12/02/2011

NOUVELLE ÉGLISE ... AUX PHILIPPINES ?

Male homosexuality

Christianity has traditionally regarded homosexuality, in the sense of human sexual behavior, to be an immoral practice (or vice) and sinful, and most major Christian denominations (containing the majority of Christians worldwide) continue to hold this view, including the Roman Catholic Church, conservative synods of the Lutheran Church (i.e., Missouri Synod, the Eastern Orthodox churches, most Evangelical Protestant churches, the Southern Baptist Convention, the LDS Church, the Brethren in Christ, and the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

Some Christians have come to believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice.
Denominations holding this position include the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, the Moravian Church, and the Friends General Conference. Also in Europe the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the Lutheran Church of Denmark, the Lutheran Church in Norway, the Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, the German Lutheran and United Churches in Evangelical Church in
Germany and the reformed churches in Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. The Metropolitan Community Church has been founded specifically to serve the Christian LGBT community.

The Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, Methodist Church of Great Britain, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also after actively debate believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. The worldwide Anglican Communion has experienced ongoing debate and controversy over homosexuality both before and after the Episcopal Church ordained the first openly gay bishop, Gene
Robinson, in 2003.

Lesbianism

Lesbians and same-sex attracted women face different social and cultural preconception, making their experience in Christianity sometimes dissimilar to that of gay men.
A survey of self-identified lesbian women found a "dissonance" between their religious and sexual identities. This dissonance correlated with being an evangelical Christian before coming out.



Metropolitan Community Church in Quezon City.

At first impression, the chapel looks like an ordinary place of worship. There is a newly built altar up front, a huge glass crucifix glistening at the center. A painting of Jesus Christ forgiving a repentant man is hanging from the wall.

Since it is Sunday, people have come to the chapel to pray and sing songs of praise. Among the furnishings setting this place apart from other worship centers are the rainbow-colored pieces of cloth lining the chapel windows. When light shines through these curtains, a splash of colors surrounds the churchgoers—all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

This is a sanctuary for about 60 members of the Metropolitan Community Church in Quezon City. A young church, and part of the bigger Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches based in the United States, it has been seeking to promote

“spiritual activism” among members of the LGBT community in the country for the past five years.

The MCC, which also has churches in Makati and Baguio City, made headlines last June after talks of legalizing same-sex marriages resurfaced in the Philippines following the legalization of gay marriages in the United States. The MCC church has been blessing same-sex unions in the country since its founding in 2006.

Administrative pastor Rev. Ceejay Agbayani explains that the MCC, a non-denominational Christian church, does not seek to convert its members to a different religious belief. It simply wants to provide a welcoming place where LGBTs can pray and share their experiences.

“We are not a converting church. We are a mixture of different believers. We recognize the baptism of our different members. Our only commonality is our experiences,” he said.

Agbayani describes the MCC’s religious ceremonies as “very Roman Catholic, but ecumenical.” During their Sunday worship, members of the church sing, listen to Bible readings, and share bread and wine. However, they perform their worship in slightly different ways. Palm leaves, for example, are used to bless the churchgoers with Holy water. The bread and wine are given out and consumed by the worshippers.

Although the MCC performs rituals similar to other religions, Agbayani said his church offers something that some other churches are unable to give. “Wala kaming problema sa acceptance. Here, homosexuality is not a sin. We should embrace and affirm that as a Christian believer,” he said.

New life

Mark, a 42-year old former call center agent, said he can attest to the kind of acceptance the MCC gives its members.

Last February, he distanced himself from the church because of a misunderstanding with fellow members. A few months after the rift, he was diagnosed with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

“Agad-agad, doon pa lang, tanggap ko na. Hindi ko ma-recall na na-depress ako,” he said.

His emotional strength, however, crumbled as his body weakened due to the disease. Just recently, he suffered a bad bout of pneumonia, which weakened his body to the point that he could not even bring himself to the hospital.

“I was not well. Alam ko isang bulate na lang pipirma, wala na talaga ako. I needed someone to accompany me to the hospital,” he said.

At a time when he thought his life was about to end, his old friends came to help him reclaim it “They fetched me. I really cried. Yumakap na lang ako sa kanila,” he said.
 Now, Mark says he cannot help but cry every time he remembers how his friends from the MCC came when he needed acceptance the most.

“I am really thankful. Now, I pray every night. Andito ako ngayon kasi God gave me new life. I'm here to help spread the word,” he said in tears.

Acceptance

After five years of their congregation’s existence, Agbayani hopes that members of the LGBT community in the country will experience the same kind of acceptance shared within their place of worship.

“Ang acceptance dapat total. Walang ifs, walang buts. Ano naman ang masama sa pagiging homosexual?” he said.

“Nagbubukas naman ‘yung ibang isip. We exist in all parts of the society. Lahat naman may kakilala o kaibigan na miyembro ng LGBT community, kaya madaling i-accept ang LGBT community ngayon,” he added.

The church leader said he dreams of a time when society will accept LGBTs in their totality.

“Dapat walang dualism na love the sinner, hate the sin. Homosexuality is not a sin. We should affirm our sexuality as part of the gift of God,” he said.

To attain this goal, Agbayani and other MCC members know that they have to go beyond the confines of their chapel, away from the colorful lining on the wall.

“We should be the front liner when it comes to spiritual activism. Everything LGBT, dapat nakikialam kami. We should be an active church,” he said.

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