Held between June 22-24, Amplify (激揚) 2012 was a conference for over 15 LGBTQ-friendly churches, ministries and fellowships from 10 Asia Pacific regions including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and mainland China. The conference was held at the Chung Chi Divinity School on the campus of Chinese University, Hong Kong. Over the three days, these 'open and affirming' congregations shared their experiences of surviving and thriving at the margins of mainstream Christianity, providing a glimpse to a future when sexual minorities need not feel rejected by their religion.
Amplify 2012 is the fourth and also the most well-attended conference since its founding in 2009. The first Amplify conference was held in Singapore. Since then, the conference has grown beyond the organisers' expectations. Paul Lucas, a member of Hong Kong's Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship and one of the main organisers of this year’s conference, expected up to 150 people to attend Amplify 2012. At the end, about 300 people turned up. Significantly, this is also the first year that ministries from Mainland China participated in the conference.
“'In China, LGBTQ-affirming churches and ministries face twice the pressure, as homosexuality and Christianity are both politically sensitive topics,” said a campus ministry organiser from Xiamen. “For example, when Rev Oyoung Wenfeng (Malaysia's first openly gay pastor who is based in New York) came to speak at Xiamen University, the school cancelled the venue reservation at the last minute, forcing us to scramble for a place to congregate,” she added.
It is also significant that the Chung Chi Divinity School provided the venue for the conference. The school is supported by five main stream churches in Hong Kong, none of which are openly LGBTQ-affirming. Paul Lucas remarked, “They (the Chung Chi Divinity School) have taken a risk, for which we are very grateful.”
One of the main themes that came up in worship and workshop sessions during the conference was the reinterpretation of the bible. Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican Bishop in the world, told a story at the opening worship: “A gay rabbi once told me that when God created Adam, he struggled to find a companion for him. So he created various animals, but Adam was still lonely. When God created Eve, Adam said ‘That's it! That's the companion I want.’ To me, this story tells us that we have the power to choose the person we love.”
Dr Rose Wu, a Hong Kong theologian, emphasised the need for reinterpretation of the Bible. She said: “Knowledge is power. At the moment the church hierarchy holds a monopoly over the interpretation of the Bible. When we break the theological absolutism that dominates the church today, LGBTQ individuals will be empowered and feel closer to God.”
Another theme that came up again and again in the conference was the need to serve minorities other than the LGBTQ community. Bishop Yvette Flunder from City of Refuge, San Francisco, talked of gaining acceptance from the margins. “We should not supplicate ourselves to the '’mainstream’. We should serve the margins of society so well that the centre is drawn to the margins.” City of Refuge, where Bishop Flunder is a senior pastor, is an inner-city church that serves vulnerable minorities including individuals living with AIDS/HIV and LGBTQ youth.
Echoing Bishop Flunder, Rev Miak Siew from Singapore talked of his experience of working with the poor. “We went to old people's homes and helped them do spring cleaning. That was the first time I have ever seen a bed bug, in first-world Singapore.”
Of course, even in the safe space of Amplify, the discrimination LGBTQ individuals face in main stream churches is a topic not far from everyone's mind. Bishop Gene Robinson, a keynote speaker at the conference, talked of his church's journey in becoming more accepting of sexual minorities.
“The journey did not start in 2003, when I was elected as the first openly gay bishop. It began much earlier, in 1976, when the American Anglican church passed a resolution saying that gay people were children of God and deserved full pastoral care, whatever that meant. It was also the same year that the church started ordaining women ministers. In 1989 we had the first female bishop, and in 2003, the first openly gay bishop. So it has been a long journey.” He also added: “I believe that the church cannot solve its gay problem before it solves its women problem. Homophobia and hatred of women go hand in hand.”
The conference was also the first time when Bishop Gene Robinson's documentary, Love Free or Die, was shown with Chinese subtitles.
Summing up the conference, Pastor Gary Chan from the Singaporean Free Community Church said, “We were overwhelmed by the generous spirit of cooperation and radical inclusion during the conference that transcended denominational lines, language and cultural barriers. The feedback we received from the participants this year has also been very encouraging and showed the impact that the conference has had on the lives, communities and ministries of those who attended.”
To Paul Lucas, it was rewarding to see the emergence of a community of faith open and ready to accept LGBTQ individuals. “Amplify has transformed since 2009 from a place of solidarity with ‘victims’ ill-treated by mainstream churches, to a place of affirmation where religion and sexuality is reconciled,” he says.
Hong Kong (SAR)
Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship (BMCF)
Tel: (852) 2834 6601
Contact person: Shirley Lam
Pastor: Rev. Silas Wong
One Body In Christ
Tel: (852) 6153-0764
Contact Pastor: Rev. Grace Bok
China - People’s Republic of…
Tel: +852 5192 2259
Contact person: Jason Ho
Korea - Seoul
Open Doors Community Church
Contact person: Nick Ryan-Todd
Pastor: Rev. Daniel Payne
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
Good Samaritan Metropolitan Community Church (GSMCC)
Tel: +6016 305 5590
Contact Pastor: Rev. Joe Pang
The Philippines - Baguio
Metropolitan Community Church Metro Baguio
Tel: +639089300837 / +639289513668
Contact person: Gregory Rugay/Pastor M. Sotero
Pastor: Pastor Myke Sotero
The Philippines - Manila
Metropolitan Community Church Makati
Contact person: Ms. Gina De Leon
Pastor: Pastor Edgardo Constantino
The Philippines – Manila
Metropolitan Community Church Quezon City
Office Tel: 5083523
Pastor: Rev. Ceejay Agbayani
Mobile Number : +639152904310
Free Community Church (FCC)
Tel: +65 3105 0055
Contact Pastor: Rev. Miak Siew
Taiwan - Taipei
Tong Kwang Light House Presbyterian Church
Tel: +886 929-621-196
Contact person: Abraham Liao
Taiwan - Taipei
True Light Gospel Church
Tel: +886 972-102-677
Contact Pastor: Rev. Joseph Chang