[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]
Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi: Listening
One thousand miles (1,609 kilometers) is a long way to travel just to hear
one sermon, but the trip was well worth the effort, time, and expense when I
went on Wednesday to the Church of the Ascension in Montgomery, Alabama to
hear Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda. He preached about
sin, about God's forgiveness, about mission responsibilities.... I agreed
with every word he said and was delighted to have a chance to tell him so
afterwards. I teased him saying there was only one thing wrong with his
"What?" he asked.
"It was not long enough."
(I was brought up in Alabama as Southern Baptist and like many Africans feel
that you've only begun to warm up after the twenty minutes most
"I'm Louie Crew, and I am from the Diocese of Newark," I told him.
"God bless you!" he said.
I pointed out how important it is to relate face to face, not just through
correspondence as we have done recently. He agreed. "We will be in
touch," he said.
It was especially heartening to me for the Archbishop to preach in a pulpit
that has rarely (if ever?) welcomed a preacher of color. Ascension was long
a bastion of segregation, and is only a 5-10 minute walk from the mansion of
the Governor of Alabama.
Bishop Orombi ended his sermon describing how no one is exempt from loving
our neighbors as we love ourselves. He described two young girls whom he
and his wife adopted and raised with their own children. One is now a
4th-year law student. Another is now attending Uganda Christian University.
Bishop Orombi thanked parishioners at Ascension for their plans to be
generous to Uganda, but also poignantly charged them, and himself, with the
insight "that charity begins at home."
After the service when the regional vice-president of Integrity introduced
me to a Kenyan priest who now serves as the only priest of color in the
Diocese of Alabama. The times are changing: hallelujah!
(Pictures of the service are at Ascension's website,
http://www.coascension.org/Photo%20Album/20041110%20Orombi%20Visit/20041110%20Orombi%20Visit.htm) and you can hear the Archbishop's sermon at
There is so much more that unites us as Anglicans than the current issues
over which we struggle.
We all need to listen more to those with whom we disagree. Listening does
not require that we deny or suppress our disagreements; it means that we
give ourselves an opportunity to hear Christ in our sister and brother
Imagine the impoverishment to Christian scriptures if they were stripped of
Jesus' witness about sexual outsiders of his day. Imagine the Bible without
his story of the good Samaritan and without the story of my spiritual
ancestor, the woman at the well. It was no accident that Jesus' enemies
mocked him as 'a friend of sinners.' He is indeed. Grace is amazing still.
Two colleagues who recently visited in Africa to listen to the concerns
about the actions of General Convention in 2003 reported that "for Africans,
the homosexual issue is not just a talking point; it's a Jesus issue."
The same is true for me. It is a salvation issue, with eternal life at
stake. I have no idea why Jesus loves a gay person like me. I have done
nothing to deserve his love. Nor could I ever deserve. I discovered that I
am gay at puberty and spent almost 15 years in trying to become straight.
Councilors told me that it was 'a phase, and when the `phase' would not go
away, I too thought God could not possibly love me.
But the Good News is that God does, not because 'gay is Good" but because
"God is Good, all the time." God's mercy endures forever, and not for me
only. God loves absolutely everybody.
I welcome the opportunity to share this Good News with anyone willing to
listen, to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Member of Executive Council, Newark deputy
Founder of Integrity, an international ministry of lesbigay