General Convention of the Episcopal Church
Resolution Title: The Episcopal Church Honors Bishop Christopher Senyonjo by expanding mission partnerships with Non-Governmental Organizations.
Proposed by: Vanessa Glass, California
Endorsed by: Stacey Grossman, California, and Kathryn Nishibayashi, Los Angeles
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 77th General Convention recognize the courageous witness of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired Bishop of West Uganda, particularly with LGBT people in Uganda and in 76 countries where they are criminalized;
Be it further resolved, this General Convention support Anglican and other ministries engaged in the intersection of rights, development and justice consistent with our mission priorities and Millennium Development Goals;
Be it further resolved, that the World Mission Committee urges funding organizations of the Episcopal Church to expand partner relationships with other Non-Government Organizations whose missions are consistent with the mission goals of the Episcopal Church. These new partnerships can augment our mission commitment in areas where there may be no significant Anglican presence or where the policies and programs of a Province may be in opposition to the inclusive values of the Episcopal Church and current American foreign policy towards LGBT people.
Background and rationale
There are 76 countries where it illegal to be LGBT Half of these are in Africa and other parts of the British Commonwealth and therefore are largely Anglican or Roman Catholic.
In 2010 Bishop Christopher Senyonjo was named by the Huffington Post as one of the ten most influential religious leaders; in 2011 he received the Alumni Award from Union Theological Seminary; and was Global Grand Marshal at the 2012 San Francisco Pride Parade. Bishop Christopher (80) was inhibited by the Anglican Church of Uganda and stripped of his pension and rights to exercise his ministry because of his inclusive welcome of LGBT people in his chapel at the St Paul’s Centre and his defense of their Constitutional rights. Bishop Christopher’s St. Paul’s Center which is a model gay/straight alliance works with all marginalized people and offers HIV, health, women’s development and self help employment programs as well as a pastoral care program. It is often illegal for LGBT people to access HIV prevention and health services because they are deemed criminals. The bishop is globally recognized as an Anglican champion for LGBT inclusion.
Recently, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi led the Ugandan Joint Christian Council’s call to the Ugandan parliament to pass the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill (Bahati Bill). The bill would sentence LGBT people to life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality” and require parents and neighbors to report known homosexuals or be fined or imprisoned. This recent move by the Church of Uganda is in complete contradiction of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality.
Even though Bishop Christopher’s ministry of inclusion is consistent with the Episcopal Church’s teaching and practice, the bishop has been unable to secure funding from any of the Church’s key mission resources. This is due to a policy that requires the Archbishop and Province to approve any grant application from their region. This policy can lead to support for policies that support criminalization and persecution of LGBT people or other activities which contradict Episcopal values.
In keeping with our focus on the Millennium Development Goals, criminalization of homosexuality also translates into lack of access to HIV prevention and health services in 76 countries, yet we are not funding any HIV programs with these “most at risk” populations. The resolution will allow faith communities to be supported in these outreach efforts needed to meet the MDG on HIV and AIDS.
The proposed resolution will have no budgetary impact on existing church commitments to Provinces who share our mission values. The resolution is consistent with the first two mission priority goals of our church and repairs the inadvertent inconsistency between what Episcopalians “say and do” domestically on LGBT inclusion and the results of international funding.
The resolution expands the circle of partnerships for mission and by opening the possibility of funding from the Episcopal church also allows for matching funding from secular and other foundations that are supportive of inclusive faith based development and health programs. This resolution leads the way for other American progressive faith communities to join us in resourcing these persecuted minority communities in 76 countries.