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RGOD2: African architect of homophobia supported by PEPFAR?

An open letter to the U.S. Secretary of State, the Honorable John Kerry

Dear Secretary Kerry

Thank you for your inspiring words to the international community as we celebrate LGBT Pride around the world this month. There have been many examples of support and assistance given by your staff and the government of the United States to the struggling LGBT community in 76 countries where it is illegal to be LGBT. This stigma and persecution is also often transferred to LGBT allies.

While visiting the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda last week and accompanied by a delegation of LGBT service providers who are in need of PEPFAR and USAID resources, I met the retired Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, as he was exiting the compound. He was either meeting with U.S. officials to discuss funding for his $15 million new Orombi Foundation or seeking a visa to return to the USA where he will raise money from American taxpayers and faith communities for his work in Uganda and throughout Africa.

While the LGBT community globally struggles to find funds for basic human services and HIV prevention we are discovering disturbing trends in the allocation of PEPFAR and USAID funds to Christian fundamentalist organizations that are often in the front lines of encouraging the further criminalization of homosexuality. My recent visit to Uganda also uncovered a disturbing trend among religious NGO’s who have agreed to serve most vulnerable populations including LGBT and men who have sex with men (MSM), signed contracts with the U.S. government but define their own vulnerable populations excluding these two target populations. There is no recourse when these contracts are not fulfilled. A recent report from amfAR shows how this problem is affecting eight southern African countries and may be systemic in many of the countries we are supporting with PEPFAR and USAID funds.

Please click HERE.

This failure to reach vulnerable populations raises two important questions for the American public.

1. Why is the U.S. government making a very public stand on LGBT human rights (epitomized in Secretary Hillary Clinton’s speech in Geneva in December 2011 and your own Gay Pride correspondence) while it sends millions of dollars to organizations who work daily to undermine this policy?

2. Why are we giving a visa to someone like Henry Luke Orombi who has been described as the architect of homophobic hate in Africa which allows his access to fund a leading anti-gay organization subsidized by the American taxpayer?

It may be time for the U.S. State Department and USAID/PEPFAR to inform the American public of how much money we have given over the past 10 years to the Anglican Church of Uganda under the leadership of Luke Orombi. These contracts may be direct or may be under the oversight of the Ugandan Protestant Medical Bureau, or Inter-Religious Council or the Joint Christian Council.

The former Archbishop’s financial success

The Archbishop was the first leader in the church of Uganda in 40 years to complete the construction of a 16-story tower block in the Center of Kampala estimated to cost between $16 million and $20 million. Financing and fundraising for the Church House Project remains a mystery, though investors were encouraged to buy “shares” in the property.

Please click HERE.

Many of the investors came from the USA and the UK and as principal donors would also have links to Orombi’s personal Foundation, which has a $15 million annual goal. We are not talking about raising a few thousand dollars here and there to help Ugandan AIDS orphans, we are describing a multimillion-dollar investment project that appears to have gone awry.

Please click HERE.

A report that the project may lose $400,000 in September 2012 coincided with Orombi’s early retirement announced eight months earlier. Half the funds had been paid to the contractor in 2011 and we would like to make sure no PEPFAR or USAID funds were used to support this project or fund Orombi’s extensive travel schedule that was needed to secure this ambitious financing in a country where the average member of his church lives on $2 per day.

Because of the complexity of Church of Uganda PEPFAR and USAID funding during Orombi’s tenure, it may be necessary for the General Accounting Office (GAO) to pen a full investigation of the Church House Project and its relationship to American funding. USA churches and NGO’s are required to report any funding to overseas projects on the IRS 990 form, so it would be east to connect the audits and major donors to this project and American support. I assume USAID and PEPFAR have access to these audits as part of the extensive review process to be awarded these kinds of grants.

Although Orombi’s personal Foundation is registered in Uganda, USA donors would also likely be using IRS C 3 Tax exempt privileges through sympathetic churches and non government organizations. A link to the Church House Project is HERE.

