From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ugandan bishop who chairs local Integrity chapter responds to criticism

Date 27 Feb 2001 13:33:12


Ugandan bishop who chairs local Integrity chapter responds to criticism

by Jan Nunley

     (ENS) A retired Ugandan bishop says the experience of watching a Ugandan 
woman and her father struggle with her announcement that she was a lesbian 
changed his mind about homosexuality and led him to chair the African continent's 
first Integrity chapter.

     Bishop Disani Christopher Senyonjo, chairman of Integrity-Uganda, released a 
statement February 27 in which he apologized for thinking that homosexuality in 
Africa is a foreign import.

     "Memories of twenty years of my Episcopacy in this Western Buganda Diocese 
came flooding back," Senyonjo wrote. "Never has the Church admitted that there is 
a plurality of thought, sexuality and life in Africa as is in the rest of the 
World. I was also sorry to think that homo-sexuality was a sexual deviation from 
western countries which should be denied a resting place in Africa… 

     "Both from my experience as a counselor and from available scientific 
evidence, I have come to a humble conclusion that heterosexual adjustment is a 
practical and successful aim of counseling only in a minority of cases in 
Uganda," the bishop stated.

     Senyonjo described the Integrity chapter as "purely a local initiative" to 
provide pastoral work and counseling as well as "to help the public come to a new 
awareness and new understanding of sexuality."

     Senyonjo also called a recent statement by the Ugandan House of Bishops 
condemning Integrity-Uganda "rude." 

     "[A]s the Bishops of Uganda try to adopt an alarmist approach to Integrity-
Uganda and many of them continue to share secret meals with homosexuals, one 
wonders whether they have not put their integrity to further scrutiny. It remains 
to be seen therefore, what integrity is in the eyes of Africa," Senyonjo's 
statement concluded.

     The 70-year-old Senyonjo was consecrated bishop of the diocese of West 
Buganda in 1974 and served 20 years. Buganda is the region of Uganda where 23 
Anglican and 22 Roman Catholic pages at the court of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II were 
killed in 1885-86 for opposing the king, including refusing sexual advances. The 
pages are known as the Martyrs of Uganda. 

     The executions began after a senior advisor, who was a convert to 
Christianity, criticized Mwanga for ordering the 1885 murder of Anglican bishop 
James Hannington for attempting to enter his kingdom through an alternate route. 
"Go tell your master that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood," 
were Hannington's last words. 

     The 22 Roman Catholic martyrs were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964, during 
Vatican II. Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie came on pilgrimage in January 
1984 to the Basilica Church of the Uganda Martyrs in Namugongo. The date when 
most of the martyrs were killed, June 3, is a national holiday in Uganda, and 
their feast day is also celebrated in the Episcopal Church on that date. 
Episcopalians celebrate the Feast of James Hannington and his Companions on 
October 29.

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News 
and Information.

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