By Linda (Lindy) Miles Lindy retired as Director of Technical Publications at Qualcomm Incorporated where she started a PFLAG group. She is the author of one computer book and two humorous cat books. She resides in San Diego with her husband and herd of six cats.
Four years ago I learned about the criminalization of LGBT people around the world due to anti-gay laws and the anti-gay religious crusades of extreme right evangelicals from America. LGBT people were being kicked out of their homes, schools and jobs, and were being mugged and jailed. They were denied testing and treatment at religious and government-run clinics. I asked Rev. Albert Ogle of the interfaith St. Paul's Foundation for International Reconciliation how I could help. The Foundation works with religious groups, governments, and UN organizations in trying to eliminate the laws in the 76+ countries that criminalize LGBT people.
My husband Rick and I became involved in helping Bishop Christopher Senyonjo and his wife Mary raise funds for their training center and medical clinic in Kampala where LGBT people can get job skills training and testing and treatment without fear of being arrested or sent away. Now 81 and a great grandfather, the Bishop once presided over half a million Ugandan Anglicans before retiring in 2001. In 2002, conservative Anglican leaders in Uganda found that he was counseling gay and lesbians who had been kicked out of churches, schools, and jobs. The leaders stripped him of his ability to conduct services and rites, causing him to lose his retirement income. Despite death threats, he has continued to minister to the marginalized. When the gay Uganda lawyer, David Kato, was murdered in 2010, the Bishop presided over his burial after a layman appointed by the Anglican Church of Uganda started an anti gay diatribe at the funeral service. The Bishop was shown on CNN and other news stations as he bravely told the mourners that God loves gay people as they are. The Huffington Post named him as Religion's 10 Most Important People of 2010. In 2012, President Clinton awarded the Bishop the Clinton Foundation Global Initiative Award for his courageous work.
After hosting a young victim of torture from Kampala who had been given asylum in the US, Rick and I became increasingly alarmed at the escalating violence in countries with large Christian populations. So a year ago, I gathered volunteers from the Foundation and from my PFLAG chapter with the idea of changing the minds of anti-gay Christians here and abroad. We had a Skype conference with a lesbian activist from Jamaica. She said we might be able to change anti-gay attitudes if we made a film featuring African-American clergy telling Christians that God made LGBT people and loves them as they are.
In the summer of 2013, working with documentarian Ed Breeding we made a 32-minute film we titled Love Heals Homophobia. It features four straight, prominent, African-American clergy: the Rev. Gil Caldwell, a retired United Methodist minister who marched with Dr. King and is presently a Member of the Board of PFLAG National; the Revs. Dennis and Christine Wiley of the historic Covenant Baptist Church of Christ in D.C.; and the Rev. Paul Abernathy of St. Mark's Episcopal Church Capitol Hill. Rev. Ogle, an Irishman who fled his country in 1982 when his Anglican church found he was gay, also speaks in the film about the importance of Christians showing compassion and understanding. All the ministers speak eloquently and persuasively about how they came to love and encourage their LGBT parishioners and friends. We premiered the film Oct. 11, 2013 at Rev. Abernathy's church in D.C., to a crowd of straight Christian and LGBT activists. The response was wonderfully encouraging. The ministers in the film believe that congregations in America as well as abroad should see the DVD.
Most Americans have no idea what is going on in the Christian communities of Africa and the Caribbean. Too many American churches support anti-LGBT laws as seen in Nigeria, Uganda, and Ethiopia where even Campus Crusade for Christ (now rebranded as "Cru") is pushing for the death penalty for homosexuals. Genuine Christians from America must counter what the extreme fundamentalists are exporting. The truth needs to go out to the millions of people who have been misled with lies about LGBT people.
We had the funds to make only 2000 DVDs of the film. Most have been distributed here and abroad. If you are interested in showing the film in your community or in helping to fund another run of copies, please contact email@example.com. If you would like to read about the non-profit St. Paul's Foundation for International Reconciliation and would like to donate to our humanitarian projects, please click here. We have only one paid staff. The rest of us are volunteers. We try our best to save lives and the quality of lives.
“Roger’s film (by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, producer of God Loves Uganda) exposed the ugly side of what’s going on in Africa, mainly with the white fundamentalist ministers from the United States,” Breeding said. “In it, he shows the evangelical groups from this country stirring up hatred and homophobia in third world countries. Our film presents an answer to all that hate, from high-profile African American ministers in the United States. These are very powerful men and women speaking out in defense of the LGBT community. It’s meant as an answer to those who are hurting and suffering, but also as a challenge to the ministers who are still spreading the venom.”