June 16, 2009

Who Will the General Convention Be Listening To?

Last night, at the regular June meeting of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, we showed Voices of Witness Africa. Voices is a documentary produced by Cynthia Black and Katie Sherrod for Claiming the Blessing. As explained in a press release from the Chicago Consultation, the documentary “interviews gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Africans about their lives and their relationships with God and the church.” It is intended to advance the process of listening to members of the GLBT community, which the Anglican Communion has been quick to advocate but slow to carry out. According to the press release, not only has the video been sent to those who will be attending the Episcopal Church’s General Convention next month, but it has also been sent to all bishops of the Anglican Communion.

After watching Voices of Witness Africa, we discussed what we had seen and speculated on why it was being sent to General Convention deputies. Many were struck by the similarity of the experiences related in Voices to those of GLBT people in the West. What was not similar, however, was the oppression and violence suffered by the Africans, often with the collusion of the church. (One person interviewed described the African situation as like that of the U.S. 58 years ago, though this may have minimized the intensity of the hostility in her home country.)

Whatever the reasons for producing and distributing Voices at this time—it is not difficult to imagine why deputies received DVDs before leaving for Anaheim—I came away from last night’s meeting with one overriding thought. Yet again, the General Convention will have to deal, directly or indirectly, with our relationship to the Anglican Communion. In 2006, against our collective better judgment I daresay, we pandered to the homophobic sensibilities of African archbishops. Voices of Witness Africa shows, in a very graphic way, other Africans perhaps more deserving of our concern. Will we have faithful GLBT people in mind in Anaheim when we make decisions for The Episcopal Church, or will we once again try to placate their oppressors?

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