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 considered an abomination to the God of the Church. Such behaviour 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 of the homosexual community. Rev. Wong Kim Kong, 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 sexual relations between people of the same sex. If a person condones same sex marriages, he 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 the biblical stand, she seeks to understand and to show compassion towards the homosexuals. As the Church accepts their struggles and respects individual choice of lifestyle, she firmly believes that homosexual behaviour does not please God. Having said that, Christians have to ask whether their negative attitude towards the homosexual community is 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. This notion was radically challenged in the 1970s in the face of 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 listed mental and emotional disorders. Two years later, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting the removal and reaffirmed its position in 1997 that homosexuality was not a disorder.
While the debate continues 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 their doorsteps? Rev. Wong put it aptly, “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) a moral abomination according to Christian belief, should not be criminalized. NECF Malaysia has, in the past, spoken out against policing morality based on the tenets of a particular religion 1. 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 sufficient in maintaining public order, public health and 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 the Constitution. We believe that violation of these provisions would bring unintended consequences to our freedom to worship. At the same time, NECF Malaysia faithfully abides by the biblical principles, recognizes 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:
- We continue to affirm God’s love and concern for all humanity (John 3:16).
- We do not condone homosexual behaviour because it is incompatible with
God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures.
- We believe in educating our congregations on the subject matter so that Christians will be able to respond with wisdom and discernment.
- We continue to affirm that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the form of partnership uniquely intended by God for sexual relationship between
men and women.
1 http://www.necf.org.my/newsmaster.cfm?&menuid=12& action=view&retrieveid=732