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The Journey Towards Healing

Date: 28/06/2020/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew, Ps Pauline Ong, Jimmy, Jansy, Wendy & David

Pauline:
In our weekly bulletin, Miak and I said that today’s service would be a journey of healing. A few weeks ago when Miak and I were planning for the ‘Draw the Circle Wide’ project and this Sunday service in conjunction with the Pink Dot weekend, we felt led to address the harm and trauma LGBTQ people have sustained from the Christian religion. Here we are, a church singing about including everyone, while so many have been hurt by the Church over the years. We couldn’t offer this song without acknowledging the pain and harm caused. As FCC, we straddle a unique place in our society, and I believe we have a unique calling.

Over the years, we have had some pastors and churches approach us to understand how they can create a more loving and accepting environment for their members and leaders who identify as LGBTQ. We also have had members of the LGBTQ community ask us why we continue to be Christians when it feels like the Church has rejected us. I believe we are called to be the bridge between Christians and the LGBTQ community.

We have seen how God heals, and God continues to surprise us even as we were preparing for this service today. So we invited those who are doubtful of our theology, we invited those who are doubtful of whether God still loves them, and we invited those who are part of our community. Thank you for joining us today.

Come and see, Jesus said to the first followers. Come and see, and get to know us, and hear of stories of healing and restoration, and let us celebrate God’s inclusive love for all.

Miak:
For many years, we have celebrated the Sunday after Pink Dot as our Pink Dot Sunday. In the weeks after Pink Dot, we would have quite a number of people who would visit us because they got to know about us at Pink Dot when we show up as a big group having a picnic at Hong Lim Park, or through the Pink Dot videos. Last year, Alex was featured with Otto Fong, in 2016, Pauline and AJ’s stories were featured, and Rev Yap appeared in the videos in 2009 and 2014, Susan, his daughter also appeared in the video in 2009.

Rev Yap –was there at every Pink Dot with Mrs Yap and Susan – to support LGBTQ folks. I believe he is with us in spirit now, supporting us, standing with us, and demonstrating to us how a Christian can embrace LGBTQ folks. Even after his passing, Mrs Yap and Susan continue to support Pink Dot every year. This year, Mrs Yap painted a message to be included in the Draw the Circle Wide video.

Unfortunately, every year, this is also the period we get a lot of attention from Christians who do not agree with us. Recently, there was an open letter addressed to us. While it may be well intentioned, it still inflicts pain and hurt on many LGBTQ folks.

I want to invite Jimmy to share. Jimmy, what was your reaction to the open letter?

Jimmy:
I was in a state of exasperation and felt like shouting back at the post. I felt really upset and disgusted, because to me, the post reeks of the evangelical fundamentalist vocabulary, rhetoric and ideology. The author weaponized scripture to make accusations against everyone single person who makes the FCC community. It was very triggering as the church I began my faith journey with, 15 years ago, was an evangelical church that ended up hurting my faith and me deeply. The whole experience traumatised me many years after.

I spent the rest of my night after reading the post feeling uneasy and conflicted on what I should do. I felt like I was compelled to justify myself and my faith. Should I even do anything, I asked myself. I wanted vengeance. I would have fooled myself into thinking I wanted justice but it was vengeance, as what I wanted to do was to lash out and get back on the author and those commenters who cheered on from the sides. But, I thank God I didn’t.

I feel I’m being attacked when FCC is attacked and accused. In my frustration I lamented to God, feeling partly angry with God. Why do some Christian’s behave in such a hurtful, and dare I say self-righteous manner, against us when all FCC simply wants to do is to witness to God’s love, the love and grace I and many of our siblings in FCC experienced. When all we wanted to do was to love and heal others. Do those Christians who are hurtful share the same Spirit as us? Jesus promised to send us the Spirit to dwell in all who loves him, to help us love one another, but why is this happening?

As I sat silently downcast in my room that night, I was reminded, “There is not them and us. Jesus came to show that there is only us. It has always been just ‘us’.” I meditated on this revelation and came to remember that Jesus’ commandment was for me to love God and love my neighbour, not to judge them. God opened my eyes to what Jesus’ “narrow way” (Matt 7:13-14) is, it is to take up the cross of loving others and especially my enemies, those who wish me harm and those who persecute me. At the end of the night, God’s grace allowed me to see where this author was coming from and why he might be doing this. I do not know his story and I am in no position to judge him even though he was quick to judge me, FCC and my fellow siblings (FCC and LGBTQ). What would I gain if I returned hate for hate? Honestly, till some days ago, I was still feeling a little upset, a part of me did not want to give up hating, feeling that I am in the right, “I suffered injustice”.

