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Posts for December, 2012

Ugandan Seventh-Day Adventist leader disputes support for Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2012

Seventh Day Adventist pastor Blasious Ruguri

Earlier this week the Ugandan government owned newspaper, New Vision, reported that Pastor Blasious Ruguri, the Seventh-day Adventist church president in East and Central Africa, said the church supports the Anti-Homosexuality “Kill the Gays” Bill. Ruguri is now disputing that report. (Adventist News)

The newspaper article suggests that Pastor Blasius Ruguri fully supports proposed legislation before the Ugandan Parliament that may include incarcerating and even executing people for same sex intimate contact.

In response to those reports, pastor Ruguri today said, “It is unfortunate that the media took the liberty to extend my statements to suggest what I did not say or imply. I have never seen that bill. Mine was a general statement to disapprove of homosexual practice and behavior. Our church is a ministry of mercy, and as a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church I cannot condemn homosexuals to death or to hell.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church subscribes to the biblical teaching that the practice of homosexuality is condemned by God and is forbidden, church officials said. At the same time, the church is strongly opposed to acts of violence, hatred or discrimination against a person because of his or her sexual orientation.

Uganda’s Seventh Day Adventist President Wants To Kill Gay People

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2012

From the Ugandan government-owned New Vision:

Seventh Day Adventist East and Central African President Blasious Ruguri

The Seventh -day Adventist (S.D.A) church has commended President Yoweri Museveni and Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of parliament for their strong stand against homosexuality and corruption in the country.

Pastor Blasious Ruguri, the Seventh-day Adventist church president in East and Central Africa, said the church supports the government in the fight against homosexuality and corruption.

“Our stand is “zero tolerance” to this vice and to western influence on this crucial issue because God says no to it.  We are together with the President and the Speaker and we fully support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I call upon all religious ministers, all Ugandans, and all Africans to say no to Homosexuality. Let us stand for our sovereignty as Ugandans and as God fearing people even the heavens fall.”

Ruguri made the statements at a Mbarara SDA church at the inauguration of the Southwestern Uganda Field, which New Vision describes as similar to a doicese. The article also states that the church also installed a field president, identified as Bishop Bernard Kakuru Bampata, at the ceremony. President Yoweri Museveni sent Rose Namayanja, the State Minister for Luwero Triangle, to represent him as the guest of honor. Namayanja read a statement from Museveni which reportedly reassured the gathering “that the government will not tolerate homosexuality and corruption vices.”

In 2010, the church’s Uganda president John Kakembo gave his support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The Church responded with a tepid statement, saying simply, “These views do not reflect the values of the Church as expressed in published statements on same sex conduct.” It did not however call for a retraction of Kakembo’s support for the bill.

Seventh-day Adventist Church threatens filmmakers

Timothy Kincaid

June 23rd, 2010

Daneen Akers comes from a long line of Seventh-day Adventists. The church was, for her, more than just a sharing of faith; it was also culture and community and a large part of identity. But while Adventists believe that “the Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships” and expect life-long celibacy, Daneen and her husband Stephen Eyer found this to be inconsistent their own personal faith discovery.

In 2008 some leaders within the SDA church began to pressure members to support Proposition 8, a California initiative to remove civil marriage rights from same-sex couples. As San Franciscans who had become friends with several couples whom Prop 8 would impact, Daneen and Stephen felt that they needed to be involved in Adventists Against Prop 8 to try and present a counterpoint. Out of this experience, they began to see the unique challenges which gay Adventists face.

Although there are a large number of resources available for gay Christians, from accepting mainline denominations to specific congregations of gay believers with more conservative theology, being gay in the Seventh-day Adventist church provides unique challenges. While Adventists are part of the family of Protestant Christians, they have specific worship practices, dietary expectations, and theological beliefs about eternity that set them apart from other Christians and often leave gay Adventists feeling as outsiders even within pro-gay Christian settings.

And so Daneen and Stephen decided to tell the stories, the challenges, the conflicts that gay Adventists face. They began the process of producing a small documentary film, Seventh-Gay Adventists: A film about love, sex, and eternal life.

But the Seventh-day Adventist Church got word of their project and was not pleased. Unable to stop the project entirely, they decided instead to object to a technicality, their name. The church’s law firm sent a cease and desist letter that read in part:

“Your use and modification of the SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST mark in this manner is without permission of the GCCSDA and/or the church, and is likely to cause dilution by blurring the distinctive qualities of the SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST mark and by tarnishing the reputation of the mark. Your use of the mark in this manner is also likely to cause confusion among consumers who may mistakenly believe that the Church has authorized or approved your use of the SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST mark,” the letter read.

