Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Least of These - Voices of Witness Africa

Cynthia Black has posted the first draft of the video we produced following our trip to Africa, where we interviewed LGBT Nigerians, Kenyans, and Ugandans. You can watch the whole slightly-more-than-18-minute video at Walking With Integrity here.

I hope you will take the time to look at it, see the faces, and listen to the stories. The courage, deep Christian faith, and joy in God's love will leap out of the screen at you.

[As you watch it, please keep in mind that we are still tweaking it. When we have finished that process, we will put that version up.]

Photo by Cynthia Black

We -- Integrity USA and Claiming the Blessing -- will be showing the video Wednesday night at 8 p.m. in Keynes Hall at the University of Kent as part of the Fringe events at Lambeth. We hope lots of bishops will come see it.

But as much as I think bishops need to see this -- and particularly they need to see it while they are all at Lambeth, if only to help them remember 'the least of these" in their sessions -- my personal hope is that lots of "ordinary" Anglicans will come see it.

I say that because we all need to be reminded of a couple of realities -- there are LGBT people all over the world, indeed every place there are human beings; and most of them are forced to hide their sexuality or else risk terrible danger from their cultures and/or their churches or other religious authorities.

The reality is that LGBT Episcopalians, and I daresay, LGBT Anglicans in the Church of England -- and yes, Virginia, there are quite a few -- are for the most part, very economically privileged folk, as are the majority of their straight brother and sister churchgoers. This is not the case for LGBT fok in the rest of the world, and certainly not in Second and Third World countries.

In these countries they don't just risk losing a job, or their place on the vestry or parish council if they are outed. They risk losing their freedom, or even their lives. Below are examples of some of the headlines they see on a regular basis.

That is why the more privileged LGBT Episcopalians and Anglicans and their straight allies must continue not only to push our respective civil and religious authorities toward fairness and equality, we must use our positions of privilege to also work without ceasing to improve the lot of our less fortunate sisters and brothers.

We must do the former because by doing so we are providing a model, a prophetic vision that offers hope to more people than we can possibly imagine.

And we must do the latter because we are commanded to do so by Jesus Christ.

Matthew 25:34-40

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?
38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?
39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”
40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Friday, July 18, 2008


The bishops of the Episcopal Church are providing informal briefings for the press each afternoon. Friday George Councell, bishop of New Jersey, did the briefing.

“As you know we are in the second day of our three-day retreat for the beginning of the Lambeth Conference and started our small group bible studies of eight in each group. And I’d like to say that the bible studies universally as I’ve talked with my brother and sister bishops are being very well received -- small group fellowship, study, prayer, all forms a very strong foundation for the weeks ahead. I myself have been privileged to listen to stories of challenges of mission and ministry in places like South Africa and Tanzania, Australia and upper British Columbia in Canada as well as tales from my colleagues here in the United States. So that looks like a very sustaining and strong feature of the conference going forward.

“Then we for the second day went to Canterbury Cathedral. Some of us enjoyed the walk from Kent University down to the Cathedral and that had a kind of pilgrimage feeling to it. We walked in different configurations with different bishops from all over the world and then arrived only to have the immense privilege of having the precincts and the entire cathedral to ourselves for these two days. It’s a wondrous place, a wondrous historic space obviously of great symbolic significance to us as Anglicans and to be gathered in the nave there and to sing, to pray and to listen to the archbishop of Canterbury has been a great source of strength. I personally believe with any of the bishops this is a right and proper foundation for the work that we’ll do over the next couple of weeks. And I can hardly stress enough how privileged one feels to sit in that group of 650 bishops and have the opportunity to listen to the archbishop of Canterbury give us really substantive and profound spiritual reflections and really important challenges about how we’re going to live and serve together as a communion going forward.

“He in his third address today began by saying that the bishop is both a friend and a stranger. The bishop is a linguist, he said, who learns the language of the people but who also speaks the word of God, listens to the needs of the people but listens to the word of God, and that kind of dynamic tension between being present and being available to the people but also being at some remove from the community in order to listen to the word of God was really a great teaching and a great challenge I’m sure for all of us.

“And in his fourth meditation, he began by quoting an early Christian theologian who said that the single Christian is no Christian. Christians live and serve in community. And he went on from there to address, I thought quite directly and quite profoundly the need that we have as a Communion at this time to restore a wounded Communion for the benefit of a wounded world – those are my words not the archbishop’s words.

