Henry Mayor has sent a final report about his visit to Kenya, where the Bondo Diocesan Retreat on Same-Gender Sexual Relations and the Bible was the primary focus of his visit.
The last part of his Kenya trip took on a different character.
On September 12th in Nairobi, with Michael Kimindu, he met Anna Booth on her arrival from Manchester. Anna is a transgendered woman. On her first ever day in Kenya she spoke about herself at the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, to a group including 3 very smart young Kenyan women who had all been born male.
Anna, Michael and Henry travelled between Nairobi and the western part of Kenya, which includes Bondo. In three weeks they joined in four different acts of worship, visited ten different homes, and had encounters with people in twenty other places, including Johannes Angela and several other bishops. They also went to St. Paul’s University, Limuru, the premier theological college, where some of the staff are preparing a seminar on The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality.
For six nights they stayed in Bondo, travelling daily to different locations, including Nyajure, where more than a hundred orphans were playing and being taught and fed in the church grounds each Saturday by members of James Nyagudi’s church congregation.
Among Michael’s contacts, they met two Anglican clergymen who supported him, a score of gay men and several lesbians. Kenyan law still penalizes male-to-male sex, and although the police seldom prosecute them they still live in fear of violence and of ostracism, from neighbours and often from family members.
They heard of a woman who had just been killed for being a lesbian. And, on the day they returned to England, a gay Kenyan whom Henry had met in 2007, a devout Christian, was badly beaten up by friends he had trusted, simply because he was gay. He had to attend hospital and leave his accommodation. Other Sheep are now raising money to resettle him and his partner.
Other Christians beside the clergy of Bondo diocese are welcoming the open discussion of sexual orientation. One is Janet Wasonga, a friend of the Mayor family since the 1960s, with whom they stayed for three nights. She is a community nurse and psychological counsellor, and runs a network of people living with HIV and AIDS. They worshipped with her at Nyamonye, one of the first Bondo parishes to take the discussion to their church council and congregation.
Another is Rev Catherine Njagi of All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi where they made two visits. She first met Henry in 2006 and since then has encouraged him to get discussion going on gay issues.
Another is Rev. Mary Ong’injo, the Theological Education by Extension Officer for the Diocese of Maseno South. She got her Bishop to bring his clergy together for a day, where Henry spoke on the same lines as he had done in Bondo. Anna also spoke about being transgender and Michael spoke about the work of Other Sheep. The timescale was far too short, and they got some negative reactions, but positive ones too.
On Sunday September 27th they attended the service at Maseno School where, as the preacher hadn’t turned up, Michael was asked to preach, and delivered a remarkable extempore sermon on growing up in Christ, talking about same-gender sexual encounters in schools.
While they were in Kenya, an African in a sexual minority was much in the news: the local media took up the story of Caster Semenya, the South African Olympic runner, who had been proved to be not female but intersex. Also President Barack Obama, much adored in Kenya because his father was Kenyan (a Luo, brought up only a few miles away from Bondo town) must have given many people pause for thought when he publicly assured LGBT people of his support.
So in several different ways discussion about, and with, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and intersex people in Kenya has been going on. Henry have every hope that that will happen more widely. Though most Kenyan Christians are still a long way away from understanding LGBTI people in the terms we accept in Britain, their demand for more information is encouraging. There are now plenty of Kenyan Christians ready to continue opening up the topic.
Michael is a Kenyan Anglican priest who has been counselling LGBTI people for years, and now runs Other Sheep East Africa, a ministry to affirm LGBTI people, supported by the Metropolitan Community Church. He is the Changing Attitude contact person in Kenya.
Anna is a transgender woman: born male, but always believing she was really female, she had surgery to complete her transition over 2 years ago. Brought up as a churchgoing Anglican, she became churchwarden of her local church; they, the vicar and the bishop were supportive when she started to live as a woman. Now she is actively involved in worship at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manchester. She is eager to meet LGBTI people, tell her own story and talk about transgender issues, to anyone willing to listen.