Stephen Bates – The Guardian
A gay Ugandan Anglican has been denied a visa to enter Britain in order to attend a meeting at the invitation of the Anglican church on 1 February because there is a warrant for his arrest in his home country where homosexuality is punishable by life imprisonment.
Chris Senteza was dismissed from his job as head teacher at a church school and forced into hiding after speaking at a conference of gay Christians in Manchester 15 months ago. His application for a visa has been rejected by the British high commission in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, apparently because of his sexuality.
He had been invited to join a delegation due to meet Canon Gregory Cameron, the secretary to the church’s commission responsible for the Windsor report. The delegation includes representatives from Changing Attitude England and Scotland, LGCM Anglican Matters, Integrity USA and other English organisations. Canon Cameron is taking soundings from different church groups before the primates of the church meet to discuss the report in Northern Ireland in three weeks.
Mr Senteza’s views would be important for a church which says it wants to listen to gay people, because Anglican African leaders have been outspoken in their opposition to any accommodation with homosexuals. Some have even denied that there is such a thing in their countries, and Anglican leaders in Uganda have been particularly hostile.
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda who was educated in Britain at Nottingham University, has called on US Episcopalians to “repent of their unbiblical behaviour and teaching” for electing Gene Robinson, the gay bishop of New Hampshire.
The Rev Colin Coward, the director of Changing Attitude, which was sponsoring Mr Senteza’s trip and had paid for his ticket, criticised the move. He said: “This is appalling because it compromises the church’s ability to seek responses to its policy apart from those in the five or six provinces of the Anglican communion where homosexuality is not a crime. “The British government is failing to recognise that there are people applying for visas who need support and encouragement to enable them to take part in the church’s consultation processes. It was important for Chris’s voice to be heard.”
Mr Senteza applied for a visa at the British high commission on January 13 but was told he needed a police clearance certificate, which he could not obtain without the threat of arrest. He then reapplied, making no reference to the purpose of his visit, with a letter of support from the secretary of his diocese in Namirembe.
He was told he could have a visa if he came to the office with his return airline ticket, but when he did so earlier this week he was informed that he could not be seen because the visa section was busy. On his next return on Friday, Mr Senteza was told that he would have to show British currency as proof that he would be spending money in Britain and contributing to the economy. Changing Attitude then wired him £250, but the high commission was closed for lunch and when it reopened told him that it was only dealing with British citizens in the afternoon.
A Foreign Office spokesman declined to discuss an individual’s case, but said Mr Stentaza would have been told why he was not being granted admission. It was suggested that the Church of England might intercede on his behalf, but without guarantee that this would alter the decision. Canon Cameron was not available for comment yesterday.