“He had two very practical challenges, one which was to think of a bishop about whom we might feel nervous going forward and then to go to that person today and ask that person to pray with you.

“We have had time to walk together and to pray and to reflect together and it’s made for a very strong and a very good beginning for the Lambeth Conference.”

Then he took questions. Rachel Zoll asked him if it was becoming clear that different bishops had different understandings of the role of bishop.

“I think we do serve in different contexts and operate out of different heritages. So quite a bit of the work, I think, is to be in the small group bible study and listen to the different context and challenges and to understand that our perceptions of our role varies but the archbishop has been laying that out very strongly and very clearly in his meditations,” Councell said.
I asked him if being in the Cathedral created a palpable sense of being in a sacred space, a sense of true pilgrimage.

“I do sense that in myself. It’s profoundly moving, for example, to sing in that space and the bishops are singing together. I take great hope that we came and we sang together. We pray together. One of the most moving dimensions of doing liturgy together is that we’re invited to pray in our own, pray the Lord’s Prayer in our own languages. So it begins, and it’s just sort of a beautiful muffled rumble of voices and sounds and languages as we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Somehow we start together and we conclude together and then singing together with different harmonies. It takes different notes to make a harmony, doesn’t it, so that’s been moving,” he said.

“And to come to your question another way, I looked down on the pavement in front of me as we were praying our evening prayers and there was the marker for a bishop who served from 13-something to 1362. That puts you in a different space, doesn’t it, spiritually and historically and in different contexts. We’ve been at this for a long time in the Christian movement.”

Another reporter asked, “Was there a sense of a void or sadness in your heart that Gene Robinson was not among you at these retreats?”

Councell said, “In my heart personally a very deep ache for my brother . . .’ and then had to stop because he choked up and had to compose himself.

Another reporter asked if a broader range of issues are coming come forward in addition to human sexuality.

“Yes, I think we are staged for that in the weeks to come by the different themes that will be presented, one of which is human sexuality, and again, I think we’re laying the foundation to engage those as colleagues as part of one Communion to work together and serve together. I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Eyes of Texas are on Lambeth

Michael Bell -- the young man whose back is to you in this photograph -- and I are hard at work trying to get set up to publish a daily newspaper. Since we are both from Texas, we decided to mark our space clearly so everyone will get the message -- don't mess with Texas.

We are busily setting up the Communications Center for the progressive groups who are working together at the Lambeth Conference. The center is in St. Stephen’s Parish Hall, which the parish of St. Stephen’s Canterbury has graciously rented to us. It is here that we will produce The Lambeth Witness, the daily paper I will be editing.

The challenge has been to make sure computers from the US and computers from the UK can be used without blowing either up. This is a room with a total of four electrical outlets – one outlet on one wall with two plug-in opportunities and one outlet on the other wall with two plug-in opportunities. Plus, we need to run a copier capable of making 2000 copies a day, and an Ethernet setup.

I am trying to stay out of the way while much more knowledgeable people tend to all this. Michael, the multi-talented young man who will be doing the graphics and layout for the paper, and I are doing our best to get organized in the midst of all the busyness.
It’s an odd time – the Lambeth Conference has started, but not really. By that I mean that the bishops are all here, but they are in retreat in the Cathedral for three days. The gathered press is left with nothing to do, so they are doing the inevitable – gossiping, speculating, chewing over every teensy BIT of information and, of course, griping.

The organizers of the conference have been saying all along that there won’t be much happening for the press to cover, but I don’t think the British press believed it. The problem is, when you don’t give them something to cover, they FIND something. I predict this will lead to lots of silly and overblown stories that will drive the conference organizers nuts.

And it’s their own fault. They didn’t even let the press in to witness the welcoming ceremonies in the big top.

Oh, yes, the big top. That’s the “marquee” or, as we call it in the US, the tent in which the plenary sessions will be held. Lambeth is taking place on the campus of the University of Kent. When one is driving up the hill on which the campus sits, the view of the two peaks of the tent looming over the rooftops gives new meaning to the term “Mother Church.”

I am also announcing a contest to name this color of blue. It is nearly iridescent. Blindingly blue.
Have at it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fear Not! Gene Robinson preaches at Putney

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It was a lovely evening, St. Mary's Church Putney was crammed full, the music was beautiful, and there he stood, all alone in front of the altar.

