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Episcopal goal: Help African gays, don’t encroach on anti-gay churches

The Episcopal Church shied away today from overturning a policy that restricts it from directly aiding gay-friendly organizations in places where the Anglican Church is anti-gay, including many countries in Africa.

Bishop Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts
Bishop Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts

But Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts, chair of the subcommittee that studied the proposal, said individual parishes and church members are free to give as they choose, without regard to the policies of national churches.

Shaw’s subcommittee of the General Convention’s World Mission Committee recommended against the policy change, which was proposed last week as part of resolution D071 honoring Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda

Senyonjo serves LGBT people at his St. Paul’s Center in the Ugandan capital despite opposition from the Church of Uganda, which is formally affiliated with the Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion.

As amended, the resolution would still honor Senyonjo, but without changing church policy. Shaw said he had consulted with Senyonjo to make sure that passing the resolution would not endanger him.

The gay-rights group Integrity USA helped with drafting D071, but did not make it a priority.

As previously reported, the Rev. Dr. Caro Hall, Integrity USA president, said the proposal “really came on the scene too late for Integrity to provide active support, though we did run it past experienced deputies and suggested some edits. This is a truncated convention, so there really isn’t the time to work with a couple of late-arriving resolutions.”

She outlined the Episcopal Church’s opposition to unauthorized intervention in affiliated jurisdictions:

Anglican churches have geographical boundaries. The bishop of New York would never do something in Alabama without agreement from the bishop of Alabama. I would not act as a priest outside my diocese without contacting the bishop of the diocese I was visiting. The American church does not do something in the geographical area of another Anglican church without the agreement of its archbishop.

However this has been notoriously breached by some other Anglican churches operating without permission in the U.S.

Boundary crossing is frowned upon.

The reason for the proposed policy change is that LGBT people’s lives are in jeopardy in Uganda and elsewhere, says the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, a prime backer of the proposal and president of San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports Senyonjo financially.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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