Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: What are American Christians doing?

This post will be a work in progress in that I am going to list organizations with connections to those in Uganda who are suporting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As I learn of various statements and positions of American Christian groups, I will post them, even if there are no particular ties to promoters of the bill. I need to caution readers that being listed here does not mean that the organization or anyone in it supports the bill. Reactions have varied and those reactions are what I am trying to capture. As organizations change there positions or views, I will change this page to reflect new information.

I will begin with the three Americans who spoke at the Kampala conference “Understanding the Gay Agenda” in March. I posted on this here early and was quoted in the Ugandan press as a critic of the conference as it was about to begin.

Scott Lively (Defend the Family International) – As of January 10, Scott Lively endorsed a revised Anti-Homosexuality Bill which removes the death penalty and encourages counseling. The problem is that I cannot confirm that such a revision exists. In an email exchange, Lively would not disclose whether or not he has seen a revision.

Caleb Brundidge (International Healing Foundation) – Initially, there was silence from Brundidge and the International Healing Foundation about the ex-gay conference and the bill. Cohen’s book Coming Out Straight was referred to positively during the Kampala conference and at a follow up conference. In the IHF’s Summer, 2009 newsletter,  Brundidge wrote an article detailing the trip. When the national and international media began to report this story, Brundidge’s former therapist and mentor at IHF, Richard Cohen, stepped forward to comment, on the Rachel Maddow Show and via an open letter to the Ugandan parliament. In the letter, he expresses strong opposition to the bill but then asks them to emphasize therapy.

Don Schmierer (Exodus International) – In contrast to the above two organizations, Exodus International did not send Don Schmierer to Uganda. The organization was warned that the conference was to take place and advised to contact Mr. Schmierer and ask him to reconsider taking part. They did not do so and seemed slow to grasp the significance of the event. Initially, Exodus supported Mr. Schmierer’s attendance there even as they condemned criminalization of homosexuality in March, 2009.  Later, after the bill was introduced, Exodus International expressed strong opposition to it saying so in a letter signed by Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas, Christopher Yuan and me (I am not affiliated with Exodus but signed as an expression of support for the move Exodus made to engage).  Later, Don Schmierer added his signature.

Mr. Schmierer has recently told several news sources that he felt duped into participating and was misled about the intent of the conference by organizer Stephen Langa.

“It wasn’t what we agreed on for advertising,” Schmierer said. “He had me write out 45-minute speech on healthy parenting. I found out a week before I got there he made it a three-day event and added more people. One guy was speaking on fighting the gay agenda. The way we were all listed on the program, I can see why people lump us together.”

Schmierer said he didn’t want to back out of the conference because he wanted to be gracious to the host, and said he didn’t have any indications at the time that his talk about parenting would become a lightning rod for criticism.

Since no actual revision has materialized, it is not clear how Mr. Brundidge or Mr. Schmierer would feel about a bill which removed the death penalty and added counseling.

The following people and organizations have various connections to the principle people in Uganda who support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I also note whether they have commented on the bill.

Rick Warren – Initially many critics looked to the Saddleback pastor as being involved with the bill because of his prior connection to Ugandan Martin Ssempa, who spoke at an early AIDS conference hosted by Saddleback Church. On October 30, Rick and Kay Warren released a statement to me revealing that they had severed ties with Martin Ssempa in 2007 because “his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own.”  Martin Ssempa is relevant because he has been a vocal champion of the bill from the time of the first reading and is now chair of the Uganda National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality. The mission of the task force is to promote the passage of the bill.

Rev. Warren followed his statement regarding Ssempa with this video and print message to Ugandan pastors. The video made clear his personal opposition, enhanced the visibility of the story and laid out a clear rationale for broad Christian opposition to the bill. Then, the Uganda pastors task force issued a print and video rebuttal to Rev. Warren using Martin Ssempa as spokesman.

The Fellowship Foundation – The Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) sponsors the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. They also recruit people to conduct similar events in countries around the world. In Uganda, the prayer breakfast is organized by Nsaba Buturo with assistance from parliamentarians, including Anti-Homosexuality Bill author David Bahati. These connections, disclosed by author Jeff Sharlet on National Public Radio led to questions about the role of the Fellowship.   Later, Mr. Sharlet provided a guest post confirming and expanding on my reporting that the Fellowship opposes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Fellowship member, Bob Hunter, has spoken candidly to Sharlet that the Fellowship has opposed the bill from the time they first became aware of it.

America’s Survival – This group, headed by Cliff Kincaid, published Scott Lively’s endorsement of the bill on their front page. Mr. Kincaid has also published articles defending Mr. Lively’s speeches in Uganda and in one called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, “pro-family legislation.”

The organization is also requesting that constituents contact Ugandan officials with the following message:

Contact the Embassy of Uganda in the U.S. and express your support for their efforts to keep homosexual influences out of their country.