He bowed his head and said, "Lord, I feel like a boy."

It was a reference to the reading from Jeremiah 1.4-9, read by Susan Russell:

"Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
`Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.'
Then I said, `Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not
know how to speak, for I am only a boy.'
But the Lord God said to me, `Do not say,
`I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to
whom I send you, and you shall speak
whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you
to deliver you, says the Lord.'
Then the Lord put out his hand and
touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
"Now I have put my words in your mouth.'"

As he spoke, the roar of cameras clicking and the strobe of camera flashes filled the sacred space as the still photographers of the secular press took advantage of the 90 seconds granted them to take photos of the bishop of New Hampshire doing this radical thing -- preaching in a church in England.

The people listening were not distracted by the flashes and the noise. They were focused on Gene Robinson. The reaction of many to his simple words, "Lord, I feel like a boy," was immediate and powerful. Some closed their eyes. Some wiped their eyes. Some bowed their heads. Several nodded.

After the photographers were escorted out, he continued."There is a lot of fear around. Have you noticed?" More nods.

He mentioned fears of terrorist attacks, fears of losing one's job, fears about the economy.

"Fear does terrible things" to people, he said.

Just about then, a heckler stood up in the second row and began shouting at the bishop, who stepped back, folded his hands and stood in silence. People near the man tried to silence him, and others began a steady clapping to drown him out. Then the choir started singing a hymn and the congregation joined in. By this time the man was being led -- fairly gently, but firmly -- out of the sanctuary.

Unknowingly, and certainly unintentionally, this man had provided a perfect illustration of the power of fear to cause people to do unloving things to the object of their fears -- to "the other."

After he was gone and the hymn ended, Bp. Robinson stepped forward again, and said, "Pray for that man." He was clearly shaken by the man's hate-filled face and his brutal words, but as he spoke of God's love overcoming fear, he quickly regained his equilibrium, going on with grace and humor to make his points.

"The opposite of love is not hate," he said, "but fear."

He observed that the idea that the Anglican Communion might split over two men loving one another or two women loving each other "must break God's heart."

He reminded the crowd that the words, "Fear not!" bookended Jesus' life -- they were the first words the Angel Gabriel said to Mary just before she agreed to be the God Bearer; it was what the angels said to the shepherds at his birth. After his death, it was the first words out of Jesus' mouth at every one of his post-Resurrection appearances. "Do not be afraid."

He talked about how people were fearful for the church, but reminded us that "the church is not ours to save or lose -- it is God's gift to us." He said it is time to get over our fear for the church and start being good stewards of this gift, so that it can become the church God wants.

"The Anglican Communion is going to be fine," he said, and repeated it.

It might be different, but also, he pointed out, all this discussion might be a sign that the church is up to something new. He said the archbishop of Canterbury had "gotten it exactly right," by having the bishops at Lambeth deal with many of the important issues facing the world before they take up the issue of human sexuality, a plan that puts sexuality in some perspective.

Then he announced he was going to reveal the "homosexual agenda.""It is Jesus. Certainly that is the agenda for this homosexual -- the Jesus I know in my life, who communicates God's unwavering love for me in my life and in my relationships," he said.

"I don't know what causes you to feel less than worthy, not worthy of God's love, but whatever it is, the God of all that is is willing to heal that," he said.

He told people of the revivals he attended while growing up in Kentucky, where, in the heat of the summer, they would listen to hours of preaching and singing and altar calls while fanning themselves with fans provided by the local funeral home. These fans were invariably adorned with a picture of a blond Jesus knocking at a heart-shaped door. When he was older, he did some research on that illustration, and realized that there was a knob on only one side of the door.

"Our God respects us so much that he waits for us to open the door," he said.

He went on to say that the church's discussion of homosexuality is interesting in what it reveals about people's idea of God. When the church treats women and gays like second class people it does not make people outside the church want to know more about God. Indeed, it does just the opposite.

He told a story first told by Archbishop Tutu's daughter about her mother-in-law. The family was upset because of one's son choice of a sweetheart. His parents were not pleased with about the woman and it was causing much uproar in the family. Then one night, her mother-in-law went to bed and prayed about it. The next day she told her family what God had made clear to her -- she had put herself on the wrong committee.

