Sexual Minorities Ugnada and Integrity Uganda call upon Ugandan religious leaders to recognise gay rights

by David Kato

Press Release
26th February, 2008

The Archbishop, Church of Uganda
The Most Rt. Rev. Henry Luke Orombi

Your worship Archbishop, Church of Uganda, among other Bishops you were invited to attend the Lambeth conference. However you have decided to boycott the conference and you say, in reference to the decision taken December 9th, 2006 by the Ugandan Bishops, “We will definitely not attend the Lambeth conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants”. You further state, because the American Bishops who are supporting homosexuals are invited, we have decided that if the American Bishops are invited, the Bishops of the Church of Uganda are not going. Also during the Primates’ summit in Tanzania you refused the Holy Communion and continued to say, “We took a position last December and we want to affirm that, we are not going to ride on the wings of the Americans”.

The Lambeth Conference is the Meeting of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Anglican Communion world wide; it will take place at the University of Kent in Canterbury England from July 16th to 4th August 2008. The Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with the scripture. It also can not advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions or ordaining those involved in same gender unions.

Hostile views from different religious leaders in Uganda against the fundamental rights of LGBTI people have once again been reiterated in reaction to the invitation of gay Bishops to attend the Lambeth conference scheduled to take place in July 2008.

Frank Mugisha Co-Chairperson Sexual Minorities Uganda a human rights organization that advocates for the rights of LGBTI people and David Kato Secretary Integrity Uganda, a faith based Christian organization which clarifies that the Bible does not condemn same-sex relationships, have said:

“We further affirm that the question of rights and freedoms of LGBTI people in Uganda is a fundamental human rights question and not a theological question.

“Sexual Minorities Uganda and Integrity Uganda call upon the Christian churches of Uganda to reexamine the scriptures in light of the real existence of faith and committed LGBTI Christians of Uganda, their fundamental human rights, social sciences and psychology.  However churches in Uganda may not be willing to accept and may choose not to reexamine their theological position on homosexuality. However, they should appreciate and adopt in their teachings and policies the fundamental human rights and the liberty of conscience of every individual regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Boycotting the Lambeth conference on the grounds of anticipated presence of gay bishops conveys to the world that Ugandan Church leaders are contending a social issue and not a Biblical or religious one. The love of God extends to “whosoever” without discrimination. The unconditional love as well as the Scriptural mandate of the universal church dictates that church leaders should be “gatherers” and not “scatterers”, pursuers of peace and not sowers of discord. This is a very sad day indeed when the leaders of the Christian churches of Uganda – ordained mouthpieces of the inclusive love and mercy of God – arm themselves with stones, and publicly declare their intent to throw them at those they regard as “sinners” or “divergent” from the Christian faith at the Lambeth conference.

“It is important to note that there are many issues that are misunderstood and disagreeable to many Christians and to society at large. Homosexuality is just one of these issues, and in no way a greater issue than others. Being able to listen and dialogue is the church leaders’ mandate, choices for or against certain behavior and lifestyle changes, whatever they may be, are the business of God and individuals concerned.

“The principle of liberty of conscience, held by many Christian denominations, demonstrates that no mere human authority – civil government or religious institution – has power to grant or to withhold from men the exercise of freedom in matters of religious belief and religious practice.  Homosexuality is a private religious matter between God and the individual.  Liberty of conscience demonstrates that it is the individual’s inalienable right to exercise his judgment without restraint in religious matters and to give expression, freely and fully to his religious convictions, without human dictation or interference.  Not all religious people believe homosexuality is irreligious, ungodly or sinful.  More and more Christians in Africa (Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, America, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world) are revisiting their outlook on the co-relation between God, the Bible and homosexuality.

“What is the truth? Whereas the fact is that homosexuality is not a “norm”, the truth is God loves homosexuals and He does not condemn those who respect and adhere to committed, honorable, and loving same-sex relationships.

“Religious leaders have historically taught that government is the government of all the people and that government must not put into law the doctrines of any one religion. Therefore the question of gay rights is a fundamental human rights question and can never become a theological question. Because of the doctrine of liberty of conscience, the church is not to impose upon others its teachings on homosexuality through government or the church’s own legislation.

“Homosexuality in Uganda as in other parts of the world is an affront to the religious community because of the church’s official message of hate and rejection for homosexuals. Boycotting the Lambeth conference is one such message. It is not homosexuality the Bishops are addressing in their boycott because homosexuality is not tangible or visible but rather they are saying that they will not sit in the same room or gather at the same meet with homosexuals, not because of any other reason but simply because they are self confessed homosexuals. By this action, they are setting a precedent of hostility and rejection, a position that contravenes leadership ethics and is certain to hurt the church and society in future.

“Therefore, it must be said again and again in any society where religious teachings against homosexuality dominate, that the views of the religious majority are not to be forced onto the sexual minority.  As long as a gay man or woman does not infringe upon the rights of other individuals, the homosexual, who is often Christian, has the same right as his or her heterosexual counterpart, to interpret the Bible according to his or her understanding and to answer only before God and not to the government or to the church, for the latter’s mandate is only to guide and not to impose or judge, for we will all individually appear before God, who is the judge of us all.  It is the responsibility of the government to guarantee the fundamental human rights of the freedom of exercise in regard to religion to the homosexual who wishes to live according to his/her sexual orientation, his/her conscious being clear before God.

“Religious oppression of minorities has caused horrendous injustices and suffering ever known to man and these injustices are towards faithful believers who often belong to an “uncomfortable” social class. From slave trade and apartheid, to the Nazi terror, religious leaders and religious institutions have been and still are accountable for the misinformation that leads to suffering, violence and death among the vulnerable faithful, and in this case, sexual and gender minorities.

“The immortalized values and messages of an embracing love, mercy and compassion by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King remind us of the real enemy as the “popular untruth”. Perpetrators of the Untruths – usually in places of authority and influence – deliver them from pulpits and podiums to victimize those that believe them.

“The task of religious leaders is to bring the truth to the victims of untruth and to do this by showing and giving inclusive love to all. It should be the Church’s moral obligation to seek and to reconcile sexuality and spirituality, to draw the line between human opinions and God’s business, which is to draw ALL people to Himself, bringing them to the knowledge of His wide, deep, and high love through Jesus Christ.”

END

David Kato
Secretary – Integrity – Uganda
Frank Mugisha
Co-chairperson Sexual Minorities – Uganda

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