Exiled Gay Pastor Struggles to Survive After Being Outed by LGBT Christian Ministry

This is for those Other Sheep who recklessly expose the names and faces of LGBTI people in Africa.

By Melanie Nathan, December 09, 2015.

A few months ago, I was contacted by a man identifying himself as a gay pastor from an African country.  The man sought emergency help. He was on the border between two countries; disoriented, terrified,  had been without food for several days. We went into immediate action, receiving the help of a local member of the community, who was able to provide urgent safe shelter, food and medical attention.

I soon discovered what led to this situation.  This man, who we shall call Pastor Mitchell, (*) was on the run after an assault and death threats, a direct result of an article in a news blog which had exposed his marriage to his same-sex partner.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.53.54 AMPastor Mitchel’s story was published on the news blog of The Other Sheep.  The blog told the story of the wedding of Pastor Mitchel,  to his same sex spouse.  Personal and identifying factors, such as clear pictures, full names, where they were from, the name of his Church etc., was published for the world to see.   This world, however, happens to include, not only interested LGBT people and  prospective donors for The Other Sheep, but also the very purveyors of intolerance, hate and the obvious persecution that did indeed follow.

How could the Other Sheep not know the extent of the danger such an article and its publication would pose?

The Other Sheep, is led by Executive Director Pastor Stephen Parelli, is described on its website as a “multicultural, ecumenical, non-profit (501.c.3) Christian ministry founded in 1992  operated by volunteer personnel” :

“Other Sheep, works worldwide for the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within their respective faith-traditions.  Through the Internet, educational materials, and on-the-ground worldwide travel, Other sheep, focusing on topics of concern in which religion and homophobia intersect, connects people with people and people with resources.”

In most African countries, marrying a man is perceived as breaking the law and tantamount to an admission of homosexuality, which is criminalized with harsh punitive measures.   In countries where homophobia is rife, exposed gays face the added harsh and violent reactions of family, mobs, landlords and employers.  Same-sex relations and marriage is abhorred and seen as an abomination in many African countries, and if exposed can have severe repercussions, such as assaults, blackmail, mob attacks and long prison terms. Most working in the field of human rights and ministering are acutely aware of these dangers. If anyone should have been acutely aware of this, it is Stephen Parelli, who was provided with grant funding to conduct his activities in a place where he professed to have an understanding of the harsh anti-gay environment.

While general advocacy and capacity building is in and of itself dangerous in a country where being gay is criminalized,  publishing a gay marriage, is a defiant in your face audacious extreme that defies common sense.  How can anyone in their right mind advocate for same-sex marriage before criminalization of homosexuality is eradicated?

And if ‘do good’ Westerners, such as Stephen Parelli, decide to defy the odds by splashing pictures and stories of LGBTI spouses all over the internet, surely it is incumbent on them to ensure the necessary protections measures are in place to safeguard the exposed individuals.

The question is –  if Pastor Stephen Parelli of Other Sheep is aware of this – why did he expose Pastor Mitchel on his website:  Was it a cry of “glory be” – was it a public  boast of “look at what we are doing here” or was it to raise more donations for his travels to exotic lands and/or for ministering? If Parelli was not aware of the dangers then what is he doing working and receiving funding from trusted foundations, in that space at all?   I do not know – but whatever the answer may be – it was a highly irresponsible endeavor!

Pastor Mitchel called on me when he was trying to find a way to cross from one African country to another, seeking refuge from attacks and threats he had received after being exposed in the article  published on Other Sheep’s Blog.  As a result of the article, Pastor Mitchel has not only lost his country and his work but now also his spouse, whose family saw the exposé and “rescued” their son from the “evil clutches” of Pastor Mitchel!

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.49.44 AM And even if Mitchel gave his full permission how could a ministry, run by an out gay man and his husband Jose Ortiz, who had been to visit the area and who purports to know and understand the milieu, enough to be awarded significant grants to be there, agree to such a publication, certainly without some security management plan in place. This, to my way of thinking, was an outrageous and costly risk perpetrated against Mitchel.

