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尋找盼望的家 (佩德羅) Looking for a Home of Hope

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做個「好基督徒」?

我成長在浸信會家庭,父母熱心於教會服事,兒少時期,教會生活佔很重要位置,當時樂在其中,理所當然認為未來會在教會認識主內姊妹,建立基督化家庭,除了工作,就是在教會忠心服事。身為南部、本省家庭的獨生子,從小就意識到,未來一定要結婚、延續香火,加上家人身體不好,會期待未來的妻子能一同照顧父母。


高中時期開始意識到自己與其他男同學的不同,經歷了一段同時喜歡女生、男生的模糊期,曾追求心儀的女同學,也發現對男生有好感,然而對男生有好感的部分越來越感到不安,想起傳統教會的信仰教導,認為同性戀是一種罪,只有異性婚姻家庭才是受到祝福的,我開始掙扎,會不會自己將遠離「好基督徒」該有的樣子。


出櫃與入櫃

高中到大學,曾熱衷參與學校、教會的基督徒社團/團契,擔任重要同工,但另一方面也開始探索自己的同志身分,從當時資源不多的雜誌書籍、網路/BBS、同志社團,想要尋找另一種認同與歸屬感。這樣的過程其實感到「分裂」與焦慮,最後也在父母開始懷疑、關切下,我選擇向他們「出櫃」。父母雖然態度冷靜、並無非常反感,但卻在日後將近十年的時間裡,經歷著充滿問號、找尋解答的過程,他們認為我並非百分百的「男同志」、也許是「雙性戀」,不要放棄嘗試異性交往的可能,也希望我不要離開信仰與教會生活。當然,自己的「出櫃」,換成父母的「入櫃」,面對教會與其他親友,他們可能得一輩子守著這個「不能說的秘密」。


另一條路

在那個台灣社會與教會界逐漸關注同志議題的九零年代中期,「台灣走出埃及協會」(以下簡稱走出埃及)與「同光同光長老教會」(以下簡稱同光教會)也紛紛成立,引起我的好奇。


有好一段時間,透過學校團契的講座、營隊、走出埃及的活動,及國外的經驗,我猶豫著「前同志團體」、「扭轉治療」是否是可能的出路。當我深入了解,他們強調的,同性戀者多半來自「破碎的成長經驗」、「有性別認同困擾」、「普遍過得不快樂」,因而可以尋求「被改變」或者類似獨身的「聖潔性戀」時,我很確信自己的生命經驗與這些「前同志」不同,透過一切的探索、尋求、禱告,我也找不到任何上帝給我的感動或啟示。


1999年左右來到同光教會,起初仍有許多疑問,這樣的教會究竟要走往什麼方向? 對同志的信仰立場是什麼? 為何有些會友仍認為同性戀是罪?自己真的會在這間教會待下來嗎?


在同光教會,透過重新理解聖經詮釋、思考耶穌的反抗權威與顛覆傳統、反思基督信仰的本質,我才逐漸看見上帝帶領同志生命的可能性。藉由這些反思,我更明白何謂耶穌的「道成肉身」,明白這個信仰從來就不保證信了之後就會一帆風順、幸福美滿,而是會經歷「苦難」,讓我對約伯記說的「從前風聞有你,現在親眼看見你」多了一些體會。看見許多同志基督徒的生命見證,也對上主更有信心、更不懼怕,如同約書亞記說:「你當剛強壯膽,不要懼怕,也不要驚惶。因為你無論往那裡去,耶和華你的上帝必與你同在。」


失望與盼望

同志信仰的旅程,充滿許多挑戰。近幾年,歷經了基督徒為反對增修民法972條與多元成家法案而首度走上街頭的「1130事件」(2013年)、台灣基督長老教會發表「同性婚姻議題牧函」(2014年)、縣市長大選綁公投的反同公投案(2018年)等重大事件,讓許多同志基督徒及友同基督徒受到很大挫折、甚至從教會出走,尤其1130事件那段期間,讓我對於基督徒身分、對主流教會感到非常失望,看不見這個信仰能帶給同志什麼樣的幫助。


不過令人感恩的是,在這段期間,上主也賜下新的養分,藉著參加幾次在香港、台灣舉辦的亞洲激昂特會(Amplify),不同國家、不同地區的友善同志教會,彼此凝聚、享受共融聖餐,感受上主對同志信徒的眷顧,以及「跨越界線」的寶貴功課,學習去愛鄰舍、看見生命中的「他者」,也愛那些與我們持相反意見的人,唯有去除恐懼,才可能讓被隔絕的彼此,再次「成為一家人」,如同約翰一書4章18節:「愛裡沒有懼怕,完全的愛可以把懼怕除去!」。