Then came last Sunday morning (21st June). At the start of Dr Gwee’s sermon on the Lord’s Prayer(Matthew 6:9-13), I was distracted by my feelings from the night before, but as the sermon continued, I felt my heart and attention being drawn-in by God. My heart experienced a deep sense of peace and comfort when Dr Gwee spoke about how when Jesus was challenged by the Devil (Matthew 4:3-4) to prove himself to be the Son of God, God’s beloved child, by turning stones into loaves of bread, but Jesus refused.

The peace and comfort I received came from the revelation that a beloved child of God has no need to prove their belovedness but only need to abide in God’s love and God’s faithfulness. Jesus, as God, gives of himself to those who love him, as the bread of life. The daily bread, the grace of knowing that I am God’s beloved child, that I receive from God I cannot prove or justify, nor do I need to.

Pauline:
Thank you, Jimmy, for sharing so honestly and vulnerably. It is not the first time for us receiving a letter like this, and it won’t be the last. My first reaction when I read the letter was a point-by-point rebuttal, in my head, to everything that was said. I felt hurt, angry and misunderstood, on a personal basis and as a faith community.

I decided to step away, take a breath and pray. I asked God how we should respond to something like this. What is the wisest and most loving way we can respond? I spoke with various people who had read the letter and I waited on God for a few days. God reminded me that it is important for our community and those outside to hear who we are called to be and why we do what we do.

We are called to be the people of God — to love and be loved. God who loves us, gave us life, and healed us so we can proclaim God’s love and healing to the world. That’s why we invited you to sing ‘Draw the Circle Wide’. But the important thing is not just to sing, but also to live this out in and through your lives.

I know some of you were too shy to sing and that’s okay. Livia and I spoke with Jansy about them wanting to be involved in the project, yet they were wondering if it’s okay for them to wear masks. They were not ashamed of themselves, that’s not why they wore masks. They were concerned about repercussions that they, as LGBTQ people, still face in our society. And i think that is a poignant and powerful statement.

Let’s hear from them.

Both: Hi everyone!

Jansy A: We are the Jansy!

Jansy B: Yes, we are the ones who were masked up in the video.

Jansy A: Yes!

Jansy B: So just a bit about ourselves – we’ve been together for about 10 years and we got our commitment ceremony last year.

Jansy A: We have also been attending FCC for the past 2 years and this is our 3rd year joining Pink Dot. So talking about Pink Dot, I think it’s a really unique experience this year that given the current situation we are still able to gather together virtually.

Jansy B: Ya, Which is even better!

Jansy A: Ya. So our pastors actually sent us a few questions relating to our experience being part of this video. So we are going to read out the questions and we are going to answer them.

Jansy B: Yup!

Jansy A: Let’s go! Question 1!

Jansy B: Question 1. You both chose to mask up for the music video. What risks are there for you and what repercussions were you afraid of?

Jansy A: Ya. Hmm.. I think I was a little more hesitant to be a part of this video, frankly. And I think she is the one who is like all excited about being part of the video. I guess the reason for me was because of multiple bad experiences that I had previously. If I have to point out one, I remember during one of the church’s youth camp, I was being pointed out and I was being called out for being different basically. Things like, you know, what they say, “Oh you don’t wear skirt, you are not a lady, you are very tomboyish, you know… the words just you know really hurt me and I was I remember I was like 12 or 13 years old, I was pretty young at that age whereby

Jansy B: You want to be accepted

Jansy A: Yes, yes, yes. So it was a really terrible moment for me and on top of that my family, my relatives are not accepting and they find it difficult that I’m different from the rest. So yeah, that was the reason why still at this stage right now, I am unable to out in that sense. What about you?

Jansy B: I think for myself, I am a bit more fortunate in the sense that some of my family members I think will be proud of me for coming out and even being part of this video. But then of course there are some who are a bit awkward towards this entire subject and might not know how to acknowledge it and stuff. But I think the real reason why I was afraid of coming out and appearing in the video was more because of the society – all the colleagues, the professional network that I deal with. Like I don’t think that they are at the stage where they are willing to accept this LGBT or like you know this diversity of people. And I’ve seen for myself how some of my colleagues who are blatant about their sexuality – they have been penalized for it. They’ve been mocked at and gawked at and yeah, so I think that was quite sad. So I didn’t want to commit some career suicide myself. I didn’t want to find myself in a position as well.