With the help of a local and another U.S. based Lutheran minister,  we were able to orchestrate the urgent interim rescue of the distressed Pastor Mitchel into very short term safe house. But, despite numerous requests, we have yet to receive the help needed from Parelli and his organization who placed Mitchel in this extremely dangerous situation.

The day after his rescue Mitchel became severely ill, diagnosed with a severe case of malaria, a likely occurrence after spending nights in the bush in that harsh environment.  Mitchel is very weak at this time and trying to recover while there is no funding to pay for his medication. Further health issues have since developed. Having crossed into a nearby African country, where being LGBT is also criminalized, his  future is bleak, as several advocates put heads together to try and figure out how best to help him. What we know for sure is that Mitchel needs funding –  medication, to pay the hospital, and money for relocation transport, safe-shelter and food. He has since approached UNHCR for resettlement – but that is a very long arduous process, with very little provided for his survival and protection.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.25.23 AMWhen we first tried to contact Stephen Parelli, we found him via Facebook, publishing pictures of himself and his husband sipping cocktails and cavorting in exciting foreign destinations.  So while the victim of his exposé is suffering its repercussions, the man who exposed him was on an exotic beach,  enjoying the fruits of the donations and grants that Pastor Mitchel’s story generated, while Mitchel continues to struggle to survive, literally reduced to begging for food and shelter.

While Mitchel lay weak and ill  enduring the repercussions of the published exposure, Parelli and his husband were boasting their fun and enjoyment on Facebook, while on a trip to Bali, Thailand, and Singapore.

And so we reached out to Stephen Parelli in several emails and were quite shocked by his cavalier response. (SEE BELOW)

Here are some of Pastor Mitchel’s messages to me:

after the talk with u I started hearing unwell the whole body,started vomitting and fealing so bad,……… to help my medical, and upkeep, I apreciate pls

, I have just spoken to stephen but he told me there is no way he can help and he is in a workshop very busy, I am starving pls

“am thinking of going back to XXXXX  when they want to put me on jail, I think it will take its own direction. XXXX is not a safe place for me, and also leaving in fear is not the right choice, I think I own nothing to defend, I wont find a parish to work in, remember this is my second ex communication,I dont have a house nor land my partner has turned against me,waking up at and sitting the whole day without any schame make no sense, I know Jesus said we have everything while the son of man has no even a place to lay his head, to mean that God can take care of us, but , there is nothing bad like being a slave in the mind, better be free in mind, Its true XXXXX is not a good place for me…….”

hello Melanie am tired Stephen is not telling me anything but my life is in crisis pls help me i need something to make me move, i shared with him all of my mind but he is telling me that he is connecting me to his junior in XXXXXX  whom i begged very much to help me when i was in XXXXXX  but did not even dare understand my situation pls madam am starving help me, ….”

Hello Melanie I beg u in the name of God o need an urgent support my medical status is not gud my house is not in a gud state I don’t know of tommorow , I have always told u of my feeding its on a worse state in a humaniterian becise I ask u to have mercy on me pls Medan rescue me I beg u,…… but I can’t even communicate I have no phone please have mercy on me

There are many many more gut wrenching communications.

We have received more disturbing reports of LGBTI people endangered by the work of Parelli.  Apparently Stephen Parelli and Other Sheep distributed a booklet to youth in Uganda. The report notes that the youth were arrested / and harassed  when they were found in possession of the booklet which apparently makes the case for same-sex marriage.  I have not yet seen the booklet nor verified the arrests, but have received similar reports from several members of the Ugandan LGBTI community, including one of the parties alleging hos own arrest.  These booklets may be  interpreted as contravening Ugandan law.  Again this is indicative of highly risky and dangerous work by Other Sheep – which is has been alleged caused direct harm to vulnerable youth.

UPDATED DECEMBER 18, 2015 at 9.54AM:  I was just informed that after 4 months of asking for help, Steven Parelli has just sent a sum of money for Pastor Mitchel.  This will in essence may cover a few  months of survival and may not be enough to reimburse what has been spent by other providers and cover debt to those who helped cover urgent medical expenses.  It also will be unlikely to cover the full medical needs of Pastor Mitchel.

