Sunday, December 19, 2010

Speaking the truth in love

Yesterday a small group in the diocese met with The Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyenjo, an exiled Bishop in Uganda. Christopher has been marginalized because his ministry in retirement has been to the marginalized. He has set up a counseling practice -- and a large part of his clientele is the LGBT community of the capital city of Kampala.

His motivation for this ministry comes -- in some measure from Paul: "I to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patients, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Christopher is indeed gentle and humble -- and passionate about the calling to offer God's love.

And he is in trouble for it. Because the primary constituency to whom he is offering God's love is a constituency that is subject to arrest, punishment -- and even death. It is a crime to be a gay or lesbian person in Uganda. A law that was presented to the Uganda Parliament this fall that criminalized the LGBT community was shelved -- for the time being. We were told that a new version of it will probably appear after national elections -- in March, and it will be more subtle and more ruthless.

In Uganda, open hostility may become official policy. Open hostility is already the practice around the world -- be it racial, regional or religious -- but official hostility is something else.

Paul enjoins us to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). They have to go together. In a sermon I heard recently, truth without love can be tantamount to abuse -- and love without truth doesn't exist.

And Bishop Senyenjo offers his witness -- with extraordinary gentleness and humility. And fire -- for love. For the redeeming power of love. And it is making a difference.


  1. Dearly Beloved,

    The suicide of Tyler Clementi was more then a personal tragedy for his family, friends, those that loved him and the greater LGBT community. It was an event that forced America to hold up a mirror to itself and take a long honest look. It provided an opportunity for a nation that professes to uphold cultural tolerance and civil liberties for all its citizens to truthfully search its heart to determine how well America upholds these sacred ideals. I believe America found itself wanting.

    The practice of self examination is not one of America's strong points. We are much more comfortable living a life of convenient denial. The military practice of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) codified the plausible deniability of institutional ambivalence. It sequestered the need to act to address a nagging injustice. It held the truth hostage so as not to suffer the consequences of an inconvenient truth. It revealed a country in deep state of denial refusing to shatter the myths and the untruths it believed about itself. It pandered to the ugly fears and violent temperament of intolerant zealots that unleashed waves of hateful vindictiveness against the marginalized and most vulnerable. A lie in service to a myth creates and perpetuates a culture of delusion. It allows all citizens to hold tight to our national deceptions, celebrating broken ideals with the untruth of meaningless flags.

    America took an important step this weekend with the repeal of DADT. The personal truth of who we are as individuals is now aligned with open and truthful institutions. This landmark legislation corrected a legislative injustice by addressing an institutional discrimination. America must be a place where civil rights for all citizens lies beyond comprise. That is the easy part. Now the hearts of American's must change and learn to accept the justice that the repeal of DADT upholds.

    God apportions equal amount of love to all his children. All are accepted, none denied the grace of light God asks us to walk into. All are fully enfranchised citizens in God Kingdom. The Perpetual Potentate governs over all in perfect justice. The People of the Way are called to be upright citizens in the City of Light. Citizenship requires the beloved "to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patients, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)

    God is a radical affirmation of self, free to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit as we have been called. We are called to speak our truth to the power of earthy principalities as we are called to be the truth in the living power of God. Our freedom compels us to "Go Tell it on the Mountain".

    The earthly principalities may have lost the exquisite melodies of Tyler Clementi’s music; but the earthly silence is a resounding reminder to weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance. Tyler’s violin may now lie entombed in its case; but it continues to implore us to sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation, and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love. The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will forever resonate from the highest peaks of joyous affirmation to the lowest valleys of pedestrian dread. The melody of his life will always be with us. This Advent we sojourn to the mountain to sing the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life. We pray with expectant hope that those refusing to listen and those most needing to hear, will open deaf ears and join the earthly chorus of the of all the beloved singing in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

    absolution is sweet
    vindication better
    affirmation divine


    Peace and prayers to all the beloved,


  2. The OASIS (the diocesan ministry to the LGBT community) and the local chapter of Integrity (the national organization by and for LGBT Episcopalians) were grateful for the opportunity to have Bishop Christopher tell his story to the people of Newark, and we thank you for sharing this witness of your encounter with the people of the Diocese.

    There have been several positive events in the past few weeks that offer some hope to the situation in Uganda. We invite anybody who is concerned about this situation to "fan" Bishop Christopher on Facebook to remain informed.


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