Both: Yeah. (nod in agreement)

Jansy A: Okay. Second question. Let’s see. Why did you still want to be part of the video? So maybe I can answer that first. So you know after thinking for a while I wanted to be part of the video because er…

Jansy B: She was convinced by me.

Jansy A: Maybe… just a little (both laugh). So I wanted to be part of the video because I want to be counted for.

Jansy B: Yeah

Jansy A: And even though I am not out per se but I can sort of represent myself and also represent people who are not out like us, to be a part of this Pink Dot video itself. And to really tell people that even though we are different we are still human. And even though you don’t accept us for who we are we still live in the same society, in this world together. So its more of like being known in the society.

Jansy B: Ya. So I think a large reason why I wanted to be part of the video was also because of that. Because even though like we are hidden behind mask and all like most of our community is hiding behind the screen but being able to represent and to form up a picture in that mosaic of like voices is something we really wanted to do.

Jansy A: We wanted to take the easy way out by just recording the audio.

Jansy B: Ya, so at first FCC also gave us that option to just send in our audio so that it will be easy to just hide behind many faces. But then again we were thinking like why are we putting in so much effort but not like showing people that there are actually many people behind these voices.

That’s really like the reason we wanted to sing and to be part of that music as well. And another thing was for me I really, really like the song Draw the Circle Wide. I thought it was very meaningful to be able to draw the circle wider and tell people that they are not alone. Its something that I thought we should shout out about and to tell people that even if you are hidden even if you are hiding behind the screen, you are accepted too, not just those people who are out and proud. Even those around us who are hiding, who might be your colleagues, who might be your neighbours, who might be your family members, I think they matter too and I hope they get this message also.

Jansy A: Okay, I think that is all the questions that we have and we want to thank FCC for organizing this and we are glad to be part of this video.

Both: Thank you! Bye bye!

Miak:
I was very moved when I received Jansy’s video. The first reaction was surprise – seeing someone masked up (with glasses too!) Then it dawned on me – that this was important to them – important that they are counted and heard. Important that someone out there connect with their story and find courage and hope in it.

One of our youths, Chloe, was part of the Pink Dot video this year with her parents Alex and Siew Gek, and her sisters Charis and Charlotte. She shared with me that she received both positive and negative reactions from classmates. Some friends messaged her privately to tell her that it is cool to know that she is an ally, while some classmates made fun of her in class for being gay – even though she’s not. This is the kind of bullying LGBTQ folks risk if they are out and even coming out in support of LGBTQ folks has consequences.

There are negative consequences because the circle is still not wide enough in society to include LGBTQ folks. That’s why Pink Dot is still important. And FCC supports Pink Dot in doing the work of healing – helping folks who have been hurt by church to heal, and also to help the church heal of its homophobia, biphobia, transphobia.

One of the videos submitted as part of our project was from the Huangs. We were very concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Sofia and Emmet because we were afraid that they would also experience bullying for being featured in our video.

We checked in with Wendy and David, and they told me they spoke with Emmet – He’s already told David and Wendy that some classmates use gay and racist slurs jokingly. He’s aware of the consequences and is ok to be in the video.

Thank you Emmet and Sofia for your courage!

When the Wendy and David joined us, I was very moved by them trusting their children to our volunteers in the children ministry. We know of many people who were asked to step down from serving in Sunday school in other churches because they were suspected to be LGBTQ. Their trust gave me something I didn’t expect – healing. It exposed my own internalised homophobia was that made me hesitant and even afraid of taking care of children in FCC. Their trust in us helped us heal – and our role in teaching the children and the youths to be hope for the future.

I want to invite David and Wendy to share their story.

Wendy/David:

Wendy: When people ask me how I found FCC, my simple answer is that I googled “lgbt affirming church”. However, there is a story behind why I made that search. I have been a Christian all my life, and attended churches that placed a high value on the centrality of salvation from sin by grace through faith, the authoritative role of the Bible on all matters, and upholding standards of morality that included the sanctity of sex between a man and woman in lifelong marriage. Anything outside of these boundaries is considered sin.

David: I have also been a Christian since my youth. I had been in a variety of churches in Singapore and USA: Charismatic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, and non-denominational, but in all of these, traditional views of sexuality were taught and I accepted the teaching without question. I did not know any people who were openly gay, and I thought that attraction to the same gender was a type of addiction that one had to fight against.

Wendy: A few years before we came to Singapore, we found out that a former church member had committed suicide, after coming out and leaving the church. We did not know the details of why she had decided to end her life, but it broke my heart that she had to choose between being true to herself, and belonging to a church. And perhaps the severance of this relationship with a community removed an important protective factor that made her vulnerable to depression. I don’t know. But the incident planted a seed of doubt in my heart that maybe, just maybe, Christians have got this wrong.

