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23 Dec 2006

home for christmas

Christmas is a time where many gays and lesbians who are or were formerly Christians return to Church for the obligatory Christmas service, and some will inevitably contemplate the difficulty of reconciling their faith with their sexuality amidst the singing of Christmas carols. Fridae speaks to Rev Yap Kim Hao and highlights several gay affirmative churches in Asia.

Top image: image from the Free Community Church web site, www.freecomchurch.org. Above: Rev Yap Kim Hao who is the most known gay-affirming pastor in Singapore and serves in a voluntary capacity in the Free Community Church.

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao is one of few gay-affirming pastors in Singapore and serves in a voluntary capacity in the Free Community Church (http://freecomchurch.org) which counts many gays and lesbians as members. He has been a pastor of the Methodist churches in Malaysia and Singapore and served as its first Asian Bishop in 1968-73. He resigned from that position to become the General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia in 1973-85. It was there that he was directly involved in social justice issues and ministry to the oppressed and marginalised in the Asian region. He taught in Trinity Theological College and in Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Last year, Fridae published Rev Yap Kim Hao's transcript of his talk on same-sex relationships from a Christian perspective. Links are at the bottom of the page.

æ: Many Christian gays and lesbians - who after coming out to themselves - decide to stop going to church and/or feel that they cannot continue being a Christian because of churches who preach that homosexuality is unacceptable. Despite the availability of literature which says that the Bible verses which are frequently used to condemn homosexuality have been mistranslated or misinterpreted, they find it hard to let go of what they were taught earlier. How best do you think they can come to terms to this?

Rev Yap: We must first of all try to comprehend how the Bible itself came into existence. Even though we glibly claim that the Bible is the Word of God, we must readily admit that it was not transmitted by God to us in a written form and certainly not in English or any language we know, not even Hebrew or Greek. The writers of the different books of the Bible interpret their experiences as individuals or community with God in their lives. Other interpretations exist but did not get the approval of the Jewish and Christian leaders who compiled the books of the Bible.

Each faithful follower has to make his or own interpretation and which may or may not reflect that of the religious institutions. The teachings of the institutions themselves change according to the changing times. Homosexuality is one issue which is in the process of change and hopefully, the time will come also for more religious leaders to be gay-affirming.

æ: Some other Christians do not come out as gay in their church fearing rejection. Do you think gay Christians need to come out in their church for their own spiritual and mental well being?

Rev Yap: We are always challenged to be true to ourselves and accept our sexual orientation as from God. If the Church rejects gay Christians then it is hypocritical to preach that they love all people. It is certainly good for one to come out and call the church to question. Otherwise, we are aiding and abetting and condoning their homophobic stance.

æ: While some churches believe that they have a responsibility to welcome and be affirmative towards their gay and lesbian members, these members are in turn expected to be celibate and this is a major consideration for many. What is your take?

Rev Yap: Affirmation of LGBT members is to affirm also that they can enter into same-sex relationships as an expression of their love to one another. To demand them to be celibate is a denial of that affirmation. It is not only a half-hearted response but also a faint-hearted one. We do not demand celibacy from the heterosexuals. Celibacy is a choice but not homosexuality.

æ: The Christian fundamentalist movement which originated in the US is taking root in Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan where they are - to borrow their favourite phrase - proving to very militant in promoting their anti-gay agenda in the public sphere. And what is the best defence for Christians who disagree with the anti-gay fundamentalist movement?

Rev Yap: The way to counter-act against the anti-gay agenda is for the LGBT community and its members to come out as gay and proud. This will help develop the responsible and positive gay lifestyle perception to shatter their negative perceptions of the community.

æ: You have been most open in supporting the gay community by writing to the press and your autobiography A Bishop Remembers you wrote: "I wanted the public to know that there are clergy and lay members who cannot accept the view of their churches in good conscience and there are those who are willing to declare it publicly. Many of my friends have joined me in support of the gay movement and by my action I have forced others to think seriously and study the issue carefully. At least they cannot be indifferent and continue harbouring their stereotypes and misconceptions of homosexuality." In interacting with Christians, what are the most common stereotypes and misconceptions of homosexuality they have?

Rev Yap: Christians have difficult accepting the homosexual act. To them it is unnatural and incompatible. They have the concept that God created only male and female and the only sexual relationship they consider normative is with the opposite sex. They perceive the gay lifestyle to be free and loose without commitment and only for the satisfaction of their selfish sexual drives. They see the frequent changing of partners and the breakdown of relationships.