"I'm not on the selection committee," she said. "I'm on the welcome committee. It's my son's job to choose. It's my job to welcome the person he loves."

"We don't get to be on the selection committee," Bp. Robinson said. "God chooses. We get to welcome."

He reminded us that by virtue of our baptisms, we are brothers and sisters in Christ with all other Christians, whether or not we agree with them or like them.

"Peter Akinola is my brother . . . and we will be in heaven together one day," he said. "And we'll get along, because God won't have it any other way. Our job is to love those God loves."

So, he said, "I'm going to Lambeth unafraid," and yes, from time to time he will feel like a boy, and yes, the job will feel overwhelming, "changing hearts one by one until we get to the kingdom. But God wants us to be unafraid.

"God wants you to open up your hearts" to someone "you know who needs you to tell them how God has worked in your life.

"We're changing this church, getting closer to God's idea of church," he said. "Whatever it is that's holding you back from making that witness, get over it."

He reminded the listeners of the story in Third Acts, about the lame man carried each day to the gate of the Temple, into which he was not allowed to go because the Temple leaders said his lameness was caused by sins of his parents or grandparents. But Peter cured him in the name of Jesus, and he got up and not only walked, but ran and leaped and danced his way into the Temple.

Too many of us, Bp.Robinson said, women and gays especially, have been told they can come to the gate but can't come all the way in.

"Listen to me. Whatever it is, God can heal you. Come dance your way inside."

God gave us the Church, he said. "How silly of God to trust us with it," but God has, and we are worthy of the task.

"The God of all that is, is with you. Do not be afraid."

As he ended his sermon, the almost entirely British congregation broke into loud applause. The sermon was followed by a Eucharist celebrated by Giles Fraser, vicar of St. Mary's Putney.

Note: This was first posted at Walking With Integrity here.

Gandalf and me

So there we were, standing in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Centre and Gandalf walks by.

Well, actually, it was Sir Ian McKellan, who we had just seen on stage with Bishop Gene Robinson. We -- me, Cynthia Black, Susan Russell, Louise Brooks, John Clinton Bradley, and Michael Bell -- had all been urging one another to get up enough nerve to approach him. Then he turned to leave. As he walked by, I said, "Thank you. This was a wonderful evening."

He stopped, smiled and held out his hand. I grasped it and we began talking, while my friends -- those star-struck folks in the background of the photo below -- finally got their act together and got their cameras out.

Then the terrifically charming Sir Ian greeted Susan Russell -- who has posted her own photos on her blog, and the rest of our group.

I have reported on the evening here. Please read it. I was up until 4 a.m. writing it!

There. Enough whining.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Caucus applauds CofE vote on women bishops

EWC Board applauds CofE vote

The Episcopal Women’s Caucus (EWC) Board applauds the Church of England Synod’s vote on July 7 to “affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate” and to prepare by February 2009 a first draft of a “national code of practice” outlining how this will be accomplished.

“The Caucus is celebrating this great news,” said EWC President Elizabeth Kaeton. “The Church of England ‘allows’ women to be ordained to the diaconate, and for the past 15 years the C of E has ‘allowed’ us be ordained to the priesthood. But women have not been ‘allowed’ to be appointed bishops, keeping the stained glass ceiling firmly in place.”

Bishops are appointed in the Church of England, not elected in a diocese by clergy and laity as they are in The Episcopal Church.

Kaeton and EWC board members are cautiously optimistic as the Church of England moves forward, including discerning how to “accommodate” those who will not support the episcopacy of women.

“While it is important to make room for the multitude of voices in the Church, it is vital to maintain the authority of the office without regard to the person holding the office,” Kaeton said. “Any accommodation must not be used to legislate sexism.”

The EWC will continue to work for the Gospel values of equality and liberation and committed to the incarnation of God's unconditional love --- including and especially in the Church, said Kaeton.

“Women and men who have heard the liberation promised in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and who understand ourselves worthy, through Christ, to stand before God as children of God, will work together to continue to crumble the ideology of patriarchy and the system of sexism,” she said.


