During an interview with the influential Time magazine in July 2003, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced that his government does not discriminate and now openly hire gays and lesbians even in sensitive jobs although homosexual acts remains illegal under Section 377A of the Penal Code (Singapore). However, the government promised that they will not prosecute anyone under this provision. When I read all these enlightened views, I wrote a letter supporting the stance of the government to the Straits Times which was published.
It was an opportune time for gay Christians who had been meeting in fear and secrecy to sum up courage to come out and organized the Free Community Church in the same year. They invited me to help them after they read my letter. I willingly and gladly stepped forward to volunteer as its Pastoral Advisor. Its website (freecomchurch.org) declares the Church welcomes all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. The Church is an inclusive community that celebrates diversity in living out God’s love and promise of abundant life for all.
Since the FCC is the only officially gay-affirming church in Singapore, I have been asked frequently the question why I am involved with such a community. I just happen to be the first and only "straight" pastor who has publicly declared my support of lesbians,gays, bi-sexual and transgendered people. Yes, they are people with the same desires and passion, hope and aspirations like you and me. I have got to know them personally and they are really normal human beings too. There are a few of my fellow pastors who share my perspective and will follow me in course of time.
I do not recall any real discussion about homosexuality until I began my Christian ministry in the mid-fifties. The subject was not in the curriculum of my seminary training even in Boston University known for its liberalism in the United States. The official teaching of my Methodist Church here did not declare that homosexuality is a sin until the twenties.
A number of pastors and laypersons have referred their LGBT members to me for advice and counselling. People with homosexual orientation have been around us everywhere from time immemorial. How they must have suffered silently in their lonely isolated closets. Abuses have been hurled against them. In pain and anguish they have shed torrents of tears when confronted with rejection. Too many have taken their own lives to end their quiet misery. I am guilty also for that conspiracy of silence and have ignored their cries for help far too long. I ask my God for mercy upon us.
At the age of 84 next month I have not grown senile or developed amnesia. My friends tell me that I am not stupid. I believe I am still sane and maybe a little wiser. I seek no reward or awards but wish to have your friendship even though you disagree with me. Trust me as I share with you as honestly as I can.
It was only when there was public discussion of homosexuality that I began to explore the issue more extensively. My initial casual reading of the Biblical text revealed a few passages about same-sex relationships which were recorded in that historical period as abomination. The same Bible was quoted to justify the teaching of the Church on political domination, religious bigotry, racial discrimination, gender inequality, sexual stigmatization, economic disparity, capital punishment and specific issues of slavery, anti-abortion, violence and warfare. Our interpretation of the sacred texts is always personally directed, time bound, historically determined and cultural conditioned. We must learn the lessons of yesterday to face the challenges of today.
It is only when I studied more carefully the life of Jesus and his ministry that I discovered that he had associated himself more with the poor peasants, despised women, sick and wounded. He exercised a preferential option for the victims in his society. He exposed and opposed the religious and political authorities that exploited the people in order to maintain their power and control. He was engaged in a liberation movement. In the midst of the struggle he gave the great commandment to his followers to love even those that hated him and crucified him.
The passion for social justice grew in me and my commitment to be in solidarity with the oppressed led me to the LGBT community as well. In my involvement I found meaning for my existence and sense of my Christian ministry.
There is no turning away for me. I searched my heart and I am at peace with God.
In the current controversy sparked by Pastor Lawrence Khong's recent encounter with Goh Chok Tong about homosexuality and the repeal of 377A, I feel there is so much hatred instead of love, condemnation instead of compassion, contradictions instead of understanding, conflicts instead of harmony. Are we aware that gays and lesbians are people of sacred worth and created by God like you and me? They want to express their love for one another in marriage like you and me. It is ironical that while so many marriages are broken they want to clamour to get married officially and recover its value of stability in family life. They are not demanding for more rights but equal rights with the others. It is a mystery that we cannot give birth to more homosexuals and they cannot even reproduce by themselves. Yet there will always be a significant creative minority in spite of the accusation of promoting homosexuality. Despite the claims of reparative therapy there
are few, if any, genuine or permanent change of sexual orientation. Celibacy is a choice and cannot be forced upon by others. Homosexuality is not a choice and none that I know have chosen it. Our Creator who knitted us in our mothers' wombs has created them also and they were born that way. Their religious faith have reconciled them to their sexuality and they are as religious as you and me.
It is time for us to deal with the issue of homosexuality rationally and fairly. It is necessary for us to act justly and wisely. Now is the moment for us to commit ourselves to work together to strengthen family life and to seek the welfare of our community. Together in spite of our diversity we can live in unity and shape a better future for all of us.