In a development of great significance for LGBTI Anglicans, members of Changing Attitude Kenya’s steering committee together with local LGBTI Anglicans met Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa on Saturday 20th October 2012. The importance of the meeting extends to LGBTI Africans, Christians and people of faith across the continent.
The meeting evolved from the foundations laid by CA Kenya and the bishop’s involvement in the Listening Process and Continuing Indaba. Seven CA Kenya members met with the bishop in a hotel in Mtwapa.
Revd Michael Kimindu and I had met Bishop Julius privately in March 2012 when he was preparing to travel to a meeting in Canada. Since then, he has clearly grown in confidence and openness, prepared to meet with and actively support LGBTI people in his own diocese and the national Church.
Michael Kimindu opened the meeting with a reading from Acts 6 about the seven deacons. He said this depicted clearly how Christians were early defenders of human rights, following the example of Moses, Stephen the martyr and Jesus. Michael paused to ask: “Who are the martyrs ready to suffer for the sake of realizing the universal acceptance and inclusion of Anglican LGBTI persons within the Anglican Communion?”
Changing Attitude Kenya’s foundation
Chairing the meeting, Daniel Peter Onyango described the March 2012 visit to Bishop Mwai Abiero of Maseno South Diocese with Colin Coward, the Director of CA England. He briefed Bishop Julius about our Nairobi meetings and our visit to retired Archbishop David Gitari. Daniel described CA-K’s strategic plan and the intention to visit and meet with clergy across the country.
Bishop Julius Kalu and the Listening Process
The Bishop shared his experience in the first listening committee known as ‘Bishops in Dialogue’ meeting to which he was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2010. One of their major tasks was to look into the issues and needs relevant to homosexuality. ‘Indaba’ is a South African word meaning keen listening leading towards understanding and agreement.
He said that at the first meeting in London last year and earlier this year in Toronto, he spent the entire session listening and learning from other people’s testimonies and experiences. At the recent ‘listening meeting’ in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, he learned a lot from the personal written and oral testimonies from individuals.
How do LGBTI Anglicans want the Church to treat them?
He confessed that although he has gained knowledge about LGBTI issues, until today he had never believed that there are LGBTI persons within the Anglican Diocese of Mombasa. He had frequently reported that at the various ‘listening process meetings’ but he admitted that today he is beginning to know at first hand and understand about the existence of LGBTI persons within Anglican Church of Kenya. At that at the end of his listening process his main question will be: How do LGBTI people in ACK want the church to treat us?
Ministry to LGBTI people
He talked about the bible as the standard measure of Christianity and in particular on Acts 15 and the heated debate about the gentile and Jewish Christians. He paraphrased from Acts where Peter is commanded never to refer to anything God created as unclean. He also talked of the deacons selected to serve minorities within the Church as such as orphans, widows. Bishop Kalu positively classified LGBTI as minority persons within the church that need to be ministered to, reached out to and treated equally as any other person within the church.
The Bishop’s advice to LGBTI people
Bishop Julius said the greatest value is self acceptance. LGBTI people need to accept the gospel and give their lives to Jesus Christ. They need to avoid unfaithfulness and drug and substance usage and abuse.
The Bishop will be attending the ‘Bishops in Dialogue’ listening process meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, from 2nd to 9th May 2013. The presentations at today’s meeting will form part of his report at that event, since he has now met and interacted with LGBTI Anglicans from his own diocese.
Before then he also promised to talk to one or two Kenyan Bishops and schedule a meeting with the CA-K team and other LGBTI Anglicans.
The Bishop also suggested that if possible CA-K visits retired Archbishop David Gitari again to ask for his guidance and ideas about strategy on how to approach the House of Bishops and possibly the Archbishop of Kenya.
The Chairman, the Coordinator and the Secretary of the CA-K committee decided to involve Gerald Achieng Hayo and Felix Brian from the coastal province to mobilize more Anglican LGBTI people from coastal region to become involved in CA-K activities and to work closely with the Bishop on the acceptance and inclusion of sexual minorities within the Anglican Communion. They plan to mobilize and network with the clergy and LGBTI people prior to the ‘Bishops in Dialogue’ meeting to be held next in May 2013.
Outside of South Africa, this is to my knowledge the first meeting that has taken place in a positive context between a serving Anglican bishop in Africa and LGBTI members of his Church and diocese.
Changing Attitude is working in partnership with other key leaders of the LGBTI community in Kenya including David Kuria who is standing for election as a senator in 2013.
Changing Attitude England and The Bondo Fund provided financial support for the meeting.