Pastor Mitchell, (*)Pseudonym to protect the Pastor.

WHILE Pastor Mitchel was running for exile, Stephen Parelli was posting this on his Facebook page:

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 9.20.35 AM

After Mitchel’s story was told by Stephen Parelli it was  picked up by other media, with Parelli apparently promoting his stories and links, to such media.

I reached out to Parelli and told him in an email of Mitchel’s plight.  His response was cavalier and defensive. Despite very many communications and opportunities, and despite Mitchel’s own requests to Parelli,  Other Sheep and Parelli have failed to secure the help needed.

The Lutheran US minister, who has been providing spiritual mentoring, also reached out in an e-mail to Parelli asking him to contribute to funds to help Mitchel, but Parelli has still failed to come through.

Now I  am left wondering what the true mission of Other Sheep is?

Is it a front so that Parelli and his husband can travel the world and have a good time at the expense of those who they purport to help?  They have a donation page and many stories which are bound to bring in the dollars.  And it takes dollars to travel. Is Other Sheep paying for the travel?  Is Other Sheep a genuine ministry or a front for a good time by Parelli?   Is Parelli using those stories for self gain or to truly help the subjects?   I can only ask the questions.

HERE are some Other Sheep stories  that may well attract donors to the “ministry”:

 

A Other sheep story parelliScreen Shot 2015-08-29 at 2.52.17 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 2.52.26 PM

Here is Parelli’s e-mail to me ( I have replaced name  and countries with  “XXXXX”):

Dear Mel,

Thank you for your letter of concern and caution.  I do understand and appreciate your concern and recommendations.

Here’s the context:

XXXXX was not without prior knowledge as to the situation in XXXX before he authorized the publication of his article.  As his story shows in the article he was defrocked by his denomination.  He knows the climate of his country and of East Africa in which he lives.  XXXXX wants his story told; that was/is his wish; and even after publishing it on Other Sheep XXXXX has continue to show, through his texting, that he still wants his story known publicaly.

For example, in addition to Other Sheep’s publishing it, and after Other Sheep published his story and XXXXXX was already experiencing persecuion, XXXXX gave us permission to give his name to another Internet publication which, to my knowledge, published his story, too, after talking further with XXXXX (but only XXXXX can verify this).

To date, XXXXXX has not requested that the story come off of Other Sheep website though we have texted each other may times.  XXXX is an adult with theological training, a minister with a calling.

I do agree with you that one must caution others as to what should become public.  Other Sheep has, in fact, cautioned many and have refused to publish items that individuals, less experienced than XXXXXX, initially wanted to publish.  In many cases we publish stories anonymously.

However, XXXXXXX seemed different as a minister, called and knowing the climate and the stakes involved in seeking to go public with his story.

If and when XXXXXX asks us to do things differently, we will, of course.

I’ve written a little more under responses at the end of the article on Other Sheep website

Best regard,

Steve

Rev. Stephen R. Parelli

Executive Director

Other Sheep,
Bronx, NY

www.othersheep.org

www.othersheepexecsite.com
www.facebook.com/stephen.parelli
www.facebook.com/TheInclusiveShepherd

After several advocates communicated with Mitchel, we have determined that he is actual quiet naive as to the extent of the consequences that would follow the story.  So even after the above response, I still felt that Parelli – who should have known better himself- should have had funds set aside to help Mitchel in case of repercussions.

Parelli did not answer the below email response of mine – which followed his cavalier response – have substituted the name Mitchel for the correct name:

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your response to my email. I hope you understand that that this is written with severity because of the life and death nature of this situation.  I appreciate your friendship and hope you will take this in the spirit of urgency and solution to a very serious situation.   So please forgive me if I come across harshly. But we are left with very little options.

Let me explain the context:  I received an urgent call at 3 am in the morning from Mitchel to say that he  was stuck hiding in the bush area near a small border town,  extremely traumatized, and without shelter and food.  He was trying to escape country (name withheld)  via country. He had no money, no place to sleep and no food.  Mitchel had left his country after a brutal assault. All this occurred after you had published the story about him and his marriage to a man on your website and given the information to XXXXXX News.