上主也讓我看見,在最保守的地方,有最勇敢的力量,在美國眾多浸信會支派中,有一個成員僅100多間教會的支派「浸信會聯盟」(Alliance of Baptists ),在所有浸信會支派中並非主流,然而從1987年成立以來,這個支派一直走在關心少數族裔、街友、女性及性少數的社會公義路線上,他們在2004年的年會中發表一份對同性婚姻的立場聲明,當中提到:「我們強烈拒絕國家透過法律修正,對性少數增加歧視,並以傳統婚姻定義否定同志伴侶享有法定的照顧關係保障。身為基督徒與浸信會信徒,我們為著女、男同志、雙性戀及跨性別肢體在宣揚基督信仰時所遭遇的毀謗,表達沈重的哀悼。Alliance of Baptists支持每個公民都應享有平等婚姻權利,並將為那些受到教會忽視者創造一個庇護與重新建造的空間。」


「壓傷的蘆葦,祂不折斷;將殘的燈火,祂不熄滅」(賽42:3),Alliance of Baptists的勇敢,成為浸信會同志可以歸屬的「家」,我知道自己並不孤單,如同亞洲的許多友善信仰群體,正一同經歷「出埃及」、「過紅海」及「跨越約旦河」的旅程,努力踏向彩虹飄揚的「迦南美地」。


尋找盼望的家

我很慶幸在身分認同與信仰上,並沒有遭遇什麼直接的威脅,也一直有不少人羨慕我已跟家人出櫃,但其實爸媽花了十多年時間,才真正理解我的同志身分,也有肢體總是鼓勵我與家人勇敢踏出去,期待我的父母參與社群活動、發揮更多影響力。但逐漸年邁、身體患病的父母總是說:「我們知道你所做的努力,但就幫個忙吧,我們都半條命了,光養病三天兩頭跑就很累,真的沒力氣再去搞那些事,還要承受教會及親戚的關切與壓力。要衝、要綁白布條,等我們兩老走了以後吧,你想怎麼衝撞都可以。」這番話總是令我心疼,我知道父母也需要歸屬,尤其是教會肢體,那是他們晚年生活重要的「家」,倘若對外出櫃,可能一切就變得不一樣,因此我也必須減少他們的擔憂、保護他們。


今天是同光教會24周年,時間過得很快,從大學時期來此,至今已逾20年。當中經歷過幾位駐堂牧師,以及許多友善牧者前來講道或協助其他事工,也如同許多主流教會,服事同工、會友來來去去,有人留下、有人離開,最初代會友,許多已沒在此聚會。20年來,在聚會或服事中,也曾對一些人、一些事感到挫折時,也曾有會友預言,神要把這裡拆毀,不過我很確信,沒有一間教會是完美的,上主總要我們定睛在祂身上,而不是只把焦點放在有限的人或事物上。我很感謝在許多敬拜、禱告或與肢體分享的時刻,深刻感受到上主的同在、感受到信仰群體的力量。上主的愛一直都在,祂的眷顧從沒減少。


最後,我想分享一首詩歌,在我遇到困境、愁煩的時刻,總是能帶來鼓勵與安慰,這首歌是朱約信在《搖滾主耶穌》專輯中的「詩篇23篇」,也就是大家耳熟能詳的一段經文,「耶和華是我牧者,我必不致缺乏,它使我躺臥在青草地上,領我在可安歇的水邊…」。希望大家能從這首經文詩歌中,得著更多的力量,相信上主對同志基督徒的祝福。


Being a “Good Christian”?

Growing up in a Baptist family, my parents were passionate about serving in church. When I was a child, church life was a high priority. As I was joyfully participating, I naturally thought that I would find a Christian girlfriend, get married and form a Christian family. Besides working, I served faithfully in church. Being from the south of Taiwan and also as the only son in the family, I understood that I have to get married to continue the family line. In addition, my parents’ health was poor and I hoped that my wife would be able to help take care of my parents.


While I was in high school, I started to realize that I was different from other male students. I experienced a period of confusion when I liked both boys and girls. I chased after a girl that I liked while also liking boys, but I felt uneasy that I liked boys because I thought about the teachings of traditional Christian beliefs that homosexuality is a sin and that only married heterosexual families are blessed. I started to struggle about whether I am getting further from what is considered a “good” Christian.


Coming Out and Keeping the Secret

From the period of high school to university, I was passionate about the Christian fellowship groups both in school and church. While I was serving, I was also exploring my homosexual identity. I was looking for a sense of acceptance and belonging from looking at limited resources such as books, magazines, the internet/BBS and LGBT groups. This process made me feel torn and anxious. Under the suspicion of my parents and their expressed concern, I decided to come out to them. Although their response was calm and did not reject me, but in the almost 10 years to come, I experienced a lot of doubt and searched for answers. My parents thought that I was not a hundred percent gay, maybe I was bisexual and that I should not give up on trying to have a heterosexual relationship, nor leave the faith and church life. My coming out to my parents ended up as them becoming closeted, regardless of facing the church, friends or family. They may have to keep a secret that cannot be shared for life.


Another Way

During the time that the Taiwanese and global Christians focused on LGBT issues in the mid 1900s, the Taiwan Exodus Association (or Exodus for short) and Tong Kwang Church were established and that made me curious.


For a long while, through lectures in school, camps, activities by Exodus, and experience overseas, I hesitated about the possibility of being an ex-homosexual or treatment to make me a heterosexual. When I understood further that they stressed upon homosexuality comes from broken experiences growing up, confusion about gender identity and general unhappiness, and that I can look for change or become a single and holy homosexual, I was certain that my life experience is different from these ex-homosexuals. Through exploring, seeking and prayer, I was not able to find any inspiration or leading from God.