Family Watch International – This Gilbert, AZ organization promotes adoption and abstinence programming. Martin Ssempa is listed as being a volunteer team member:

Martin Ssempa, FWI African Coordinator (volunteer) – Internationally renowned family activist.  Helped Ugandan government develop its national policy on abstinence in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Has spoken extensively on the subjects of AIDS, marriage, pornography and drug addiction.  Testified before the U.S. Congress, explaining how the U.S. aid programs that rely on condom promotion and distribution have exacerbated the AIDS problem in Africa.  He is helping Family Watch coordinate pro-family efforts in Africa.

College of Prayer – Led by Atlanta’s Fred Hartley, the College of Prayer has an ongoing relationship with David Bahati, Benson Obua-Ogwal (co-sponsors of the bill) and Nsaba Buturo (Minster of Ethics and Integrity who has strongly supported the bill). The CoP mentors and supports the Parliament leaders who take advantage of these meetings. Regarding the bill, Rev. Hartley told me he saw an early draft of the bill in the Summer of 2009 which did not contain the death penalty. In fact, he doubted that critics had the actual bill since Hon. Bahati told him that electronic copies were unauthorized.

Another bill supporter and CoP connection, Apostle Julius Oyet was scheduled to speak in Atlanta for a CoP event in early February. Oyet, presiding Apostle of the Born Again Federation,  was in parliament’s chamber when the bill was introduced and afterward prayed to thank God for the bill the introduction of which he believed would keep God from destroying Uganda. Apostle Oyet was scheduled to speak at a College of Prayer event in Atlanta during February 4-6. I recently learned from the CoP that the speaking engagement had been cancelled. No reason was given.  The CoP has issued no public statement regarding the bill, however, director Hartley told me that he opposes the bill and opposes criminalization of homosexuality. He also indicated that CoP activities in Uganda are on hold. It seems clear to me, despite the lack of public disapproval, that the CoP does not support the bill and had no part in creating it.

WAIT Training – After meeting Martin Ssempa at the Saddleback AIDS conference in 2005, Joneen Mackenzie, founder and director of WAIT Training decided to assist Ssempa spread his abstinence message in the US. She helped him construct a website and agreed to distribute a DVD of his speeches and book speaking engagements. 

Initially, when contacted about their stance on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Mackenzie provided a statement which neither endorsed or opposed Ssempa’s efforts (scroll down to comments). However, Mackenzie recently alerted me that WAIT Training had severed ties with Ssempa over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As an aspect of this move, she place a statement on her website and asked Ssempa to remove references to WAIT Training from his website (which he has done). 

Disciple Nations Alliance – The African representative of mission organization DNA is Stephen Langa. Langa organized the ex-gay conference in March which was designed to kick off efforts to enact stonger laws against homosexuality. DNA issued a statement here maintaining confidence in Mr. Langa while expressing significant concerns about the bill.

Teen Mania – Recently, Teen Mania issued a statement about the Anti-Homosexuality bill. Initially, TM had informed people that the bill covered only child abuse and rape, however, on their Facebook page, the group issued a statement expressing concerns about the bill and promising to evaluate African ministry partners in light of those concerns. Specifically, the prominent ministry partner is Martin Ssempa as Teen Mania is contemplating setting up a leadership training organization in Uganda.

World Outreach Ministries – This organization is an organization which processes funds for the Ssempas. They are not a “sending board” which would mean an organization who trained and mentored them on their way to the mission field, but rather a service agency. The Ssempas are supported by Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas and until recently New Hyde Park Baptist Church on Long Island. Director Jason Peebles told me that he and his staff are evaluating the situation but felt that Teen Mania’s statement was a good expression of their position.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church – Canyon Ridge supports the Ssempa’s financially and via mission trips to assist his Makerere Community Church. Regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, executive pastor Mitch Harrison provided this statement:

Canyon Ridge Christian Church partners with missionaries and ministry leaders around the world, including Martin Ssempa, for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian aid where possible.

 

With the oversight of our elders and missions team, we constantly evaluate our ministry partners and their activities. We will only support those who engage in and promote activities consistent with the redemptive and grace-filled purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.

 

Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not wish to enter into the debate over the legislation in Uganda. We do encourage those involved to seek God’s leadership in humility and grace and to follow Jesus command to love one another as they wrestle with this difficult issue. Our prayers are for the good of the people Uganda.

Oral Roberts University – Martin Ssempa is on the Board of Reference for ORU. Public Relations Director, Jeremy Burton explained the Board of Reference duties:

  • This Board of Reference is to provide for effective communication an informative exchange and service among the public, ORU’s stakeholders, and the University.
  • A board of reference is for the purpose of credibility, for reputation, and for influence.
  • As a member of the Board of Reference, your name and your circle of influence lends reputation to the credibility of Oral Roberts University.
  • A board of reference has no voting privileges and does not have any regularly scheduled meetings.

Mr. Burton declined to issue any other statement regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Watch this space for updates…


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