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？
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」。
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.
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.
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.