Around 1999, I came to Tong Kwang Church. Initially I had a lot of doubts and questions. What is the direction of the church? What is its position on the faith of homosexuals? Why are there some members who still believe that homosexuality is a sin? Will I really stay in this church?


While in Tong Kwang Church, through renewed understanding of the Bible, reflection about Jesus’ opposition to authority and overthrowing tradition, I gradually saw the possibility of God’s leading in the lives of homosexuals. During this time of reflection, I had further understanding why Jesus had to be born as a man, that coming into this faith does not mean life after would be smooth sailing, and that I would live a fulfilled life. Rather, when I go through suffering, I experienced more of what is in the book of Job, that while I had heard of you in the past, now I see you. I saw the testimonies of many homosexual Christians and my trust in God increased and I became less fearful. As the book of Joshua states: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”


Despair and Hope

During the journey of faith as a homosexual, I faced many challenges. In the recent years, I experienced the opposition of Christians to social law 972, the court case number 1130 about LGBT families which took to streets in 2013, the Taiwan Presbyterian Churches releasing a letter about the same-sex marriage issue in 2014, that the election for mayors and representatives of counties were tied to the anti-LGBT public voting in 2018, and many more large and series events. These events caused many LGBT and LGBT-friendly Christians to be discouraged, to the extent of leaving the church, especially during the time of case 1130. This caused me to be very disappointed in the Christian identity and mainstream churches, as I could not see how this faith can help the LGBT group.


However, I’m thankful that during this period, God has blessed me with renewed faith as I had several opportunities to attend the event Amplify, which were held in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries, with different LGBT-friendly churches from different regions attending, who fellowshipped and had Communion together. I felt God’s care for the LGBT Christians, and I learnt important lessons about stepping out of boundaries, loving my neighbor, seeing the “others” in my life, and loving those who oppose us. Only by removing fear that we can allow those who are separated to become a family once again. This is similar to 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”


God also allowed me to see that in the most conservative places, there is power from the greatest courage. Among the United States Baptist churches, the Alliance of Baptists which has more than 100 churches participating, they are not mainstream churches. Since its founding in 1987, this group has been focusing on caring for the social rights of the minority races, the homeless, women and LGBT. In the annual general meeting of 2004, they released a statement about their stand on same-sex marriage, which included: "We specifically reject the proposed amendments to the constitution of the United States and state constitutions that would enshrine discrimination against sexual minorities and define marriage in such a way as to deny same-sex couples a legal framework in which to provide for one another and those entrusted to their care. As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God. We affirm that the Alliance of Baptists supports the rights of all citizens to full marriage equality, and we affirm anew that the Alliance will "create places of refuge and renewal for those who are ignored by the church."


Isaiah 42:4 states that “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out”. The courage of the Alliance of Baptists will form a home for the LGBT Baptists. I know I am not alone, because many LGBT-friendly faith groups in Asia are also experiencing the journeys of Exodus, crossing the Red Sea, and crossing the Jordan river together, and striving to step into the promised land which has a rainbow flag.


Looking for a Home of Hope

I am very fortunate that in the process of the acceptance of my identity and faith, I have not faced any direct threat and there are some who envy me because I came out to my family. However, my parents spent more than ten years to fully understand my homosexual identity. There are some members who encouraged my family and I to step out and become activists so that there is more influence, but my aging and ill parents always say “We know of your efforts, but please help us because we only have half our lives left. Even travelling to treat our illness causes us to be very tired. We really do not have any energy left to do all those. We also need to bear with the pressure and the concerns of the church and family. If you want to charge and stand for your beliefs, wait until after we have passed on and you can do what you wish”. These words really cause me heartache. I know my parents also need a sense of belonging, especially in the church body and that is the home they need in their late years. If I come out to the world, everything may change. Hence I also need to reduce their worry and protect them.


This year is the 24th anniversary of the founding of Tong Kwang Church and time has passed very quickly. From the time of university till now, it has been 20 years. During this time there we experienced the change of many church pastors and there were many friendly pastors who came to give a sermon or served in many ways. Like many mainstream churches, those who served, and members of the church came and went. Some stay, some leave, and many of the original members are no longer around. Within 20 years, whether in attending gatherings or while serving, I met some setbacks relating to some people or events, and members who prophecy that God will destroy this place. However, I am sure that there is no church that is perfect and God wants us to fix our eyes on Him and not focus on people or things that have limitations. I’m thankful for the many sessions of worship, prayer or sharing by members of the church that caused me to feel strongly of God’s presence and the power of a fellowship of faith. God’s love is always present and His care has never waned.


Lastly, I would like to share a worship song. During my times of trial and worry, it always brings me encouragement and comfort. This is the song Psalm 23 in Jutoupi’s album “Rockstar Jesus”, which is based on a very famous passage in the Bible “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters… ”I hope that everyone can find more strength from the verses in this song to believe in the blessings of God on LGBT Christians.


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