A link to the Foundation is HERE. On the Foundation website page for donors, administrative costs are cited as some of the items covered under donations, but the donations will also pay for the promotion of Orombi’s theology and ideas that have contributed to the demise of LGBT people throughout Africa
“Purchase of equipment for the publication and mass production of the sermons CDs and DVDs
of the messages of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi,”

Who is this man?

Most Americans, including potential donors have no idea what Luke Orombi’s theology and political ambition has done to undermine American foreign policy and cause a rise in misinformation and persecution of the LGBT community, not only in Uganda, but throughout Africa. His work has also caused significant rifts between faith communities in the USA and cost millions of dollars in legal and litigation costs that could have been applied to more needy issues here and in his own country. Allow me to list some of his activities during his tenure as Archbishop from 2004 to last year.

2004: Orombi refuses to lift the inhibition imposed upon Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (who served the Diocese of West Buganda for 24 years) causing him and his family increasing financial hardship and social stigma. The bishop was not allowed to baptize or marry any of his grandchildren and was threatened with burial in unconsecrated ground if he did not recant his statements in favor of LGBT inclusion in the church. His sanctions against Senyonjo would become worse.

2007: Orombi leads the assault on the Episcopalian church property war where many disaffected congregations invite him to give Episcopal oversight to their congregations and try to seize their church properties. This legal battle has cost millions of dollars of American funds and in almost every case, the Episcopal diocese has won the case. The disaffected congregations who tried to claim these properties were acting illegally and American courts ruled against them including the California Supreme Court. Orombi gave them spiritual sanction to begin this campaign and until 2009 he oversaw these fractured congregations from Newport Beach, Calif. to Truro church in Virginia. This was not merely an inter-church rift. The political ramifications were clear from the beginning when Orombi consecrated an American priest to become a bishop in North America to oversee this schism. The fact this ceremony was attended by the Ugandan Prime Minister who gave a personal message from President Musevene supporting the consecration and a gift of $1,000 to the new bishop’s fund illustrating Orombi’s political agenda.

“THE Anglican Church of Uganda has consecrated an American priest as bishop to oversee Christian congregations that have split from the main Episcopal Church in the US over the issue of homosexuality.

John Guernsey was consecrated at St. James Cathedral in Mbarara town yesterday in a ceremony, presided over by the Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi. He was assisted by bishops from Canada, Argentina, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria, and priests from the US.

Please click HERE.

2007: Orombi deposes Bishop Christopher Senyonyo for creating an LGBT supportive ministry in Uganda (Integrity) and accuses him of starting his own church. The bishop is compared to someone with gangrene and was never given due process or church procedures were never followed as outlined in the Church of Uganda’s constitutions and canons.

“The archbishop blasted the Integrity organization saying it had no place in Africa. "Integrity has a beach head in Uganda but we have cut off Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo for organizing the group here. He has been banned from preaching and "we will not let him function with us. What he is doing is totally unacceptable. Would you tell a man who has a leg with gangrene that you approve? No you would say it is unacceptable. You would cut it off to spare his life."

Please click HERE.

2008: Allegations of death threats are made in public while he is travelling in America is used by Oromi to further demonize the Ugandan LGBT community.

Please click HERE.

“I don’t wear my collar when I am in countries which have supporters of homosexuals” he said while addressing Christians at Kitunga archdeaconry, West Ankole diocese in Ntungamo district. “I am forced to dress like a civilian because those people are dangerous. They can harm anybody who is against them. Some of them are killers. They want to close the mouth of anybody who is against them.”

Were these threats ever reported to the State Department or United Kingdom government? If so, what security costs continue to be supported by the taxpayer every time Orombi embarks on a fundraising mission to the west?

2010: Allegations of bribery by the President to Church officials and bishop s ignored during Orombe’s term in office. Please click HERE.

The church calls for an end to government corruption. Please click HERE and HERE.

February 2010” Orombi leads the Church of Uganda’s support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in a statement supporting its spirit and intentions but suggests amendments to existing penal codes. Please click HERE.

