There is a key difference between tolerance and acceptance. Many LGBTIQ+ individuals have been the recipient of tight-lipped smiles, being told, “I will love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Just like many find themselves biting their tongue when their parents say, “One day, when you are properly married with kids…”
When you spend everyday waking up feeling like you’re all wrong, it isn’t difficult to see why you’d choose to be somewhere where it’s okay to just be you.
Free Community Church in Singapore provides many in the LGBTIQ+ circle with affirmation, support and whole-hearted, genuine acceptance of the person they are.
Free Community Church first came to be thanks to the efforts of Reverend Dr Yap Kim Hao, a heterosexual, cis-male who is married with children. He was also the first Asian Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore. Although admittedly homophobic until his 50s, Rev Dr Yap felt called to affirming the LGBTQ+ Community of Christian love and its inclusivity.
Raised Christian, I’ve never understood how a religion preaching acceptance and unconditional love also included dogmatic parents who would kick their gay children out of homes, or beat them in the name of “doing God’s work”. Despite that, I have clung on to my faith, trying to tell people in the LGBTIQ+ community that not all Christians are like that.
But I haven’t always found proof – until Free Community Church.
Integral to their Church Mission is offering a safe, welcoming space to marginalised communities, and acknowledging that being part of the LGBTQ+ Community does not equate needing to denounce the church and your personal relationship with God. This is particularly restorative for those finding it hard to reconcile their Faith with their sexual orientation.
While certainly a hugely controversial belief to stand by, Rev Dr Yap and the Free Community Church reiterate that being homosexual is as natural as being heterosexual, and neither makes you any less in the presence of God.
In a 2011 interview on Channel News Asia, Rev Dr Yap strongly urged religions to reach out to people with HIV/AIDS, because, as the Church name represents, to be “FREE” is to First Realise Everyone is Equal.
And while many Christian leaders and historians worldwide have cautioned against using Bible verses out of context and even cited proof of the word “homosexuality” only existing after 1946, the vast majority remain staunch in their belief to condemn anyone from the LGBTQ+ Community.
Which is precisely why the community needs a place like Free Community Church to claim sanctuary.
Walking into Free Community Church for the very first time, you will be greeted with a banner that says “Welcome Home”. Immediately, it hit me in a soft spot and brought me to tears. Where else will marginalised communities find a place to belong, if not in Church?
Here, an Open Table is practised, which means that during Holy Communion every week, all are invited to partake. No one is required to be baptised or a member of the church, unlike most other denominations.
While this might be very different from other places of worship, everywhere else there has been such an investment of time and energy pushing away people in the misplaced belief that one cannot be gay and also committed to their faith. And it has cost the world a ridiculous number of lives.
The first time I attended Free Community Church, the congregation was being led in a prayer for Transgendered people who had lost their lives due to homophobic attacks all over the world. It is discomforting, standing there listening to specific names and ages listed – being forced to acknowledge that these victims were people with lives and families, not just another statistic.
It’s discomforting, but it’s also the right thing to do, because no one else will. And just because something isn’t talked about, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Surely we don’t have to be of the Christian faith, or have any religion at all to know that it’s about time we too create a community where everyone has the freedom to be themselves?
Like Pastor, Church Leader and Writer John Pavlovitz has pointed out in well-shared articles,
Day & Time: Sundays, 10.30am