Canyon Ridge Christian Church hosts National HIV Testing Day

Canyon Ridge Christian Church (Las Vegas) is one of the host locations for the National HIV Testing Day on June 27, 2010.

Because of Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s commitment to “be a show of compassion” to our community and an instrumental force in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, we will be offering FREE HIV testing from 10 AM – 4 PM provided by the Southern Nevada Health District (fingerprick test with results in 15 minutes).

Canyon Ridge Christian Church also supports Martin Ssempa as a mission partner to Uganda where Ssempa is a leading promoter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. You can see him promoting the bill in this Current TV documentary, Missionaries of Hate. The AHB would authorize the death penalty for a person who engages in homosexual touching and is discovered to have HIV. Here is the relevant section:

Aggravated homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality where the…

(b) offender is a person living with HIV

Nothing in the bill requires intent to spread HIV. The bill requires HIV testing, I suppose to determine the sentence: death or life in prison.

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Martin Ssempa once was known for his work in AIDS prevention. He was invited to speak at the 2005 AIDS summit at Saddleback Church and was affiliated with the abstinence organization Wait Training. Both groups have cuts ties with Ssempa, Warren saying it happened in 2007 and Wait Training doing so as the result of Ssempa’s advocacy of the AHB. Another one of Ssempa former AIDS colleagues, Edward Greene, criticized the AHB as damaging to AIDS prevention.

About it’s strategic partners, Canyon Ridge says:

Strategic partners are existing teams and ministries around the world we have met and partnered with who closely match our areas of strategic focus (unreached people, global issues of injustice and HIV/AIDS).

However, in 2007, Martin Ssempa said he would not include gay men and women in treatment programs for HIV.

“Homosexuals should absolutely not be included in Uganda’s HIV/AIDS framework. It is a crime, and when you are trying to stamp out a crime you don’t include it in your programmes,” Ssempa said.

Somehow I doubt that Canyon Ridge would really promote Ssempa’s position here (I will report any response I get). And yet, this was Ssempa’s position in 2007 when he was even then calling for stricter enforcement of existing laws criminalizing homosexuality. Without getting into all of the ironies raised by the National HIV Testing Day at CRCC, I have to believe that what CRCC is doing here would be pretty ominous for GLB people in Uganda and what Martin Ssempa is doing there in word and deed, CRCC would not do here.  I am unable to see the strategy in the match of the “strategic partners” when it seems they are moving in opposite directions.

How about an Anti-Sodomy Bill?

Reading an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof titled, “Learning from the sin of Sodom,” I was reminded of the biblical passage, written by the prophet Ezekiel where the nation of Israel was judged by God. Here is the paragraph from Kristof:

In one striking passage, Stearns quotes the prophet Ezekiel as saying that the great sin of the people of Sodom wasn’t so much that they were promiscuous or gay as that they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49.)

The Stearns he references is the CEO of World Vision, Richard Stearns, who last year published a book, The Hole in Our Gospel. The book calls Christians away from the culture war into a war on apathy and poverty. The passage in Ezekiel is well worth the read for evangelicals just sure that defeating homosexuality is the highest bullet point on God’s agenda.

Chapter 16 begins with a recitation of the sins of Israel with particular scorn for their idolatry and sacrifice of children. Then God through Ezekiel has an interesting commentary on the relationship between Israel and Sodom (Ezek. 16:46-48)

Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they.  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.

On the scale of sin, Israel tops Sodom. But what sins are we talking about? The next verse may surprise those who are calling for a ban on sodomy.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.

The real sodomite is the arrogant person, the overfed and apathetic person who ignores the poor and others in need. The sexual sins of Sodom are second rate compared to the sins of pride and greed. Ban Sodomy, anyone?

Sodomy, viewed from God’s perspective, is practically the American way. I guess we have been exporting sodomy to Uganda.

The sins of Sodom mark the American church in ways that are very uncomfortable to confront. Defined biblically, I hope we can unite against sodomy. Defined biblically, we have all been sodomites, have we not?

Ezekiel goes on to put things in perspective and offers hope (Ezek. 16:52-53).

Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.” ‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them.

We are all in this need-of-redemption thing together. Rather than pick out sins and sinners to protest, it appears we would do better to walk humbly, and take heed, lest we fall.

A view inside Martin Ssempa’s anti-gay campaign

Since October of last year, Uganda has been the focus of international attention due to a proposal in their Parliament which would ban homosexual behavior of any kind via the death penalty for HIV people who engage in homosexual behavior and life in prison for others who attempt such behavior. One of the chief supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been Martin Ssempa, a pastor in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala and well-known among Western evangelicals. Rev. Ssempa this week has called for a “million man march” which he hopes will bring large crowds out to support the harsh legislation. In addition, Ssempa has organized several news conferences in order to rally support among Ugandans for the bill. On such conference was reported in Uganda’s Daily Monitor. Reporter Rodney Muhumuza described the scene. 

Pastor Martin Ssempa on Tuesday plumbed the depths of notoriety when he offered graphic images of gay sex as proof of the need for tough penalties against homosexuals. 

The images were disturbing enough that an American college group visiting in Kampala, left in the middle of his presentation.

But midway through his presentation, saved on a computer, most of his audience walked out, some visibly disturbed, leaving him to wonder if he had done anything wrong. The cleric seemed genuinely rattled when he asked: “Why should I be traumatised?”

One man, who was part of a group of American students invited to the press conference by Rubaga North MP Beti Kamya, was seen crying, his colleagues consoling him as the group left the National Theatre.

The college group was from Pacific Lutheran University studying in Kampala. One student, Kelsey Hartsell, was in the presentation and gave me a brief description of the slide show.