Just in case any of you have forgotten, here's the Anglican Communion's first EVER bishop who is a woman -- the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, elected suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts in September 1988 and consecrated on February 11, 1989.
Her election was pronounced "the final crisis" by the Episcopal Synod of America, which is one of the forefathers -- I use that word deliberately -- of the Gafcon crowd. Much of the same overwrought language that they used about the vote to ordain women as priests was recycled in their outrage over the election of a woman as bishop. It's the same language they are still using in regards to the election of Gene Robinson. And it's the same language the conservatives in the Church of England are using now.

But what amazes me most each time is their description of themselves as a persecuted group being driven out of the church by decisions such as these.

What they are, is a group of privileged men who have been disagreed with. As my young friends say, build a bridge and get over it!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ruminating on a rumor

Let us consider rumors.

I want to give fair warning -- rumors are rife in the Diocese of Fort Worth, always have been, because our leadership is so secretive and tight-fisted with information. Add to that the fact that the level of trust among the clergy, and between the clergy and the laity, is about as low as ocean mud and the fact that anxieties are about as high as the sky, and you get a fertile ground in which rumors sprout.

People tend to take the tiniest scrap of information and examine it to within an inch of its life to see if they can discern any clues as to the shape of the future.

So I'm pretty wary of rumors. I've heard so many in the past few months that mostly I quit listening.

But one rumor has been so persistent, and so long-lived, and has come to me from so many different -- and often unexpected -- sources, that I'd thought I'd float it out there for the rest of you to natter over.

There are two versions of this rumor:

The first is that Bp. Iker and his allies in the diocese have never had any intention of going to the Southern Cone [many thought it was a weird match anyway, with the Ikerites being such high Anglo-Catholics and the Southern Coners being such low Evangelicals]. What they really plan is to go to Rome. Yes, Rome, as in the Roman Catholic Church. With the Pope. And the Vatican.

The second version is that Bp. Iker and his allies in the diocese will go through the motions of aligning with the Southern Cone, and THEN will make the switch to Rome, as in Roman Catholic. With the Pope. And the Vatican.

Proof of this is offered. "People say" that Bp. Iker lunches regularly with Kevin Vann, the Roman Catholic bishop here. "People say" that others of the clergy have traveled to Rome recently "for talks." "People say" that it makes more sense than the Southern Cone.

I say that it's interesting, but I'm having a hard time getting my head around the membership of St. Andrews downtown and the Roman Catholic Church. Or several other parishes here. Listen, we have Episcopal churches here filled with Baptispalians -- Baptists who like liturgy -- and who decidedly do NOT like the Roman Catholic Church. Anti-papist sentiment is almost part of their DNA.

And why on earth would Rome want to take on a legal fight over property now? They've had quite enough of court fights in recent years. And besides, they already own churches the size of municipal coliseums. Most of our Episcopal churches would probably fit in their baptismal fonts.

And -- biggest question of all -- would Bishop Iker give up his orders to go to Rome? I can't see them recognizing his orders -- they haven't for anyone else. And I don't think they are going to take on a married bishop. Talk about opening a can of worms! They've already got lots of their own clergy irritated at all the married Episcopal priests they've taken in to date.
So. There it is. The rumor.

Getting voices of witness out of Africa

Several of us have been trying for months to figure out how to get the voices of LGBT Africans heard at the Lambeth Conference -- you know, as part of the listening process that every Lambeth Conference since 1978 has called for. And as a response to those bishops who insist there aren't any LGBT people in Africa.

Getting LGBT people physically to Lambeth was proving very difficult because it's hard for them to get passports/visas because so many of them can't get jobs because they are gay -- or in the case of straight allies, because they are sympathetic to the LGBT cause. The British immigration people don't care why they are jobless -- they won't let them in if they don't have a job back home.

So the idea of a Voices of Witness Africa video similar to the Voices of Witness 2006 video produced by Louise Brooks for Claiming the Blessing seemed a natural way to do it. But videos are expensive to produce and raising money takes time. The first bloc of money didn't come in until the first of June.

So with less than ten days to prepare -- getting visas, lots of shots, setting up interviews, arranging for equipment, reassuring spouse/partner/children that we would be safe, and taking a big gulp of faith -- Cynthia Black and I headed off to Africa to try to talk to as many LGBT Africans as we could. We were looking for witnesses to the fact that yes, there are LGBT folk in Africa, just as there are all over the rest of the world, and yes, many of them are faithful Christians, even -- dare I say it -- Anglicans.

We videotaped their stories to show at Lambeth to as many bishops as we can corral, and perhaps, at General Convention 2009.

