya, said the problem of, and the answer to, homophobia in East Africa is one and the same: religion. Citing Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity, and concurring with Julius Kaggwa the panelist who spoke before him that Uganda is an evangelical country, Parelli referenced "The East African Revival" of the 1920s as the historical reason for the present day evangelical fervor in East Africa. Parelli said evangelicals believe in the final authority of the Word of God and that when addressing evangelicals about homosexuality one need's to understand the evangelical's starting point: the Word of God.

Parelli provided two hand outs to the participants: A critique on Ysufu Turaki's featured article on homosexuality in Zondervan's Africa Bible Commentary and "Kenyan Coming Out Stories: Creating Communities of Listeners."

Parelli, referring to Ysufu Turaki's homophobic, intolerant article as an example of how religion is the problem, said the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Dr. Douglas Carew of Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology endorse Africa Bible Commentary. Parelli said Other Sheep, in view of the intolerant article on homosexuality, has written board members of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa asking them to give their position on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and that no reply was received.

By contrast, showing how religion is part of the answer, Parelli said on May 27, 2010, Other Sheep Kenya held a discussion with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School Apologetics class on human sexuality, gender identity and Christianity and that one student said this was her first time to learn about homosexuality in an academic setting.

In addition, Parelli referenced two seminars on homosexuality and religion conducted by Other Sheep Kenya on the cost of Kenya as an example of how education is crucial. Parelli, reading from the recommendations of the Other Sheep Christian Religious Leaders' Seminar (March 5, 2010) and the recommendations of the Other Sheep dialogue with Muslim Religious Leaders (March 6, 2010), said Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Kenya are asking for more seminars and educational materials that will address their respective sacred writings, sexual orientation, human sexuality and religion.

Parelli said that Other Sheep has distributed in Africa The Blue Book and The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships. Parelli said in 2008 Other Sheep conducted a full day seminar in Kampala, Uganda, on the Bible and homosexuality with 40 plus LGBT Christians in attendance. Parelli indicated the teaching on the Bible and homosexuality was liberating for Ugandan LGBT Christians. Parelli, reporting on the Other Sheep seminar on the Bible and homosexuality in Rwanda 2008, showed how the Bible, in its literal usage, as is the evangelical custom, has a far reaching impact for good or for ill.

Parelli, citing Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe's book Boy-Wives and Female Husbands as his source, said the African language has many native words that refer to same-sex sex which were in use before the white man came to Africa.  Europeans brought homophobia to Africa, not homosexuality, he said.  Homosexuality was there before the white man came.

Parelli read three written testimonies of LGBT Christians in East Africa whose lives were changed because of the educational materials or teachings they received on homosexuality and the Bible from Other Sheep. Parelli, quoting from the first testimonial, read "You gave me a book, The Children are Free. Very inspiring. Talk of people who have been transformed by the book . . . here I am. Kindly return to Africa . . . I appreciate your Other Sheep ministry . . . Good job." Quoting from a second testimonial and highlighting the idea of education, Parelli read, "We thank God for sending Jose and Steve to this country in such a time. We're blessed and going back to the glory that we'd left because of ignorance." Quoting from a third testimonial, Parelli read "I've been with Other Sheep for almost four months now. Other Sheep East Africa, through Rev. Kimindu, enabled me to reconcile my Christianity with my homosexuality. I've come out to my sis. … I just wanted to thank people like you for what you do. It saved this life. Glory be to God."

In the final session of the day, Parelli said the most valuable resource for the battle against homophobia in Africa is already in place, i.e., the religious leaders and the LGBT activist in the pew in East Africa. Parelli said, they are educated, they know their region and their people; they know how to work their situation. It is for us to learn from them, understand them and the strategy they would employ; to work with them and to provide the tools they require and need.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kenyan Clergymen Urged to talk about Sexual Orientation and Equality in Church

Rev. Michael Kimindu of Metropolitan Community Church and Coordinator for Other Sheep East Africa speaks on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)'s weekly morning family talk show.

Article by Ken Were (BTM) Correspondent   
June 6, 2010 at 5:10am
Courtesy: Mask Newline.

Religious Organizations in Kenya have been urged to promote human rights and embrace lesbians, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people who are part of religious groups.