æ: What do you say to Christians who believe that the Bible incontrovertibly condemns homosexuality? How easy or difficult is it for you to make a Christian who believes that homosexuality is disallowed by God to change his or her mind?

Rev Yap: My advice to them is to really study the Bible and see the teachings relating to homosexuality in the context of those olden days. It is extremely difficult to change the mind of the homophobic person. But even though these persons once had no reason to challenge their assumptions, they are now forced by gays who have come out and straight people who are gay-affirming to re-examine their views on the issue of homosexuality.

æ: Why do you think so many people are unwilling to question the idea that the Bible condemns homosexuals?

Rev Yap: This is because it is a majority view and was never challenged to the extent that we do today, and by the people who are brave enough to come out.

æ: Coming back to Christmas, what would be your parting message to gay and lesbian Christians who have not reconciled their sexuality and spiritual lives?

Rev Yap: Gay and lesbian Christians in confessing their belief in God must come to accept that God has given them life and this includes the same-sex orientation. God has created all things different and all life in its variety is according to God's plan and purpose for our existence. At Christmas we are reminded of God's love. God loves you when you are specially and uniquely created. It is for God's purpose that gay and lesbian Christians were created and they legitimately belong to human family of God. Take courage and be proud and gay. God bless you all. Merry Christmas to you. Celebrate God's love for everyone.

æ: Fridae wishes Rev Yap and all readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Last year, Fridae published Rev Yap Kim Hao's transcript of his talk on same-sex relationships from a Christian perspective. Click on the related article links below to read.

Gay affirmative Churches in Asia
The following are churches that are openly LGBT affirmative and have dedicated ministries for LGBT members. Please check with individual churches regarding location and details of its Christmas service.

Hong Kong
Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship
The group was formed for fellowship between gay and lesbian Christians as well as to promote understanding and respect of Hong Kong religious organisations towards homosexuality.
Address: Hennessy Post Bos 20516, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2834-6601
Email: bmcf@egroups.com
Website: www.bmcf.org.hk
Christmas service/celebration: Dec 24, 8pm and Christmas party till 1am.

Free Community Church
FCC is the only church in Singapore to have a gay-affirming ministry for LGBT Christians called Safehaven.
Eu Tong Sen Street, #04-02 Yangtze Building
Email: info@freecomchurch.org
Website: www.freecomchurch.org
Christmas service/celebration: Dec 25, 5pm at The Lee Foundation Theatre, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) Campus 3, 151 Bencoolen Street.

Tong-Kwang Light House Presbyterian Church
First established in 1995 as Jonathan Fellowship by Rev. Yang Ya-hui of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) and 2 gay Christians, it evolved to become Tong-Kwang Light House Presbyterian Church a year later although it is independent from the PCT.
Website: www.geocities.com/tongkwang_church (in Chinese only)
Email: tongkwang@ms59.url.com.tw
Christmas service/celebration: Dec 23 at 6.30pm

Jesus Rocks Harvest Church
Email: newlife@jesusrocks.org.tw
Website: www.jesusrocks.org.tw (in Chinese only)

Philippines, Australia and New Zealand
The Universal�Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) is an international fellowship of Christian congregations with 250 member congregations in 23 countries and a specific outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

MCC Philippines
Telephone Number: 632-251-3402 or 632-302-4205
Mobile Number: 0920-738-3778 or 046-851-1576
Contact Person: Regen Luna
Website: mccph.tk
Email: regenluna@yahoo.com
Worship Time: Sunday, 4:00pm
Meeting Location: TLF Office 2580 A. Bonifacio St.
Brgy. Bangkal Evangelista, Makati City, Philippines

MCC Sydney
PO Box 1237
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Telephone:� 612 9569 5122
Fax: 612 9569 5144
Website: www.mccsydney.org.au
Email: pastor@mccsydney.org.au
Worship Times: Sundays, 10:00am and 7:30pm
Meeting location: Crystal Street Cathedral
96 Crystal Street, Petersham NSW 2049
Community Centre: Heffron Hall
Corner of Burton and Palmer Sts, Darlinghurst

For full list of congregations in Australia and New Zealand, please visit www.mccchurch.org

Reader's Comments

1. 2006-12-24 21:00  
Dear Rev. Yap, thank you for telling the truth of God's love against all odds!
2. 2006-12-25 10:54  
well that is good but the POPE says bad things all the time ,The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has branded the pontiff's remarks as "verging on the unhinged."

