Thursday, April 17, 2014

My ordination as Anglican priest source of hope for sexual minorities, says Nigerian gay man

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House of Rainbow Fellowship was forced to go underground in Nigeria.

Five years after he was forced to leave Nigeria for the United Kingdom following threats to his life, Nigeria’s first openly gay preacher and the founder of House of Rainbow Fellowship, a Christian community for sexual minorities and marginalised people, Reverend Jide Macaulay, has been ordained a Deacon of the Anglican Church on Sunday in Chelmsford, United Kingdom. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cotterel, will hold the ordination service at the Chelmsford Cathedral.

Reverend Macaulay will serve as the Curate in the East Ham Parish, London. He is believed to have inspired many ethnic minority people in the Newham area of London when in 2000 he played Jesus in 2000 Newham Millennium Passion Play.

In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Reverend Macaulay says his ordination is a source of hope for sexual minorities. He also spoke about his experience in Nigeria, the future of House of Rainbow fellowship and the recently passed anti-gay bill by the National Assembly.

PT: What does your ordination into the Anglican Communion mean?

Rev: My ordination into the Anglican Communion is an important continuation of my call to parish ministry, to reach out to all people regardless of who they are. I believe whilst my ordination is not anything new to the church, for me it is both relevant on the state of persecution and righteous living for sexual minorities. My message to all people especially Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people of faith and none is to hold on to their dreams and hopes in the face of hardship, God is a good God and loves all people.

PT: Tell us about the role you played in the Newham Millennium Passion Play “A light in the Darkness” and how it has helped to change your life?

Rev: I played the character of “Jesus” in the passion play, which was staged outdoor throughout the London Borough of Newham in 2000, this alone did not change my life but nonetheless was a single contribution to enhancing my relationship with the Anglican Church and more so with my Christian faith. The audition and rehearsal started late 1999 to early 2000. Reverend Father Steven Saxby, a Curate at St Bartholomew at the time, immediately became my mentor and friend, who also played a crucial part as my spiritual leader and advisor. Playing Jesus gave me the opportunity to experience the hardship he went through and to understand the love that he has for the world. Jesus even at his death said “Father forgive them”. Often I feel that playing Jesus in such a public way allowed me to connect with my own pains and those inflicted on me and at the same time be able to acknowledge the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Now that you are fully ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church, what happens to the House Of Rainbow Fellowship?

My ordination with the Anglican Communion does not extinguish the passion for inclusive theology and ministry for the marginalized. As an Anglican minister, my duties are carried forward to continue to reach out to people on the margins and that also means an understanding of the aims and objectives of House Of Rainbow and how the universal church may benefit from the extra ordinary work in hostile regions with marginalised people. I am encouraged by those who supported my ministry and efforts towards ordination and have urged me to remain true to the call of God and particularly with a passion to ensure that there is room at the communion table for sexual minorities. House Of Rainbow continues to develop independently as a support group with 10 active groups in six countries, managed by 15 Volunteer Local Leaders. (www.houseofrainbow.org)

What happened to House Of Rainbow in 2008 and what were the core reasons for leaving Nigeria?

2008 was a very busy year for House Of Rainbow and the ministry was at the height of its popularity as we have become a household name in Nigeria, particularly well known for its inclusive welcome of marginalised communities. We stood for change, peace and reconciliation, however, violence was thrust upon us as a community and many people, organisations and the media were simply looking for “dirt” about us. In February, I was ambushed by the media in Abuja at the Africa Sexuality Conference. In March/April the newspapers were filled with sensational headlines, by July we have had many more “undercover reporters” joined us and started to record and take photographs. By August/September, we received unprecedented hostile media coverage, increased violence and numerous death threats. Those who attacked us used this for their own gains. After the second year anniversary celebration of House Of Rainbow in Lagos, I went to Abuja for several meetings and when I returned to Lagos, the environment became extremely hostile and the Board of House Of Rainbow decided it was time we re-strategise. I was advised to return to London for my own safety and we moved the ministry underground to make it safer for those who attend. House Of Rainbow since 2006 has always remained an active ministry in Nigeria with three active groups.

What does your family, especially your father think of your sexual orientation and would he be attending your ordination in the Anglican Church in England?

My family like any family first struggled with the knowledge of me being gay, of course it is not about me that they first worry but the prejudice and potential discrimination that both myself and my family had to endure after coming out as gay. The fear of me being gay was superseded by the unconditional love of my parents that held the family in one love. Unfortunately being in public life and religious ministry has not helped in dealing with this privately. I personally would not have it any other way; I am proud to be gay and of Nigerian descent, with the love of my parents I continue to excel as a son who just happens to be homosexual. For most of my family members I am mostly loved and supported, they are not ashamed of me. My achievements and ordination would be celebrated with my entire family and especially with my dad by my side.

What do you think of the Nigerian anti-same sex marriage bill recently passed in the parliament?

I think that the anti same sex marriage bill in Nigeria has gone too far, many Nigerians are concerned; especially to Human Right defenders and gay activists it makes no sense. Nigeria should look at progressive constitutions around the world that are inclusive of sexual minorities. Homosexuality was never a foreign import and there is nothing to be afraid of, only if they can focus on getting to know the gay people and seeking our opinions. I believe that the Nigerian legislators should focus on laws against discrimination and not laws that punish private sexual relationship between two consenting adults. Unfortunately, the Nigeria systems allows for many institutions to lawfully discriminate against sexual minorities and sadly this bill will and more likely punish innocent people, such as innocent parents and other family members, sexual health providers and proprietors of single gendered institutions. Nigerians should seek to get to know gays and lesbians amongst us; no one wakes up in the morning and chooses to be gay or lesbian knowing the hatred that will follow. It is a shame in my opinion with all the education and educated people in Nigeria, the last bastion the government can produce is an anti same sex marriage bill. I am not convinced this bill is the way forward. God bless Nigeria.

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