A Bruised Reed He will not break - Gay Christians
In Asia, there are only four publicly Gay Inclusive Churches, two in Taiwan ("Jesus Rocks Harvest Church", and "Tongkwan Church"), one in Hong Kong ("Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship"), and one in Singapore ("Free Community Church"). Formed 3 to 10 years ago, these churches have been addressing an important need for safe places for Gay Christians to meet and worship God as who they are without hiding. Compared to the thousands of Christian churches in Asia, such churches are an extreme rarity and therefore should have attracted large attendances and rapid growth. Yet, they have been small, less than 100 in attendance and growth has been inconsistent . It is known that many Gays are still in closets inside the mainstream churches. However, strong anecdotal evidence indicates that there are very few practicing Christians who are Gays. Many have backslidden and only occasionally return on special events such as Easter or Christmas. Why is this so?
Before we address the question, more definitive statistics are required. This can be inferred from the Gay Christian movement in America where "Gay Churches" have been well established since 1968. After 30 years, in 2003, the "gay church" under the Metropolitan Community Church banner has a total membership of 43,000 or 0.022% of the total adult population in America. Extrapolating the number to include the mainstream churches, active Christians who are gay appears to be no more than 0.05%. This compared unfavorably to the total of 77% in America who associate themselves loosely with Christianity. Based on the Protestant population and active church goers, the number is more realistic - 20% of the population. As it is generally accepted that Gays form 5% of the total population, the Gay Christian population should be at least 1% of the total population if not more. However at an estimated 0.05%, the inevitable conclusion is that Gays are 20 times less likely to embrace the Christian faith. They stay outside the doors of the mainstream church. A small minority are hurdled in "Gay inclusive" churches determined to keep their faith. If the same logic was applied to Singapore context and proportioned accordingly, the total Gay Christian population should be less than 400. The hostility and rampant homophobia of mainstream Christianity against gays can explain their lack of enthusiasm to embrace Christianity to a large degree. However with the wide presence of MCC nationwide in America which focuses on positive affirmation and outreach to gays, there may be other pertinent reasons why Gays and Gay Christians still struggle to maintain their faith in a homophobia society. Thousands of lives are at stake as we endeavor to seek Open Doors for Gays to embrace Jesus.
In the name of Christianity, Gays have been oppressed. Gays have been bruised by the constant stream of unprovoked "attacks" and oppression by the Christian Right. Added to this, the general homophobia faced daily, the faith of Gays in a good God is severely bruised. If they had been straight their faith would have been fervent and burned brightly. But the struggles and challenges being Gay, the oppression faced, is like the constant barrage of a great storm, unrelenting, and determined to extinguish the burning candle and any remnant of hope. For many Gays, their faith in Christ is but a smoldering candle, a smoking flax. In Isaiah, Jesus Christ saw the oppression that the Jews suffered under religion and the moral laws. Gays have suffered from the very same spirit of religious oppression and much more than straight people would ever do. Jesus is the answer. He is the solution. He promised that through His life and death and resurrection, He will bring forth justice based on truth that God does not judge based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. The "Christian" Church has been a major instigation of oppression against women, racial minorities and gays throughout history instead of bringing justice and hope for those who are oppressed by society. But God is renewing His church before He comes back again and the wind of change is coming. Till then, Jesus will not allow the faith of gays to be totally quenched without a beacon of His grace, for there will be a remnant, a voice in the desert crying out that God loves us and accepts us and our sexual orientation.
Having an inclusive message alone appears insufficient to minister to Gay Christians. As churches progress towards a model inclusive church and to an extent it is a safe place where we treat everyone as equals. But in our desire to be inclusive, can we end up exclusive, i.e. excluding the very people we are there to help. Our inclusivity attracts people but we could retain only a few. Gay churches are usually places of temporary refuge where people come and go. Many have left or not attending church regularly. They used to be "strong" Christians who if remained in the closets in their own churches would have been leaders and be active participants. Their absence and silence say so much. They left not for another sanctuary but have backslidden . Many of those who remained in the Cell or Bible study Groups have been sleeping in the midst of it or seemingly indifferent and disinterested. Can we demand that they "buck up"? even though they have been tired because of depression which has resulted in sleeping problems. We should not minister as if it is a straight cell group, not considering the unique makeup of a Gay person and their special emotional, physical, and spiritual needs caused by the hostile homophobic environment they lived in. For a society which is very homophobic and where Gays suffers alot, being inclusive is insufficient. The Gay churches in USA started as single issue churches and not as inclusive churches alone because of a real and special ministry needs.
Gay churches can be dry deserts with little growth and life for Gay Christians can bring with them each week to church their great depression, hurts, bruisings, and a battered faith. The immense difficulty to motivate them have been a source of profound frustration. It is not sufficient to affirm occasionally (as in a straight church) that God loves Gays and accepts them and expects them to move on and be active participants in the church community life and outreach. How many times must we repeat that God loves them and accepts them?" we exclaim in frustration.
The number of times we should emphasize the love of God and acceptance by God of our sexual orientation as Gays is never enough just like the number of times we forgive those who chose to hurt us deeply. Without knowing how much God loves us, we will find it difficult to forgive. Our forgiveness is motivated by what God has done in our lives and our experience and understanding of His love for us. The deeper the hurts, the deeper must be our forgiveness and reach into the
of God's love for us. How many times are we to say God loves us? 70 x 7 times that God is Good and that He is for us and not against us in this seemingly hostile world. Why?
day, every hour, Gays are faced with constant barrage of oppression, rejection, condemnation, pain, hurts and
both with God, with themselves, family, and society much more than what straight guys would ever faced. No wonder they are depressed and most fall away in their faith.
Many a times, we are like religious Pharisees . We do not see people's obvious needs but instead blame them for something they cannot help. But Jesus was compassionate , so should we that it may be an opportunity to glorify and exalt the name of Jesus in our ministry. The Christian ministry to Gays is the ultimate tests of the reality of our Christian witness of love, patience, faith, healing, and salvation. It is easy to quench what is left of the smoldering flax. We are determined to usher in a spiritual atmosphere of faith with a strong presence of God that all who come may find peace, acceptance and the reality of God to live a victorious Christian walk.
At the end all that we have left is the Grace of God, not of ourselves, not our strength nor intellect, nor capabilities, but totally humbled at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. We need grace to minister to gays. Conversely , GLBT need the Grace of God which will help them to understand sexual orientation and accept themselves and walk the walk of faith in God's strength. They need far greater faith than the straight to deal with the issue of homosexuality, live victoriously under constant oppression and discrimination, and keep believing that God loves them and created them beautifully as Gays for a good purpose and a mission for His ultimate glory" that the works of God should be revealed in [them]" (John 9:3).