Pastor Ssempa also crossed a line when he decided to display pornographic pictures of two white men from about the 70’s doing what he considered to be dangerous acts in the bedroom as to why homosexuality is dangerous.

In other presentations like this, Ssempa has shown pornographic images of men engaged in various sadomasochistic activities, while alleging that all gays do the activities depicted. He also accused gays of raping boys in order to turn them into homosexuals. Ms. Hartsell continued:

Pastor Ssempa’s main argument was that homosexual cults were kidnapping children and raping them and drugging them to brainwash them and turn them gay. He also used the words sodomy and rape as if they were equal. He accused same sex boarding schools and promoting homosexuality. As far as I know the cults have never been found or proven to exist.

I have asked Hon. Bahati and Pastor Ssempa for evidence of these allegations but nothing has materialized. Even if they were true, the gay advocacy groups agree with all others everywhere that any such cults or activities should be aggressively prosecuted. Ssempa’s rhetoric had a very negative effect on Ms. Hartsell and her classmates. She said,

I can’t speak for everyone, except that everyone was upset and for all different reasons. Regardless of my position on homosexuality and/or the [Anti-Homosexuality] bill I can tell you what upset me was that ‘Pastor’ Ssempa was preaching against people encouraging hate and intolerance. He shamed himself as a pastor by disregarding what he thought of as sin as an action, and turned the people doing what he calls the sin into something less than human. From where I stand a pastor should be teaching forgiveness because no person as the right to judge another so even if he disagreed with their actions that doesn’t disqualify them from humanity.

Rev. Ssempa did not reply to my inquiries about the news conference. When the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced, he told me,

I am in total support of the bill and would be most grateful if it did pass.

It is very clear that Pastor Ssempa endorses the harsh tenets of Ugandan proposal. What is not clear is how it furthers the Gospel for ministers to demonize homosexuals. Such stereotypes are rarely ever correct, and are harmful because they hinder an engagement of others as humans bearing the image of God. To at least one American student, Pastor Ssempa’s campaign backfired.

Here is another eyewitness account from a student on the PLU trip.

And another…

Now he has taken his show and tell program to church.

Ssempa’s “million man march” halted – UPDATED

UPDATE: A “hundreds person march” was held in Jinza. Video is at the end of the post and the Daily Monitor has an article about it.

It may be temporary but the Uganda version of the “million man march” on Kampala may be off. The Daily Monitor reports:

On Sunday, Police moved to halt a planned demonstration in support of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill saying that the government is still sorting ‘issues out’ as pro-gay activists under the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kampala secretly met to condemn the same bill.

“It is true Gen. Kayihura sent us a text message that he hasn’t cleared the demonstration. He said we should meet him on Tuesday to forge a way forward,” Pastor Ssempa said.

Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the organisers of the demonstration confirmed that the Inspector of Police Major General Kale kayihura had contacted them and proposed a meeting on Tuesday before the Wednesday demo.

Meanwhile a Tulsa, OK MCC pastor was in Kampala to support those targeted by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kampala, one of the few religious organizations in Uganda that is supporting the gay community held a conference on Sunday to ‘highlight the need for an end to discriminatory treatment of the gay population in uganda.
According their website, Reverend Marlin Lavanhar, President of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry and senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church, arrived in Uganda on Thursday last week to launch a campaign against the Bill.
Be careful, pastor, you might get an advanced taste of the AHB:
However, Gen. Kayihura said he was not aware of the meeting and vowed to arrest them. “I am not aware of this meeting. But if we get them, we shall arrest them,” he said.
UPDATED: He moved it to Jinja, another large city about 100 km from Kampala.

Ugandan Muslim cleric threatens to hunt down gays

Buried in a feature article in Uganda’s Daily Monitor about Martin Ssempa’s plans to hold a march against homosexuality is a statement about a Muslim cleric named Multah Bukenya. Reporter Rodney Muhumuza wrote:

Multah Bukenya, a Tabliq cleric, has also renewed his threat to form squads that would hunt gays.

Tabliq is an explession of Islam which focuses on inviting others to join their faith, a kind of mission emphasis. In some places, notably Uganda, it has been linked to more radical political activities. According to prior reports, this particular cleric has in the past made clear his radical intent to rid Uganda of gays. While one should always use caution in reading these reports, this current article in the Daily Monitor provides some new confirmation of inflamatory statements attributed to Bukenya in the past.

In 2007, Bukenya was quoted in on the AllAfrica website (the full article is here reprinted from the Daily Monitor) as preparing for open season on gays:

Kampala — MUSLIM Tabliq youth plan to form what they call an ‘Anti-Gay Squad’ to fight homosexuality in the country. Sheikh Multah Bukenya, a senior cleric in the Muslim Tabliq Sect said the vice is widely spreading among the young generation.

“We are ready to act swiftly and form this squad that will wipe out all abnormal practices like homosexuality in our society,” he said last Friday during prayers at Noor Mosque in Kampala.

In addition to the long arm of the law, the “religious” coalition in Uganda, headed by Martin Ssempa, is advocating mob mentality. I wonder if the “Anti-Gay Squads” will be in force during Ssempa’s march next month.

Observers outside of Uganda have correctly pointed to the anti-gay conference in Kampala back in March as being fuel on the fire of anti-gay sentiment there. Rounding out the picture is the festering hatred toward gays generated by Islam in Uganda as well. 

As I see it, Christian pastors who join with this cleric in a coalition are akin to pro-life people who advocate violence against abortion clinics.  Mainstream pro-lifers are horrified by those who use or advocate such violence. Many Christians are reacting in a similar fashion to these statements and coalitions in Uganda, sadly, in this case, led by a Christian minister – Martin Ssempa – who is supported by many in the United States.