This, according to reverend Michael Kimundu of Metropolitan Community Church, will not be promoting gay marriages or homosexuality, but will be advancing awareness on sexual orientation, human dignity and rights amongst Christians and Muslims.

Speaking on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)'s weekly morning family talk show, the Kimindu, also coordinator of Other Sheep East Africa, called on Churches to talk with zeal and openness about fundamental human rights and not use the bible to demonize members of the LGBTI community who are members of their churches.

Kimindu, challenged clergymen to accept realities of sexual orientation and its diversity in human beings.

"The bible or God did not discriminate any one. It talks of love, care and peace for all. This is the point my organization is trying to tell fellow clergymen and Christians and Muslims across the country that it is against the biblical teachings to chase away, isolate , hate and discriminate a member of the LGBTI community based on their sexual orientation ", Kimindu told the audience.

He also revealed that he has initiated an outreach mission to meet Church leaders with a view to provide civic education on human sexuality and sexual orientation in relationship to Christianity and the gospel.

He added that many clergymen in Kenya are in support of the course but are reluctant to speak publicly about the topic in their churches for fear of being sacked or excommunicated.

Rev. Kimundu, who was a senior clergy at the Anglican Church of Kenya in Nairobi, was excommunicated from the communion more than five years ago for openly supporting rights of LGBTI people in the Church.

"We are calling on church pastors, leaders and Imams in Mosques to help root out stigma directed at LGBTI members in their faith organizations. This is how the church can promote equality and human rights as is written in the holy scripture and the Koran that all human beings are the same in the eyes of God", Kimindu concluded.

Article by Ken Were (BTM) Correspondent

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kenyan Coming Out Stories: "Creating Communities of Listeners"

A Research Project by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli and Jose Enrique Ortiz

"By presenting a gay self, an individual alters social reality by creating a community of listeners and thereby establishing the beginnings of a new gay-aware culture."

Research Question
From our sample of Kenyan coming out stories, to what degree is there the "creating [of] a community of listeners” (CCL) in Kenya in five different areas of society: civil government, church and seminary, boarding school, family, and friends?

The Importance of the Research Question
According to A. C. Liang, by creating a community of listeners (CCL) around the topic of one's gay self, the LGBT individual establishes the beginnings of a new gay-aware culture which alters social reality (ASR). See Figure 1.

Method, Participants, Setting and Related Activities
For four weeks in the summer of 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, my partner Jose Ortiz and I, by invitation of a local HIV-AIDS education/prevention organization, conducted discussion groups with LGBT Kenyans. In our second story two-bedroom, suburban, gated community apartment, we recorded more than 30 coming out stories. Our apartment had become a virtual gay community center with people coming and going, at times, 14 hours a day. People signed up in advance for participation in discussion groups. In addition, mini-teaching sessions were conducted on the Bible and homosexuality, strategic organizational meetings were held, one for starting a Nairobi P-FLAG. Amazingly, one historic session with 18 LGBT people sharing their story with a leading religious leader from an influential and prominent main line denominational church in the city of Nairobi was miraculously orchestrated.

The private manicured grounds of the apartment complex included an outdoor pool with sauna and a grill and patio lounge area which was used to host a party for roughly 60 new-found friends at the end of our stay.

The 30 LGBT participants who agreed to be recorded were between the ages of 19 and 31. Most were college grads or attending college. All were gay except for three straight friends. All, for the most part, either at the time of the recording or formerly, could be characterized as religious or as deeply committed to their place of worship. Most had attended boarding school for primary and high school education.

After returning to our home in the Bronx, we transcribed the recordings into a manuscript of 74 pages. Our findings, as related to the research question, are presented here.

Data Collected
From the quotes that follow, we've tagged each excerpt as "creating a community of listeners" (potentially or in actuality) within one of five social areas: civil law, church and seminary, boarding school, friends, and family.

Some accounts are categorized as potentially creating a community of listeners (the gay self yet unpresented publically), while other accounts (the gay self actually presented publically) have, in reality, already created a community of listeners to some degree.

In some cases, individuals were forced to come out because they were found out. Others chose to come out. But whether by design or by default, the telling of one's story, feelings and thoughts establishes "the beginnings of a new gay-aware culture" which does, with time, "alter social reality."

To read the paper in full, click here.