Gay Church: A Response
Reported by NECF Executive Secretary (Research)
The recent “gay church” issue in Malaysia has caused considerable uproar within the relatively “peaceful” Christian community. The phrase itself may be an oxymoron to many Christians since homosexual behaviour is morally an abomination to God of the Church. It is believed to be smearing the reputation of the Church and scarring the witness of the Christian community in the country.
Indeed, Christians are often criticized for being intolerant to the homosexual community. Rev Wong Kim Kong, the Secretary-General of NECF Malaysia, in an interview by the media, explained, “One of the reasons for the emotional reaction is because Christians do not want others to assume they condone such a thing… It is clear that the Bible prohibits a sexual relationship between people of the same sex. If a person condones same sex marriages, it is definitely violating Christian principles” (The Star, Aug 10).
While the Malaysian Church does not wish to take God’s grace for granted and compromise on Biblical stand, it seeks to understand and develops compassion towards the people. As it accepts their struggles and respects individual choice of lifestyle, it firmly believes that homosexual behaviour does not please God. Having said, Christians have to ask whether our negative attitudes towards the homosexual community are based on stereotypes and prejudice.
Tracing the origin
Research studies and the controversies generated in tracking the source of homosexual orientation continue unabated. This is largely due to questionable methodologies and inconsistent results.
In the early days, however, homosexuality was predominantly regarded as a mental illness or psychological disorder. Such notion was radically challenged in the 1970s in the face of the mounting pressure from the ever evolving empirical evidence and the changing cultural views on homosexuality.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official manual that lists mental and emotional disorders. Two years later, American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting the removal and reaffirmed its position in 1997 that homosexuality is not a disorder.
While debates continue over what determines sexual orientation, many scientists and mental health professionals concur that it is the result of a combination of biological, cognitive and environmental factors including childhood experiences. In short, there are probably many reasons to a person’s sexual orientations. As Christians, we should not be too quick to condemn.
Regardless of the origin, some people believe that sexual orientation is a conscious choice like any other lifestyle choice, while others argue that one cannot change his or her orientation at will. Still others opine that sexual preference is a private matter, that is, what one does in the bedroom stays in the bedroom.
A Christian Response
How then should Christians respond to the setting up of a “gay church” at our doorstep? Rev Wong has aptly put, “It is the deviant sexual behaviour we do not condone. We cannot stop him wanting to set up such a kind of church, but the evangelical churches will inform followers of our stand and advise them not to follow this teaching” (The Star, Aug 10).
Homosexual behaviour, while deemed a moral abomination to Christian belief, should not be criminalized. NECF Malaysia has, in the past, voiced against policing morality based on the tenets of a particular religion. We believe that religious conviction should not be incorporated into legal sanctions in a pluralistic society like ours. Suffice to say that our existing Penal Code remains relevant in maintaining public order, public health or morality.
NECF Malaysia consistently upholds religious freedom in Article 11 and the provisions of fundamental rights (including free speech) enshrined in the Federation Constitution. The rights of every individual residing in Malaysia are safeguarded by this constitution. We believe that violation to these provisions would bring unintended consequences to our freedom to worship. At the same time, NECF Malaysia faithfully abides by the Biblical principles, recognises the fallen nature of all human beings and remembers that God’s plan is redemptive. Therefore, our stand on the issue of "homosexual behaviour" remains clear:
1. We continue to affirm God's love and concern for all humanity (John 3:16).
2. We do not condone homosexual behaviour because it is incompatible with God's will as revealed in the Scripture.
3. We believe in educating our congregations on the subject matter so that Christians will be able to respond with wisdom and discernment.
4. We continue to affirm that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the form of partnership uniquely intended by God for sexual relationship between men and women.
- Policing morality
- Article 11 of the Federal Constitution
11. Freedom of religion
(1) Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
(2) No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.
(3) Every religious group has the right –
(a) to manage its own religious affairs;
(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and
(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.
(4) State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
(5) This Article does not authorise any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.