In his message, Pope Benedict XVI will say that "aggression against the family"
is a "diabolical project," in what appears to be an allusion to another attack on the legal recognition of gay partnerships around Europe, including Britain.

The outcome of this tolerance, he will say, is "an absurd cult of Satan, a mad desire for transgression, a false liberty without conscience, that exalts caprice, vice and selfishness."

GALHA's secretary George Broadhead said: "We are well aware that the Pope is totally opposed to the rights of gay people, but these latest pronouncements verge on the unhinged. His inhumane arguments against the recognition of gay partnerships have been widely disregarded, even in traditionally Catholic countries, like Spain, and his frustration is beginning to show in the
increasingly extreme language he is employing.

"The Pope's apparent psychotic hatred of gays may not be quite on the same level as that of the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq, who recently issued a fatwa saying that homosexual should be killed in the cruellest ways imaginable, but it springs from the same well of religious intolerance."

Mr Broadhead added: "Gay Catholics should think long and hard before continuing to support their church with money and other resources, until these vile outbursts stop and the Church moderates its stance on gay rights."
3. 2006-12-25 18:16  
I am moved by the works that you've done. I wanna serve God like I used to. I love worshiping Him and praise Him. I cant do that because of churches. Would be happy if there's churches like Free Community would be in Malaysia. God bless~!
4. 2006-12-26 08:54  
Jesus never said a word against Lesbian and Gays.
Only St. Paul criticized a lot as Romans did a lot of
orgies and sex as movie Carigulla and HBO movie Rome showed.
It is sinful for gay praders to show genetiles and ass and she-males which is a minority and maketh
the whole G&L population look REAL bad.
Also, older people tend to love young ones as their
skin gets wrinkled and body builders fall in love with himself or herself and decorate room with bodybuilders and that is a G&L according to LA Times, 70 pct of Bodybuilders are GAY.
Eitherway, Fridae should move to improve the image of G&L for just SEX and SEX and SEX... orelse, Singapore etc., is not going to allow openly
accept G&L.
Adultery, forbideen in the Ten Comandments but not G&L, is done far more than G&L and yet it is
not widely condemned, why????
5. 2006-12-26 16:35  
It has been a long time since I have been to church. I am lesbian and I am proud to be one. And I believe that God loves me, just like he created and loves the scorpion and the viper. No one knows why God does this. No one has the right to judge me on this earth. If by some impossibility, God does tell me on Judgement Day that I am banished to hell, that is between God and me. It is not the business of the church, the pastor or the congregation to judge me. Thank you Rev Yap for standing for the oppressed, the marginalised and the ones who are judged on earth.
6. 2006-12-26 17:23  
Rev Yap, thank you for shedding some light. The belief in Jesus Christ is the fundamental issue that matters most. As much as the churches enjoy condemning our family, the gay community, i still love my Jesus for his kindness and grace.
He is good.

I'd love to visit free community church one day.

With love to all Gay Christians
God bless you always
7. 2006-12-27 03:07  
Praise the Lord for having gay friendly churches here in HK =) but when will the Catholics once again have a gay fellowship? We used to have Rainbow Fellowship founded by Rainbow of Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it is closed now since nbo voulnteers carry on the fellowship =(
8. 2006-12-27 10:59  
Dear Rev Yap.....
Hope u wll open Free Community Church in Jakarta,Indonesia.
9. 2010-04-21 22:36  
TsubiBoy, it takes gay Christians in Indonesia to bravely come out of their closets before there can be a gay affirming church in Jakarta. Since the release of this article, a gay pastor in Kuala Lumpur has stepped forward to found a gay affirming church called the Good Samaritan Metropolitan Community Church of Malaysia (GSMCC). It started in Sep 2007 with just four people and later grew to about 20. Rev. Yap has visited GSMCC in March 2010, and on April 18, 2010, Rev Yap again visited GSMCC and brought with him several straight allies from the Asia Pacific region. The impression of the visitors was very positive and encouraging. Gay people in Kuala Lumpur now have a church to call it their own safe space. You can follow GSMCC on twitter or become a fan of GSMCC on Facebook. For details, please contact Pastor Joe at 0163055590, or write to me. Thanks.

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