Terry Charlton SJ: Accompanying Vocations and Beyond

Abstract: Being LGBT in Africa can be really scary. Too many African presidents have said, “Someone can’t be homosexual and African.” Taboos and stigmatization are so rampant. My accompanying persons who are LGBT began when I was Jesuit vocation director; I somehow communicated that it is OK to be have same sex attractions or to be gay so I began hearing from this or that young man as he discovers himself to be gay and tries to figure out what to do with it.
Of course, some join religious life; others move forward in other walks of life. Most are amazingly successful; but they carry so much pain at thinking they have to hide and that Church and Society would reject them if they were known to be LGBT.
Most are alienated from the Church. As the Church reflects about family at the upcoming Synod, the Church in Africa needs help to make a start at providing a space where LGBT persons can receive understanding pastoral care and where families with members who are LGBT can learn how to receive them with love. In my presentation, using African cultural perspectives, I want to propose how we in Africa can become more open, welcoming and affirming.

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Terry_CharltonTerry Charlton, S.J. I’m from the Midwest. USA. I’m now in my 50th year as a Jesuit and have spent the last 28 years in Africa: first, 3 years in Kumasi, Ghana, now, 25 years in Nairobi, Kenya.
Professionally, I’m a systematic theologian (Ph.D. from Boston College); I’ve only taught full-time for ten years, from 1990 to 1999 at Hekima College Jesuit School of Theology, but I hope I’m always a theologian.
That means to be someone who’s always reflecting deeply about life, including how God keeps offering more life, and sharing my reflections so that we can embrace life more fully. I’ve been Ecclesiastical Assistant (big words for chaplain) for Christian Life Community, Kenya (1990-1010), Founding Director of the Zaidi (Magis) Centre for Ignatian Spirituality (2000-05), Co-Founder and Chaplain of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School serving AIDS-Orphans from Kibera Slum (2004- ), Jesuit Vocation Director (2005-2010), and Assistant Provincial, Eastern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus (2010-15).

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