David: In 2016, I became good friends with a guy who was in a men’s group I attended. When he came out as gay, his wife divorced him, he was asked to leave the group, and our church banned him from serving in children’s ministry. Throughout this time, despite the hurt he experienced from the church and fellow Christians, I saw that his mental health was greatly improving. I realized that repression had been harming him, while his new acceptance of his orientation was bringing him new life. I started to re-examine the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and gradually became convinced I needed to entirely change my views and make it a priority to support and affirm LGBT Christians in any way I can.

Wendy: In 2016, the spring before we moved to Singapore, the sermon series during the season of Lent was titled, “Forgive Us”. Each sermon was dedicated to apologizing to various groups of people that Christians have harmed over years, and even centuries. These included racial minorities, women, people of other religions, and the LGBTQ community. I used this opportunity to start a reading group to learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ Christians. The goal was not to have theological or morality debates about what the bible says, but to learn and listen to the experiences of our gay siblings who have had to make sense of their sexual orientation in the context of faith. Their stories opened my eyes and heart. I didn’t realize how much hurt and suspicion that gay Christians have endured. I should have but I didn’t.

We are here to make a statement of apology.

As Christians, we believe that God invites everyone to know God’s love through Jesus Christ. God calls us to display that love to everyone.

But when it comes to how Christians have treated our gay brothers and sisters, and the larger LGBTQ community, Christians have been known more for our hate, fear, and suspicion than our love.

We’re here at this pink dot service to say that we’re sorry.

1. We’re sorry for feeling and expressing moral superiority,

2. for using the bible to hide our disgust and homophobia,

3. for blindly accepting untruths like being gay is a choice,

4. for being dismissive of the hurt caused by statements like “love the sinner, hate the sin”,

5. for preaching rather than listening,

6. for remaining silent when jokes and offensive remarks were made,

7. for wanting to fit in with the majority rather than speaking up,

8. for judging other Christians who have affirming positions,

9. and so much more.

Forgive us.

David: From the first time I attended FCC, I felt welcomed by the community. I like how the congregation is small enough that one can get to know a lot of people and see familiar faces each week. I like how the worship is simple yet heartfelt, and I get to hear the voices of people around me, and not just the large screens and loudspeakers. I love Miak and Pauline’s preaching which introduces novel ways of reading the Bible and brings in meaningful quotes and references that inspire me and challenge my thinking. I love how we do communion every week and how it symbolizes the way God loves and welcomes everyone without exceptions. I am especially grateful for the way my kids also have been taught and mentored by the various Sunday school teachers. In short, I feel blessed to be part of FCC and share in its journey.

We pledge the following:

1. We commit to listening and seeking to understand.

2. We will strive to make things better for the LGBTQ community.

3. We are here to join the celebration and affirm God’s love for everyone.

Pauline:
When Wendy first sent me what she wrote for this Sunday, I couldn’t stop the tears from welling up. Through the lives of Wendy, David, Sofia, Emmet, Jansy, Jimmy, and many of you out there in our congregation, I have witnessed what Jesus means when he told his disciples in Matthew 7, “You will know them by their fruits.”

In his warning about false prophets, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20) This means you can identify them by their fruit, that is, by who they are and what they do. This is tough because Jesus is challenging us to reflect on who we are and what we do. It’s not so much about looking outside and judging others but it’s about taking an honest look at ourselves.

We will be the first to admit that we are far from being a perfect church. Like any church or community, we have our conflicts and disagreements. There are times we hurt one another inadvertently, and we have had to work towards forgiveness and reconciliation. We are a work in progress, and God is still in the midst of transforming and growing us into the likeness of Christ. But we are thankful to see the Spirit of God at work amongst us. We witness the power of God’s healing taking place, not just within our own lives but in the life of this community. A healing that is moving us toward Shalom.

To the leaders and members of this congregation, we see you growing in the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And as your pastors, we are humbled and grateful to God for this continual work and gift of grace and transformation. We love you and couldn’t be prouder of you.

Here at FCC, we want to help bind up the wounds of LGBTQ folks, and help them heal from the hurt inflicted upon them through the years. With God’s grace, we want to help build the bridge to heal the church of its homophobia, biphobia, transphobia.

This is who we are and what we are called to do.

We want to continue to proclaim God’s radical love for all people.

We stand with Pink Dot.

We stand with love.

Amen.

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