We had raised enough money to get us to London, where we could interview some GLBT Nigerians who had fled there for sanctuary; and then on to Uganda and Kenya. And to get us back home, where I am now trying to compress 20-plus interviews into a reasonable time frame for a video while doing justice to the stories of these courageous people.

It is an awesome responsibility, for just by talking to us these folks are risking more than any of us privileged people can begin to understand.

Among those we talked to is
* a transgendered [M to F] Nigerian
* a partnered lesbian activist in Uganda
* a transgendered [M to F] Ugandan
* one of a pair of gay 20-something twins in Kenya
* a gay Ugandan farmer whose dream is to own two acres of land to grow his sugarcane
* gay partners in Kenya who dream of having their union blessed
* a gay Nigerian who was beaten badly simply for being gay

There were many more. We also interviewed some of their straight allies -- a Ugandan bishop, a Kenyan Anglican priest, a Ugandan law professor and feminist; and a Kenyan Methodist minister.

And while my editor and I are putting together a dynamite video, this isn't the finished product.
We need to raise money to:

1. Visit more African nations and interview even more LGBT Africans.
2. Add production values such as more music, archival footage, etc., that cost money for rights.
3 Distribute copies of the expanded video to each and every bishop in the Anglican Communion.
4. and pay Cynthia and me for our work-- something that would make our long-suffering loved ones happy.

We can do items 3 and 4 for about $15,000. To do items 1 and 2 we'll need at least $35,000 -- travel in Africa is very expensive.

If you can help get these Voices of Witness out of Africa and into the hands of the bishops, here's how:

Integrity is set up to be the fiscal agent for VOWA. Checks should be made payable to "Integrity" with "VOWA" in the memo line and mailed to the address below.

There is a VOWA option for online giving

When I asked these Africans what they wanted to say to the church, here's some of what they said:

"If the church happens to allow inclusion and let our voices be heard and let us tell our story how it is, it will go a long way because as a gay man or lesbian woman -- your dreams and aspirations are most times caught at a point . . . you have ideas and you have visions and you want to do things for the common good for humanity but you are kind of like, you get caught up and you don’t want your voice to be heard and you don’t want to raise the dust as they say, so you just stay quiet and so your voice, your dreams, your vision just dies with you." -- A gay Nigerian

"Another question is do they really know that we have gay people in our churches? Do they really know that they worship in those same churches and when they preach sermons which are going to send them away rather than to bring them to Christ what are they really doing? What do they think when people run away from Christ rather than come closer to Christ? Do they really know that this is a reality? Those are questions that they should ponder, they should sober up, come together and reflect, not fight amongst each other. We are one. God is not happy, and God wants us all together." A gay Kenyan

"It is because the high profile people in Uganda and to hear them inciting the public how to treat us it really hurts me. These are people especially the Church leaders who are supposed to be preaching love, tolerance, and acceptance and instead they are the ones trying to preach the opposite of that. Like in today’s newspaper the whole head of Church in Uganda, Orombi, is busy wasting time about gay marriages in UK instead of concentrating on pressing issues that affect the people of Uganda like the war in Northern Uganda. They are busy talking about people married in UK. They are wasting time on issues which are not really a big deal." A lesbian Ugandan

"Well, I think the bottom line, when it comes to God – God is love. And that should be it. Homosexuals do not practice something else, we are not killers, we are not murderers, we are not molesters, we are not bad, We are like your average people, except that we choose to love in a different way, but at the end of the day it is love -- we love deeply, truly, honestly, and we should be given a chance to show that to the world. Do not force people into closets. Instead talk positively about people like us, homosexuals, so that people who for whatever reason they think that we are bad because they do not know any better, when they hear this from leaders in the church, they might change their attitudes and make it better for us to exist." A lesbian Kenyan

"I would love to let people know that homosexuality is not the epitome of what is wrong in this world. I’m out, but I’ve come to realize that people perceive me as what is wrong with this world. If asked what is wrong with this world, I’m sure they’d go like "that gay man is wrong with this world." Now I’d love people to know, that is not what is wrong with this world. There are far more worst things to be in this life, worst things that they themselves do behind closed doors. I’m open about this and this is not the worst thing to be in life and if anything, it’s the best thing." A gay Kenyan

Let them be heard.