Now, it is rather unlikely that calling your film “Seventh-Gay Adventists” is going to blur distinctive qualities or tarnish the reputation of the church. Nor is there likely to be any confusion among the SDA Church’s “customers.” Nor is it likely that any court would demand that a film about members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have no use of the church’s name.

And the leaders and legal counsel of the Seventh-day Adventist Church know it.

But the legality of the name is irrelevant. This isn’t about protecting the trademark of the church. This is about a large, powerful and well-funded organization using the threat of legal action to bully those who dare question the consequences of their policies. This legal hassle is an attempt to silence Daneen and Stephen, to punish them for speaking up.

Ironically, this film is not an attack on the church or its beliefs. Rather it is an attempt to start a conversation, to present a voice and face for those who love the church but whom the church cannot or will not hear.

We’re trying to make a film that captures how much people want to be a part of the church. Which means we need to show why they are attracted to it in the first place. Our critique, if you want to call it that, is simply that there exists a barrier of entry for those who are classified as “willful sinners” — in this case, gay and lesbian members who make the personal choice to be in relationships, rather than live celibately.

I believe that it is time for the Adventist leadership to invest in some self reflection, time to ask themselves tough questions about the message of Christ. Do they believe that God calls them to bully the weak, to threaten the outsider, and to expel those who are different?

If not, then they should immediately stop their challenge to the film and choose instead to listen closely to the heart of the project and voices of the GLBT men and women who want to call this church their home.

p.s. Those who wish to make a tax-deductible contribution to help towards the completion of this film may do so here.

Grassroots Adventists seek denunciation of draconian anti-gay bill from Uganda Adventist leader who endorsed it

Timothy Kincaid

January 11th, 2010

seventh day logoIn response to objections made by members of their own church about the statements of endorsement from John Kakembo, the president of the Uganda Union Mission, the Seventh-day Adventist Church issued a tepid statement. They did not mention Kakembo by name, denounce the bill, or demand that he retract his endorsement.

This limited reaction has not been satisfactory to Adventists of good conscience. Spectum Magazine’s Alexander Carpenter has asked his fellow churchmembers to contact Kakembo directly and express what such statements do to their Christ-like witness and their religious liberty work.

Since I believe that letter writing campaigns like this should follow a bottom-up approach as outlined in Matthew 18:15-20, I would encourage folks to address their letters to John Kakembo at the Uganda Union Mission.

The quarterly magazine Adventist Today is joining the effort on their blog site and is encouraging readers to join Spectrum’s advocacy.

As this issue is of concern to all of good will irrespective of their personal views concerning the nature of homosexual orientation and the Adventist Church’s manner of relating to this community, Adventist Today appreciates that Alexander Carpenter has given us permission to post this as well.

In contrast, the weekly Adventist Review only reports the vague statement, choosing instead to emphasize that Kakembo only endorses the non-death penalty portions of the bill.

Even if the death penalty were removed, the bill would:

  • expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.”
  • affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
  • define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging imprisonment for life.
  • require anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
  • criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment of seven years.
  • criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It could also be used against anyone extending counseling or otherwise aiding gay people. It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
  • Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
  • label landlords and hotel owners as proprietors of “brothels” and penalizes them with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people.
  • add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
  • void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

Adventists of good will can sincerely differ about the manner in which to interpret and apply scripture. One need not find homosexual behavior to be a morally acceptable option for one’s own life to oppose criminalization, oppression, and discrimination.

If you are an Adventist who finds the above proposal abhorrent, are shocked that the president of the Uganda Union Mission would endorse these provisions, and are ashamed that your church has been unwilling to vociferously and aggressively work against this bill, I encourage you to let your voice be heard.

(I’d STRONGLY advise others not to participate in this process as it could be counter-productive)

Seventh-day Aventists update their statement on the Ugandan legislation

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2010

Yesterday we noted that the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Uganda had endorsed the Anti-Homosexuality bill which, in its current form, would incarcerate for life any gay person that touched another and which had death penalty provisions, including for “repeat offenders”, a very broadly defined category.

We also noted that the response of the church in America to having this brought to their attention was woefully vague. It could have meant most anything, including their endorsement of the bill. Today they have a new statement:

Church leadership noted with concern some statements reportedly made by the Uganda Union Mission Executive Director in connection with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration in Uganda. These views do not reflect the values of the Church as expressed in published statements on same sex conduct.

