God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Bidding farewell to IAM

We all are learning to bid farewell at times, it is like a repeated rehearsal for the big farewell of dying.  Today I bid farewell to IAM where I was for 6 years on board as a trustees. IAM stands for Integrative Affirmative Ministry and deals with the question of inclusion of gay and lesbian and transgender people into the mainstream churches. It is an amazing bunch of people, straight, gay and lesbian, priests, reverends and bishops are taking seriously the situation of the gay and lesbians who are part of the churches, but most times are not welcomed. Take my church: Homosexuality is intrinsic evil, so I have read – but being a homosexual is ok – well, as long as you don’t live it out. Not even in a committed partnership. It’s one of the most contradictory teachings in the church: Your God-given sexuality is not allowed to be practised, you are sentenced to a life in chastity to be certain to go to heaven… So they think or so some think.. Not sure what God thinks.. But I am sure that his unconditional love allows more than the church’s teaching. Other churches are fine with homosexuality – as long as it is not the pastor. Some are fine with a homosexual pastor – but not that the boyfriend or partner is living in the parish house. And vividly I remember the fight in the Anglican church when the first openly gay living bishop was ordained. What kind of threats from African and US Anglicans wanna – know – it – better – what – is – God’s – will…

The churches teaching is based on the scripture – well, the scripture did not know about committed relationships, it did not know about sexuality as we do – but what St. Augustin and others thought to know some hundred years ago – nothing has changed for the official church. Or has it? The permission of a bishop in Vienna to allow for a gay parish council chair is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. But the fight continues about the issue – and we often forget that we talk about brothers and sisters in Christ – this is not an academic study or reflection. I personally believe that we should leave it to God and the people concerned what happens between two adults in a bedroom as long as it is consensual and committed.

But back to the farewell – after six years of serving on board of this fine organisation I retired today from service and it was a touching moment. I really learned a lot about the Afrikaans culture, about LGBTI, about church and Christian communities – it was a humble experience and an eye opener in many instances. Judith, Peter, Retha and all the rest: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, your friendship and the joined efforts. David, who also left today after 8 years of service: Have a great sabbathical, bishop and keep your friendly and welcoming attitude…  And yeah, we all keep in touch…

Filed under: General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25.11.2009 on the road again…

My job description requires in the moment a lot of travelling. Going to meetings  means passing the N1 and N2 again and again and being reminded all the time that we are close to the soccer world cup 2010. No, to be reminded there is no big advertising necessary, just experiencing the stop and go between all the road repairs and reconstructions gives you plenty of time to reflect on the coming event. We South Africans are happy about the repairs, especially not knowing whether this will happen again in the next twenty years ahead of us. So all is welcome what will make our lives easier after 2010…

Having seen the traffic tripling the last 10 years without any new lane of road has taught us that there is a limit to more cars on the same roads, going from the airport to town in the mornings have become a nightmare scenario.

It is also nice to see the squatter camps disappearing from the motorway, so that the visitors of 2010 do not see too much poverty along the way to town. Even if it is partly because of dressing up the country for the world cup, it without doubt helps people to better their living situation.

So, while driving there is much to reflect and to consider and I specially admire those cutting grass and hedges along the motorway – sometimes only protected through a lonely red flag waving person in the curve without doubt heaven must hold its hand here to protect the workers who sometimes seemingly not notice the danger they are in…

And there have been the meetings today too besides all the reflections: one to one meetings, but also a trustee meeting of IAM, an organisation looking into the ministries for GLBTI communities within the churches. Hosting good old friends this evening at home was a great chance just to catch up and to indulge in the good old times… yeah, even priests do have some… 🙂

Filed under: Networking, Reflection, , , , , ,

07.10.09 business

This morning the Regional Council of the Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry met with the new Consul General of Germany. And as I am part of this regional council as the vice-chair, I attended the meeting. For me as a priest, being involved in pastoral work and now mainly work in the fields of HIV and AIDS the business sector was always an interesting portfolio, so to speak. Not only because of fundraising purposes.. :-), no, I strongly believe that work forms an integral and important part of a life of a person. Having a proper training, having a good job, earning a living is essential for the dignity of people and I believe that ethics play a great role in business dealings. Since years I am associated with the Chamber of Commerce which also produced a wonderful friendship with the head of the Cape Town office, Anja. I mentioned this morning during the meeting that church (= social), chamber and consulate should work hand in hand, especially when it comes to welcome political delegations from overseas. They should be informed about all three sectors of human society and so form a good and reasonable picture of South Africa.
As my father was a banker, I guess, there are also some business genes in my body and it is said, that I am quite good in money matters – which may be the case :-).
So training issues and renewable energy were part of the discussion this morning and I am sure that we as the newly elected regional council can contribute to the development of training possibilities here in the Western Cape. It is indeed difficult to find a training as I am used to find in Germany. Giving people the ability to work and earn money with their hands work will reduce poverty, will reduce crime and will give them a sort of education, which will automatically also benefit our fight against HIV and AIDS.
This afternoon I attended the board meeting of IAM, an organization looking into the ministry of churches for the GLBTI community. This obviously is an important work as it touches on the understanding of peoples lives in a very personal way. Our churches are not known to be very tolerant towards the gay and lesbian community and there is still so much work to do to stop discrimination and to welcome them with an open heart into our church communities. IAM also runs a safe house for gay and lesbian people, who are kicked out from their families after disclosure or similar. Especially in the black communities there are major problems of acceptance which have to be addressed. For all of them should be the unconditional love of God a daily experience, right?

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

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