Mitchel said he had reached out to you and you had not responded to his desperate call for help.

He had sought help in (country) to no avail. He attributes his dire circumstances to having to escape (country) as a direct result of the publicity of your story on the OTHER SHEEP blog/website, where you publicized that he is a gay pastor who married in a country where being gay is illegal.

Whether he gave permission or not is not relevant. In your capacity ministering and as per your website purporting to understand the milieu of criminalization and attacks against gays in (country),  – surely you see how irresponsible such a story is in public domain and especially if there was zero plan to support Mitchel through the obvious repercussions that would follow.

He said after you published the story you gave the information and his name to XXXXX News.  It seems he felt obliged and was very naive about its reach and the possible outcome. He has also made no admission that he gave he permission for such publicity.  However I believe regardless in your position you should have known better.

However your response in the email under reply, causes even more angst and distress as you seem to fail to take note and responsibility for the extreme predicament Pastor Mitchel finds himself in at this time.

Even though you assert that Pastor Mitchel asked for his case to be made public via your website and that you assert he asked for it to be made public to other publications, – as responsible advocates and activists for the cause of LGBTI people, especially in countries where they are criminalized, I believe it is 100% your responsibility to have had a plan for safe shelter and related funding in place for any repercussion he would suffer as a result of your publication, especially because you tout your ministry as an activist/advocate ministry for this cause.

I believe that if indeed Mitchel did give his permission – you provided the venue that has served to endanger him and now the liability rests with your organization to help him  escape the dire consequences he now faces. You cannot expect the minimal resources of other organizations and ministries to suffer the consequences of your actions, while you benefit from the obvious fund raising opportunities his story brought to your donation page.

I have questioned Mitchel and the person now helping him in (country) said he did not seem to understand the harm that your publication of his circumstances could cause.  It is also unclear if he did indeed give permission in the way you describe. However the pen was in your hand and so I believe the responsibility for his care now is yours.

While I do not purport to speak for him – and while my comments in no way derogate from any right which he may have under the law, I assert that even if he did ask for publicity, and even if he did give you permission your ACTION of publication of his picture and story is highly irresponsible. The report was indeed negligent and now Mitchel is on the run reaching out to my organization and others asking for help.  What seems clearly the negligence of OTHER SHEEP serves as a drain on very minimal humanitarian resources, which may be available to those in circumstances such as Mitchel…….”

There have been many more communications from me which have been ignored.

I then went on to ask for a specific sum of money to be sent to Mitchel to help secure his relocation and safe-housing, as we have no resources to help him.  Mitchel has reached out to several groups and is not receiving any help.

Let us hope that lessons are learned from this. Bloggers and friends – if you are going to write about LGBT Africa and use these stories – no matter how adept you think you are – please consider privacy and anonymity. And even if the LGBT person asks or says they are wanting exposure – be sure it serves their interests and that there is a safety plan in place.  . the responsible to stand up to support the consequences. Have a plan B. Have money at the ready for no doubt what will occur. Do not think you can use people’s stories to fund raise for yourselves or your ministries with impunity. Those funds must support the humanitarian needs you in essence are participating in creating – before they support your organizational needs.

 EXPOSED PASTOR  RELIEF FUND –  Please send donations to https://www.youcaring.com/african-human-rights-coalition-358969
The first $1000 in donations that comes into this fund  from DEC 09 to December  16, 2015, that comes into this fund will be used to support Pastor Mitchel.  Please HELP~!

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 9.19.29 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 9.20.35 AM

 EXPOSED PASTOR  RELIEF FUND –  Please send donations to https://www.youcaring.com/african-human-rights-coalition-358969
The first $1000 in donations that comes into this fund  from DEC 09 to December  16, 2015, that comes into this fund will be used to support Pastor Mitchel.  Please HELP~!


4 thoughts on “Exiled Gay Pastor Struggles to Survive After Being Outed by LGBT Christian Ministry

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