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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 
Episcopalians expect.)

"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.

Louie Crew
Member of Executive Council, Newark deputy
Founder of Integrity, an international ministry of lesbigay 

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