Seventh-day Adventists continue to affirm the equal dignity and rights of every person as articulated in the relevant international human rights declarations and Covenants.

–Rajmund Dabrowski, Communication Director

While this is more informative, it is far from an unequivocal opposition to this piece of legislation. And considering that many other Christian voices – including those who do not need to reverse public statements of endorsement – have been clear in their opposition, I think that the church does a disservice to itself by speaking in generalities.

It would well serve the integrity of the church to clearly state that they, as a body, oppose the criminalization of non-coercive same-sex behavior and support the rights of gay persons to live in freedom.

If, indeed, that is what they mean.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Adventist magazine draws attention to Uganda’s Kill Gays bill

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2010

Spectrum is “a journal established to encourage Seventh-day Adventist participation in the discussion of contemporary issues from a Christian viewpoint”. As such, it is uniquely qualified to discuss the recent statements coming from Seventh Day Adventist religious leaders in Uganda in support of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality bill.

Spectrum’s Alexander Carpenter has written an online commentary expressing concern about the bill and the way in which support for it is contradictory to church policy.

Given this attempt to mix church and state, it is particularly troubling that the highest ranking Adventist leader in Uganda would support this law.

Furthermore, the law states that,

Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organization, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be cancelled and the director or proprietor or promoter shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years.

Thus, if, as has happened in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a church administrator turns out to be gay, John Kakembo’s support for this bill could actually threaten the work of the church in Uganda.

Given the parameters outlined in the Working Policy of the church, John Kakembo’s common cause on the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 lies outside our religious liberty principles, breaks church policy, and is opposite the goal of following Christ in helping, not jailing, the least of these.

In response, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has issued the following statement:

The church has made official statements on the issue of homosexuality. These continue to be our expressed position. Our inquiries with the Uganda Union indicate that not all that is being reported or interpreted in the media coverage is factual.

Our office has taken steps to inform the Uganda Union president’s office about the officially articulated position of the church regarding homosexuality. There will be on-going communication with the East-Central Africa Division and the church administration in Uganda.

I am uncertain what the church means by “not all that is being reported or interpreted in the media coverage is factual”. If that indicates that the church leader in Uganda, John Kakembo, has been falsely claimed as a supporter of the bill, then I am encouraged.

If, however, it indicates that the church is dismissive of public criticism of the bill, then that is most distressing. And sadly, while the statement of church principles does mention compassion and value, the only principles stated consist of condemnation of homosexuality and same-sex relationships and do not clearly articulate a position on criminalization of gay persons.

It is difficult to determine from this vague statement whether the Seventh-day Adventist Church opposes the bill or if it stands in the unique position of being the only denomination in the West to publicly endorse the death penalty as punishment for homosexuality.

I would encourage the church, and all Adventists, to read the language of the bill and issue a statement strongly condemning it as contrary to the teachings of Christ. Until it does so, the only position on record is that of Kakembo’s announcement of Seventh-day Adventist endorsement and of the Church’s refusal to refute that endorsement.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Ugandan Church Leaders Back “Kill Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2009

The independent Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor reports on a meeting of 200 religious leaders held in Entebbe this week in which participants encouraged the government to cut diplomatic ties to all countries demanding withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament.

The meeting brought together church leaders representing Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist churches as well as Muslim kadhis. Participants pledged to actively campaign for the bill in their houses of worship. According to the Monitor:

At their three-day meeting in Entebbe this week, the spiritual leaders came up with several recommendations that are opposed to homosexuals. “Government should cut ties with donor communities and other groups which support ungodly values such as homosexuality and abortion,” one of the resolutions reads.

…The Secretary General of the Inter-religious Council of Uganda, Mr Joshua Kitakule, told Daily Monitor yesterday that development partners should not  interfere in the process of legislation in Uganda.

“Those countries should respect our spiritual values. They shouldn’t interfere,” he said. “All senior religious leaders have been given copies of the Bill to read and educate people in the churches and mosques,” he added. Mr Kitakule said the Bill, which was tabled last month by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, has not been understood by human rights activists and homosexuals. “The Bill is ok. But it has been misunderstood. We need to educate people on this proposed law,” he said.

Member of Parliament David Bahati, who introduced the bill into Parliament, was also at the conference and spoke in favor of the legislation. Echoing Richard CohenDon Schmierer, Scott Lively and other American ex-gay advocates, Bahati said:

“It is a learned behaviour and can be unlearned. You can’t tell me that people are born gays.   It is foreign influence that is on work,” he said.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.