David Bahati, the bill’s author, is an Anglican and his stepfather is the retired Anglican bishop of Kigezi.

August 2010: Orombi hosts the meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (representing 60 m Anglicans) in a lavish hotel in Entebbe as guests of the Ugandan President. He tries to convince the 400 African bishops that the American Episcopal Church should be ousted from the Anglican Communion and replaced by the disaffected Episcopalian breakaway moved known as the Anglican Churches of North America with deposed Bishop Duncan as its newly proclaimed Archbishop. The move was defeated by the majority of bishops. The overt political nature of Orombi’s work continues to be disguised under religious teaching and polity.

Please click HERE.

October 2010: Orombi is one of the main leaders in an historic gathering of 4,000 evangelical leaders in Capetown, South Africa, where Exodus International is invited to present its theology and psychological framework about homosexuality in Africa. (The Rev. Kapya Kaoma will release some new research on the significance of this American based ministry on African homophobia.) The information presented about homosexuals to Christian leaders at this conference was deeply flawed and can be compared to the “weapons of mass destruction” misinformation campaign used by the Bush administration to invade Iraq. (This conference was described as the equivalent of the evangelical movement’s Second Vatican Council and had a huge impact on the modern church in Africa). When the research is released, it will become clear how the African evangelical churches were deliberately misinformed by Orombi and his Exodus International allies at this conference. Although Exodus International and Alan Chambers are reshaping their North American profile to look more benign, (see Lisa Ling’s upcoming program on June 20 “Gays and God” with Chambers apologizing while Exodus International continues to preach misinformation to the Global South market.

Please click HERE.

Orombi was invited to be the honored preacher at the closing ceremonies of this historic event and religious leaders went home to places like Nigeria, Zimbabwe , Malawi and Zambia to begin a concerted campaign of anti-LGBT legislation and persecution, exclusion from services and having voice in the public square.

June 2011: Orombi leads the Ugandan Joint Christian Council (a PEPFAR-funded organization) to call for the reading of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as his last official act as Archbishop.

Please click HERE.

It is clear from this brief history of Orombi’s association with the anti-LGBT movement in Africa and ties to American and British fundamentalist organizations using tax exempt funding (and often supported by the Musevene government ) that his negative impact continues to be with us. LGBT Ugandans are currently excluded from receiving PEPFAR and USAID funding at any significant level to meet their needs. Meanwhile, freed from the administrative and pastoral responsibilities of an Archbishop, Orombi is using his new Foundation as a new beachhead for American based donors to continue his war against the LGBT movement and current American foreign policy. What is the State Department’s position on this strange dichotomy and how much are we actually giving him and his networks?

It is important for the American taxpayer and American Christians to know to what extent the U S Government has supported or is supporting the various organizations mentioned in this document. It is also important the American people are forewarned of Orombi’s imminent arrival in this country to further his rather successful campaigns subsidized by our taxes.

While it is good to hear and see the symbolic gestures of support of the LGBT movement from the US State Department during Pride celebrations, these tokens of convivial solidarity fail to impress anyone reading this litany of complicity by the US government in supporting one of Africa’s most accomplished agents of deception and misinformation. With the recent public release of two documentaries on the effects of American evangelicals on the LGBT community in Uganda, Orombi’s connection to this suffering can no longer be hidden from the American people.

It will become increasingly difficult for the former Archbishop to quietly pass through our cities and communities collecting money from well-intentioned Americans (clerical collared or not) given his history. The more difficult question to ask is simply this: Why is our government supporting his work?

Yours sincerely,

The Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle
St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation
San Diego CA

Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Hon. Barbara Boxer
Hon. Dianne Feinstein
Hon. Ed Royce
Hon. Susan Davis
Hon. Scott Peters
Hon. Juan Vargas
Hon. Christopher Smith
Hon. Karen Bass
Hon. Tammy Baldwin
Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori
Very Rev. Gary Hall
Administrator Rajiv Shah
Dep. Admin. Donald Steinberg
Ambassador Eric Goseby

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and lives in San Diego. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.