Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Coming soon, to a screen near you...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

contact: Rebecca Wilson, 330-524-2067, rebeccaswilson@sbcglobal.net

NEW FILM HELPS CHURCH KEEP COMMITMENT TO LISTEN

Voices of Witness Africa documentary tells stories of gay Anglicans

CHICAGO--As long ago as 1978, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Communion bishops urged the church to listen to Anglicans who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT). However, as the Rt. Rev. David Russell, retired bishop of Grahamstown, South Africa, says, “We made some very definite decisions that we need to be listening, and precious little listening happened. There was a huge reluctance to listen.”

Now a new half-hour documentary film helps Episcopalians keep the church’s commitment to listen. Voices of Witness Africa, produced by Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod, interviews gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Africans about their lives and their relationships with God and the church.

Viewers who have followed the plight of GLBT people in Africa will hear familiar and tragic stories of fear, imprisonment and abuse. However, they may also be surprised by the support and hope voiced by some of the film’s subjects, including African Anglican bishops and priests.

“I’m sorry about what the church is saying. God loves you, God loves you,” says the Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop of West Buganda Diocese in the Anglican Church of Uganda, who leads a study and prayer group for gay Anglicans. While acknowledging that speaking out for GLBT Christians has been “very risky,” Bishop Senyonjo says that “When you know the truth, it should make you free.”

Although the situation for GLBT Africans is dire—two-thirds of African countries still criminalize homosexuality, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission—several people in the film cite cause for hope.

“Many, many years ago, when the townships were in smoke and people were dying, we never thought that we would be where we are now,” says Yvonne Daki, manager of iThemba Lam Center of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries in South Africa. “We will have one day a situation where gay people can speak openly about their sexuality.”

Voices of Witness Africa is being released just before the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, scheduled for July 8-17 in Anaheim, California. At the meeting, deputies and bishops will discuss both the church’s mission in the developing world and the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The film is being mailed in advance to all deputies and bishops. It is also being mailed to all bishops of the Anglican Communion, including those who lead churches that are hostile to GLBT Christians.

Near the end of the film, the Very Rev. Rowan Smith, dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, offers some words of advice. “I would like to say to the church, ‘Learn what we have learned in South Africa, that things like sexual orientation or gender or race are immaterial before God. God delights in all that God has made.’”

Voices of Witness Africa is a production of Claiming the Blessing and was made possible with support from The Chicago Consultation, Integrity and many individuals. More information on the film, including a study guide for use in Episcopal parishes, is available at www.chicagoconsultation.org and www.voicesofwitness.org.

Currently scheduled screenings include:

May 24: St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church, Toronto, Ontario

May 27: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Cleveland

May 30: Church of the Incarnation, Santa Rosa, California

June 5: All Saints Church, Pasadena, California

June 6: Christ Episcopal Church, Dearborn

June 7: Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge

June 8: All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago

June 10: Church of the Ascension, Silver Spring, Maryland

June 12: Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri

June 14: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas

To schedule a screening of Voices of Witness Africa in an Episcopal parish, please talk with Chicago Consultation communications consultant Rebecca Wilson at rebeccaswilson@sbcglobal.net or 330-524-2067.

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. We believe that our baptismal covenant requires this.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Voices of Witness Africa trailer

video
Voices of Witness: Africa is one small attempt to make sure that the voices of faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender African Christians are heard. It was conceived of as a way of having these voices heard at the every-ten-years 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from throughout the world. Please help support this project by making a contribution (at upper right corner of this page), so that we can finish the video and get it into the hands of all of the leaders of the Anglican Communion.