On June 30, 2018, we saw the culmination of the Pride Month at Marikina Sports Center. Appropriately named Pride March, the parade attracted heaps of people, supporters, and detractors alike.
However, a motley crew of individuals stole the spotlight with their peculiar signages expressing their apology on Christians’ behalf for condemning the LGBT community. One read “I’m sorry” while another proclaimed that Jesus didn’t condemn the LGBT members, and neither do the crew.
As a professing Christian with liberal views, I felt that what I saw was reason enough for me to contact the ones behind the impactful gesture. Turned out, they belong to a church here in Makati. I contacted them earlier this month and asked if I could visit their church the upcoming Sunday and pose a few questions. They consented.
I’m not very good with following directions, so I asked a friend of mine to tag along. As we were snaking through the outskirts of Makati, I was picturing the place we would visit. With my rather liberal and radical views, I thought I was prepared in every way. But the moment I faced the person I was contacting prior to the setting of that day’s appointment, my brightly lit face turned to one expressing shock and bewilderment. With a gaily smile, that person extended his hand toward me saying, “Welcome to the first gay-affirming church in the country.” Right then and there, I knew I was in for a lot.
Freedom in Christ Ministries
The church I went to was the Freedom in Christ Ministries (FICM), located in Brgy. Rizal, Makati City. It has been present since 2015, welcoming members of the LGBT community who are desperate to get to know God and have an intimate relationship with Him. But there are also straight people who are attending their services.
I learned they have been attending the Pride March for four consecutive years now and have been receiving both commendations and scorn from people since then.
What makes them different from the entire Christian community? That was what I sought to find out that afternoon.
Disclaimer: the church’s views don’t necessarily reflect the views of the writer or of the publisher. Also, the chief aim of the writer is to help initiate some sort of communication — if reconciliation is too much — between Christians and the LGBT community, and not the other way around.
Nothing out of the Ordinary (Almost)
Growing up in the province, I was used to the house-church setup which also happens to be the setup at FICM. They do what most Evangelical-Pentecostal churches do today: sing and dance in worship, observe the communion, listen to a preaching, and receive the minister’s benediction.
The only difference worth noting is that at the FICM, there were a good number of people belonging to the LGBT community who were seen in attendance, along with heterosexual attendees.
I have to tell you, they were all-out in dancing and in singing to God. And they were very welcoming and loving. As a matter of fact, they even welcomed us to a hearty dinner!
The congregation’s minister, Pastor Val Palmiano, explained how they are able to reconcile homosexuality with their faith.
“We affirm that they are accepted by God just as they are,” he said. “We do not say ‘you are accepted by God until you change.’ We do not convert them to become straight.”
In the middle of his explanation, I heard him say some sort of theology that he believes in. When asked to clarify, he said it’s Queer Theology.
Queer Theology is a theological method which presents the notion that being gay is not repulsive to the Christian God. According to it, being a homosexual is not a sin. Neither it is a disease nor a ticket to eternal damnation.
Pastor Val believes the same, even though he admits he didn’t at first.
He went on to cite a number of Biblical references which they believe support the tenet. Also, he pointed out that not once — not once! — in the Gospels did Jesus call out those who were identifying themselves as homosexuals, as well as those who were engaging in homosexual acts, if those are mutually exclusive.
Does God’s saving grace trickle down to the LGBT community as well? He believes so.
According to him, the LGBT, given the fact that they are people, are included in those whom Jesus died for. And according to an article on QueerTheology.com, “neither angels nor demons, nor well-meaning Christians armed with a handful of cherry-picked or out-of-context Bible verses can separate [them] from the love of God.”
The Bible is indeed full of stories about wretched sinners who turned into saints — David was an adulterer, Paul was a human rights abuser, Peter was a traitor, Jacob was a deceiver, and Abraham was a doubter. The list could go on.
Also, Jesus’ very own birth was a very controversial one. He was conceived out of wedlock, and by a Jewish teenager at that.
But as Pastor Val pointed out, Jesus spent more time rebuking those who were assuming that they were on a moral pedestal than rebuking those who admitted to their desperation for mercy. If Jesus didn’t condemn the LGBT community during his earthly ministry, then “why [are many Christians] so arrogant in their preaching of hatred and bigotry?”
Amidst the flurry of criticisms and hate-speech that the group has been receiving, they continue to congregate. In fact, they are using the “I’m Sorry” campaign to preach the scandalous message of grace and love to the Filipinos, especially to the LGBT community and to the conservative Christians.
My experience at the FICM was so impactful that I was transported back to the time when Jesus took on human flesh. He challenged the social and religious norms at that time, and he even taunted the Jewish leaders to the extent that they ordered that he be crucified.
I once marveled at how Jesus treated the social outcasts during his day — he touched the unclean, he associated himself with a Samaritan woman, and he crafted stories in which the protagonists were the ones the Jews considered misfits. Why can we not do the same?
Regardless of whether Queer Theology is correct or not, members of the LGBT community are people and are dearly loved by God. And people whom God loves are as deserving as we are of a place in the society.
Should you like to learn more about the group and the Queer Theology, you may contact them through their Facebook page. Also, know that they congregate during Sundays at 4pm at Blk 133, Lot 7, Juan Luna St., Rizal, Makati.