Monday, March 4, 2013

SUNY (State University of New York) Students Hear Other Sheep Presentation

At an Other Sheep presentation on LGBT Christians in Kenya and Uganda, SUNY (Statue University of New York) students of Geneseo hear an activist lawyer comment on how “human rights” is not grasped in developing countries where the Bible is believed to be the final authority in all things

by Rev. Stephen Parelli
Executive Director, Other Sheep
Bronx, NY
March 4, 2013

Rev. Parelli speaks on why "religion" is so important to the work of human rights for LGBT people in countries like Uganda
Rev. Stephen Parelli,  Executive Director of Other Sheep, speaking on the topic of religion and homosexuality in Uganda, told a group of thirty plus students attending the Pride Alliance February 28 meeting at State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo in western New York, that the rational for Other Sheep could be found in a quote taken from Religion, Conflict and Democracy in Modern Africa (2012):  “. . . what you fellows don’t understand is that you must get at a man through his religion and not yours” (emphasis is Parelli’s from his PowerPoint presentation).

Parelli, quoting from Gerrie ter Haar’s How God Became African (2009), said “The extreme attention to the Bible as the authoritative and infallible word of God is another notable point of distinction between African Christians and most of their Western counterparts.”   Parelli was quick to note, however, that according to Mark Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity, a “key mark of evangelicalism,” whether in the United States or Africa, is “the Bible as ultimate religious authority.”  Parelli remarked that the book The Children Are Free, the book that Other Sheep distributes which is on what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality, addresses the topic of homosexuality from the evangelical perspective, that is, that the Bible is the final authority in all that it addresses, and therefore speaks to the African through his religion.

Following Parelli’s presentation, a local activist lawyer from Rochester, who presented briefly about a film he is making on a developing country and homophobia, commented that “human rights” is not a principle that developing countries recognize when talking about equality for gays.  Instead, he said, you must talk to them about what God is or is not saying, referencing the Bible.  What God may or may not say about homosexuality trumps any idea of human rights, according the lawyer.  The activist lawyer went on to say that the ministry of Other Sheep, in countries like Uganda, is exactly what is needed.

David Kato (left) with Steve Parelli, Uganda, 2007.
Parelli commented that “liberty of conscience” addresses the idea of human rights in the specific context of religion, that is, that each person is at liberty to follow the dictates of his or her own heart in the matter of what the Bible does or does not say about homosexuality without the interference of the state or church.  Parelli commented that David Kato, when learning about “liberty of conscience” for the first time in a discussion with Parelli, asked Parelli, “Where can I get more information about liberty of conscience.”

Parelli’s presentation focused on Other Sheep’s work in Uganda and Kenya since 2007.  Other Sheep, which began in 1992 in Latin America, is an ecumenical Christian organization that empowers LGBT people of faith worldwide.  Parelli became Executive Director of Other Sheep in 2005 and since then, with his husband Jose Ortiz, has visited countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Jill McPherson and Sam Colbert of SUNY Geneseo Pride Alliance invited Parelli to speak to the SUNY students in conjunction with his being on campus as the honored guest of the March 2nd benefit concert for Other Sheep.


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