Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, the exiled Anglican bishop from Uganda profiled here at RD by Richard Lindsay, is under attack by American conservatives who have made it their mission to infiltrate and undermine progressive and pro-LGBT denominations in the United States.
As Rev. Senyonjo tours the United States speaking out against Uganda’s still pending “Kill the Gays” bill and trying to foster some compassion for the plight of gays and lesbians all around Africa, the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy is crying foul and accusing the Bishop of trying to get Western countries to use their influence in Africa to help accomplish the “acceptance of homosexuality in Africa.”
The IRD, bankrolled by conservative funders like the reclusive Howard Ahmanson, has, since the early 1980s, made it its mission to cause splits and dissension in Protestant denominations. According to Jim Naughton of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who conducted an extensive study of the IRD:
The IRD was established in 1981 by neo-conservative intellectuals hoping to counter the liberal public policy agendas of the National and World Councils of Christian Churches. Its founders, including Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian and Richard John Neuhaus, then a Lutheran minister and now a Catholic priest, were particularly concerned about the role of mainline and Roman Catholic leaders in the civil wars that ravaged Central America in the late 1970s and 1980s. They were sharply critical of liberation theology, the Marxist-influenced school of thought developed by Central and South American theologians, and waged an aggressive media campaign in support of the Reagan administration’s policies in Nicaragua, El Salvador and elsewhere, alleging links between liberal church leaders and Marxist guerillas.
After the Cold War, Naughton continues:
The IRD turned its attention from the mainline churches’ activities in Central America to the churches’ internal affairs. In its Reforming America ‘s Churches Project, 2001-2004, the IRD invited donors to help it in “restructuring” the democratic governance of churches to which those donors might not belong.
With its attacks on Senyonjo, IRD blends its international and domestic agenda. IRD spokesman Jeff Walton said in a press release: “Not content to compel Americans to surrender to their agenda of constantly fluid notions of gender and sex, liberal Episcopalians who resent Africa’s traditionalist beliefs now want the U.S. government to compel poor African societies to bend to permissive, secular Western mores.”
Ah, yes, we gay and lesbian folks really resent those African traditionalists beliefs, which, by the way, were handed down to the Africans through colonialism and right-wing Christian missionaries who have exported their anti-gay beliefs to the continent. As Tarso Luis Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates, has noted, “Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous.”
Rev. Senyonjo has been persecuted for his belief that fellow human being should be treated humanely, if not completely accepted by African society. He’s been barred from performing and rites or services in his denomination and his pension has been stopped. He’s also faced physical harm whenever he is open with his beliefs that gays and lesbians are actually human and loved by God.
He has contemplated not going back to Uganda, but has decided that his work is too important and he will continue the fight for full acceptance of gays and lesbians in Africa. But the IRD’s Walton vows to continue the fight to keep gays and lesbians as second-class, and perhaps even dead, citizens:
”These same liberal Episcopalians and other U.S. religionists are often indifferent to international religious persecution, even when churches around the world are under attack. For them, seemingly sexual freedom is more important than religious freedom.”
No, the freedom for all people to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation is what should be most important to everyone. That’s just the human thing to do.