The Associated Press has a story out today on a former bishop of the Church of Uganda who has broken ranks over the issue of homosexuality. For those who follow Anglican affairs the story of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (also spelled Ssenyonjo) will not be new. The bishop is a frequent visitor to the United States and has spoken many times in public forums about his views on homosexuality.
The AP story entitled “Despite new law, Ugandan cleric ministers to gays” breaks no new ground, but offers an updated profile of the bishop in light of the country’s new laws on homosexuality. Given the low state of knowledge about religion in Africa held by the general public and the controversy the Ugandan gay law has created I can understand the editorial thinking that went into commissioning and publishing this article.
“African church leaders are anti-gay. Several African countries, including Uganda, have adopted laws toughening sanctions against homosexual activities. Here is a bishop who is bucking the trend,” says editor A. “Go for it.”
The article does a nice job in quoting the bishop and gay activists in Uganda. It fits into the wider Western media narrative about homosexuality also.
However, the article is not balanced in that it does not offer the voice or views of those who hold the contrary position. And it does not test the claims made by the bishop and his supporters.
Yes, the article cites a past statement on homosexuality by the head of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, but we hear nothing from the church about this issue or about Bishop Senyonjo.
Which is a shame really as a little digging would reveal that the narrative given about Bishop Senyonjo is a false one. The story states:
For ministering to homosexuals, Senyonjo has become estranged from Uganda’s Anglican church. He was barred from presiding over church events in 2006 when he wouldn’t stop urging his leaders to accept gays. The parish that he once led doesn’t even acknowledge his presence when he attends Sunday services there, underscoring how his career has suffered because of his tolerance for gays in a country where homosexuals —and those who accept them — face discrimination.
The bishop was not kicked out of the Anglican Church over his views on homosexuality. I concede that this is not the conventional wisdom. In December 2013 Religion News Service ran a piece about Senyonjo that stated: